Saaret Yoseph is a writer and Assistant Editor at TheRoot.com. She manages and blogs for \"Their Eyes Were Watching …\"
Abolitionist, editor and diplomat Frederick Douglass was nicknamed “The Lion of Anacostia.” Douglass surely embodied the moniker's courage, but his snowy outgrowth gave him the bearing of an Old Testament prophet.
A photo essay by Bijan C. Bayne
Early in life, Edward Kennedy Ellington's sartorial flair earned him the nickname "Duke" (as in "all duked out"). The jazz noble favored a smoothed-back coif, a black version of the style worn by the first male matinee idol, Rudolph Valentino.
Delece Smith-Barrow: Will black salons survive the recession?
By letting it fly, Cab Calloway—the ultimate zoot suiter—presaged the rock 'n roll head shakes later associated with Little Richard.
In the 1940s and ‘50s, no man exemplified black style more than boxing champ Sugar Ray Robinson. The enduring image of this King of New York is that of a handler combing his process back into place between rounds of grueling brawls.
Harry Belafonte and Sidney Poitier maintained their superstardom sans chemical additives in the 1960s.
Detroit Red. The street hustler-turned Black Nationalist went from "fried" as a teen to pride in his heritage. As the Nation of Islam grew, thousands of black men ceased attempting to wash, as he put it, "… Africa out of our hair …"
In 1964, during the weigh-in for his first bout with Sonny Liston, 22-year-old Cassius Clay crowed, "I got Sugar Ray with me, and we're two pretty dancers." Even as Clay praised the elder statesman, he went on to embrace a faith that eschewed straightened hair in favor of natural black hair and racial pride.
Paunice Savage: Patience, prayer and "this-to-shall pass" hair specials.
The afro, so identified with H. Rap Brown, Stokely Carmichael and the leadership of the Black Panther Party, became a shorthand statement aimed at those who wondered why black men had “suddenly” become so angry.
Billy Preston, the man who asked the musical question "Will It Go ‘Round in Circles?" had a ‘fro that certainly did. The organist who once toured as "The Fifth Beatle" sported a top that overshadowed the mops.
Straight, no chaser. James Brown—and his hair—was all business. Soul Brother No. 1 laid it all on the line, whether with the fines he dispensed to erring band members or the stand he took on black self-reliance. The Godfather made offers you could not refuse. And with hair like that, why would you want to?
The Jackson 5—Gary, Indiana's miraculous gift to the world—came with the brown halos that framed the boy band's faces. These bubble gum princes blew up with blown-out afros—much to the delight of a screaming nation of young admirers struggling with their own blackness.
In addition to raising our consciousness and introducing a genre of music to the U.S., Bob Marley's popularity made dreadlocks a statement of both fashion and protest.
Michel Martin: Sometimes a haircut is just a haircut.
From braids to lengthy waves, musician Rick James worked his look for all it was worth. Before his self-destructive descent, he topped charts and filled dance floors like few others.
The Twin Cities bandleader's coif was an outrageous outgrowth of the MTV age. Like entertainers before him, Morris Day represented the revolutionary potential of music.
Carl Lewis' hair was built for speed. The aerodynamic fade of the Olympic hero fit the fast pace of the Me Generation ‘80s.
Self-made entertainer Mr. T rocked the mohawk in his rise from tough-guy contests to top 10 TV. His story is one more of branding than brutishness.
His hair was a rainbow coalition before there was a President Clinton. Band leader George Clinton exhorted us to "Paint The White House Black." In the past election, we followed his edict.
A'Lelia Bundles: A 5-part manifesto on hair peace.
Gifted, pensive musician Lenny Kravitz has a style all his own, from his hair to his sound.
Minimalists say “less is more.” No stylistic purveyor has been more influential than Michael Jordan. Today, mayors (e.g. New Orleans’ Ray Nagin and Washington’s Adrian Fenty), actors, models, and televangelists have come clean. Even Steve Harvey cut his meticulous taper to be like Mike. If imitation is flattery, Jordan rules.
Just as the ‘fro posed a political threat to the mainstream, more recent styles such as dreads and cornrows have come under scrutiny. In the aftermath of the infamous 2004 Pistons/Pacers brawl, America pondered the connection between 'rows and rage. Would a largely-white fan base continue to pay big bucks to see then-cornrowed and Atlanta Falcon quarterback Michael Vick?
Washington D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty embodies clean government. The new face of leadership and change is the product of the Michael Jordan era- stylish yet serious, efficient and inclusive.
The outspoken Steve Harvey kept every hair in place, until he came clean. Father, husband, fashion statement—he says the things most of us only hear in the barbershop.
Yodith Dammlash: A candid look at the tangles between black women and their hair.
His place in pop culture, secured by the rants of Bill O'Reilly and a role in Crash, Luda provokes thought—like it or not.
From his tats to his recently buzzed cornrows, Allen Iverson embodies public discomfort with a hip-hop era sense of expression. The association is intriguing, given his family man status and relatively drama-free career.
Whether sporting locks, or a close-cropped look, rapper Busta Rhymes is an uninhibited spirit—especially in his cartoonish videos.
After struggling with his biracial identity as a teen, The Chief keeps a cool head when all others about him are losing theirs.