History of Black Hair & It’s Hidden Symbolism

5min Read

History of Black Hair & It’s Hidden Symbolism

It's Black History Month! So, this is an opportunity to spotlight and honor the contributions that African-Americans have made to society and recognize their sacrifices. 

When we speak about black history, the significance of hair is often overlooked. So let's discuss the historical symbolism of black haircuts and hairstyles.

Black Hair as a Sacred, Cultural, and Spiritual Symbol

The known history of black hair dates back as early as 3500 bc. Hair symbolized what tribe one belonged to, social status, marital status, cultural practices and more. Styles like the bantu knot came from the Zulu people, long braids were seen on the Mbalantu people, and the Himba people wore Locs with a distinct red ochre called Otjize. Some communities believed that hair connected them with the divine. Within many spiritual practices, hair was and still is a significant symbol of cultural and spiritual connection. Hair is the ‘crown’ - the most elevated part of the body. For example, the Yoruba people would braid their hair to send messages to and communicate with their gods and goddesses. Therefore, hair care wasn’t just for enhancing the external appearance but also inner spirituality.

Hair Care as a Social Bonding Ritual

Hair as a Bonding Social Ritual

Hairstyles were an unspoken way of communicating the phase of life that the women were in. Girls and women of various life stages had their hair prepared by their mother or an elder in distinct styles to acknowledge their status in the tribe. Rituals like marriage, initiation, or experiences like motherhood included a variety of styles and preparation creating special bonds among women. Even today, hairstyling is a memorable experience between a mother and daughter.

Fun Fact: The founder of Shedavi, Elizabeth, frequently styled her mother and sister's hair from a young age. 

Black Hair As An Empowering, Fashionable Rebellion

Many black women around the world recognize the beauty and power their hair holds, empowering others by the styles they wear and the confidence they exude. In the 18th & 19th century, this confidence was threatened, policed and regulated by laws that forced black women to cover their hair in public or dangerously manipulate it. However, this did not work. Women rebelled by wearing scarves and wraps in different colors adorned with jewels making them fashion statements.

In the early 1900s, women like Annie Turnbo Malone and Madame C.J. Walker were pioneers and entrepreneurs in the beauty industry. Each developed hair care products for black hair. 

In the 60s & 70s, the Black Power Movement strongly embraced the natural tresses of black men and women. Afros became a symbol of pride and power. Even today, laws like ‘The Crown Act’ are being passed, prohibiting discrimination based on hair style and hair texture. 



Textured Hair Celebrated and Cared For

Black hair continues to be celebrated and appreciated year round through hair shows, documentaries, Juneteenth and Black History Month.  Today, unique black hairstyles can be seen in the workplace, fashion, movies, arts, and festivals. Thanks to the traditions, trailblazers, and Natural Hair Movement - the availability of products for textured hair has expanded. 

Shedavi continues the legacy and heritage of caring for black hair with natural and ethically sustainable products so you can feel inspired to embrace your crown with zero compromises.

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