Black Hairstyles: This Is How We ’Do It

Backstage during Olympus Fashion Week on Sept. 16, 2005, in New York City (Scott Gries/Getty Images for Devries)

Black hair seems to always make the news. Unfortunately, it’s not unusual to hear about children being banned from school or adults losing jobs over their hair. It’s also not unusual for black hairstyles to define political and cultural movements in American history. All politics aside, black hairstyles have gone through many transformations throughout the years. We created a list of some of the most popular hairstyles for black men and women of the last century.



Cab Calloway (Library of Congress) 

The “conk” was popular from 1920 to 1960. The style was achieved by putting a harsh lye in the hair. One of the funnier moments in the film Malcolm X shows the pre-Nation of Islam leader (Denzel Washington) surviving the pain of his first conk.


Musician Questlove of The Roots (Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images)

The Afro, or “natural,” is a style of black hair that gained popularity in the 1960s. It created a renewed sense of identity in the African-American community and resulted in a redefinition of personal style and appreciation for black beauty.


A former cancer patient weaves natural hair to make wigs on World Cancer Day on Feb. 4, 2014, at a foundation in Cali, Colombia. (Luis Robayo/AFP/Getty Images)

Although women have been wearing weaves—either synthetic or natural hair from other women—since the ‘60s, the hairstyle became accepted after the March 1990 issue of Essence magazine declared that “sisters love the weave.”

Jheri Curl

Wikimedia Commons

Created by Jheri Redding and billed as the curly perm for blacks, this hairstyle was popular in the 1980s. The oily ’do was also known to wreck a few pillow cases and head rests.

Hi-Top Fade

Wikimedia Commons

Hi-top fades are synonymous with early hip-hop and were popular until the mid-1990s.


Venus Williams, her hair beaded in the Wimbledon colors, on June 28, 1997, at the Wimbledon Championships (Frank Leonhardt/AFP/Getty Images)

Embellishment of the head and hair has been a central component of dress in various parts of Africa, particularly in West Africa, and beads are often worn as a hair accessories today.


Rapper Lil Wayne (Ethan Miller/Getty Images) 

Locs, or “dreadlocks,” originated in the Horn of Africa. In modern times, the style’s history is closely associated with the Rastafarian movement, whose most famous member is reggae star Bob Marley.


Pius Utomi Ekpei/AFP/Getty Images  

Braiding is a tradition in African culture used to signify social, economic and marital status.

The "Halle Berry Cut"

Halle Berry (Anthony Harvey/Getty Images) 

She has rocked her trademark pixie hairdo so well that women often ask for the “Halle Berry cut” at salons.


Michael Jordan (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Stars like Charles Barkley and Michael Jordan have rocked this style, though it is also popular among women.

Natural Hair

Singer Wynter Gordon (Cindy Ord/Getty Images)

Those rocking the natural ’do allow their hair to grow freely, untouched by hot combs, flat irons or chemicals.

Head Wrap

Erykah Badu (Vince Bucci/AFP/Getty Images)

Originally worn by African women, the wrap was used to signify communal identity. It was also worn by enslaved men and women in America. In time, it has become an almost exclusively female hair accessory.


Actor Mr. T (Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

This style was popularized by Mr. T in the 1980s. It made a comeback in the early 2000s.

Black Mullet

Wikimedia Commons

Generally associated with the ’80s and early ’90s, this hairstyle has been spotted on everyone from Lionel Ritchie to Jermaine Jackson, Barry White and Kanye West, just to name a few.

The Shape-Up

Philly's best barber, Rome, of Photo Finish, attempts the shape-up haircut on himself. (Screenshot/YouTube)

This popular haircut has been seen on both rapper Nas and President Barack Obama.


Wikimedia Commons

Sometimes called “short 360 waves” or “360 waves,” this hairstyle is generally worn by men. The hair is cropped short to the head in the styling of a Ceasar cut, and, through a series of brushing techniques, results in wave-like ripples in the hair.


Willow Smith (Valerie Macon/Getty Images)

Hair dyeing, which is an ancient art, involves treating the hair with various chemical compounds to achieve a desired look. It is wildly popular and can be found on stars like Rihanna and Willow Smith.

Shaved Designs

Dwyane Wade (Marsaili McGrath/Getty Images)

From lines to Nike Swooshes, shaved designs were popular in the late 1980s until the mid-1990s. This hairstyle is typically worn by men.

Mini Fro

Morgan Freeman (Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

Much like the Afro of the 1970s, this contemporary version is shorter and generally worn by men.


Janelle Monae (Jemal Countess/Getty Images)

Singer Janelle Monae made this bold hairdo popular.

Box Braids

Janet Jackson (Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images) 

Often called “Poetic Justice braids” for the John Singleton film starring Janet Jackson, this style was first popular in the early ’90s. Box braids have made a comeback.

Asymmetrical Bob

Salt-N-Pepa (Facebook)

This style was popular in the late ’80s and early ’90s. Rap group Salt-N-Pepa made this style a hit.

Doobie Wrap

Rihanna (Jason Merritt/Getty Images)

Usually worn while sleeping, a silk or satin wrap cap or “doobie wrap” helps maintain moisture, prevent breaking and keep a flat-ironed style looking fresh. It’s supposed to be worn at home, but not everyone follows that rule …

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