What Spending A Half A Trillion Dollars on Hair Care and Weaves Says About Us

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”It’s not that I think “natural hair” is now invisible but (weave) has become a way for more people to achieve that “good hair” status if only synthetically,” gleamed Davarian L. Baldwin, Paul E. Raether Distinguished Professor of American Studies at Trinity College.

“The culture surrounding weaves; such as the links between more traditionally white hair textures and the pricing system of weaves, helps to exacerbate the notion of “good hair” as “non-Black.”

Baldwin continued, “Who really knows if “Indian Remi” (a popular human hair weft texture) is a reflection of actual Indian women’s hair or what “Hollywood Italian” (another texture classification) actually means, but in hair weave stores there is certainly a hierarchy of hairs that is also linked to a hierarchy of racial value.”

But it’s just fashion, right?

The psycho-social ramification of wearing weaves tends not to weigh heavily on the minds of teen-agers who encompass the average age when extensions are first tried. Stacey Clark, a Washington DC professional falls in this category. She first crafted a new look using weave when she was in high school.

“Back then (in the late 80s) I believe everyone tried to pretend (the weave) was theirs,” Clark joked. “Now it’s more of a fashion statement.  Come to work one day with short curly hair, the next day it can be long with blonde streaks.  Changing hair is like changing clothes now.”

But what about when hair placement is more than just a fashion twist? For many African American women, the perception of them as having “Good Hair” is an embedded part of their self esteem. Some can’t and will not be seen without weave despite the cost and the time required to achieve it.

Nikki Walton, a license psychotherapist practicing in North Carolina, routinely counsels women on issues ranging from self-esteem and hair issues to depression and body image.

In fact, since 2000 the number of African American women now suffering from anorexia and bulimia has ballooned. Many say that the increase in these eating disorders among African American and Latino women stems from their buying into the mainstream media image of white beauty – that includes silky long hair and a overly slender silhouette that our fuller shapes cannot naturally accomplish.

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