Evolution of African American Hair

Craving a little bit of hair nostalgia? Well, we’ve got it. As our way of paying homage Black History Month, we wanted to give the spotlight to a culture who sets trends in all facets—including hair. So here goes! This is our rundown of hairstyles we’ve seen and loved through the decades.

Which Decade of Hair Styles Did You Love Most?

If you are a lover of fashion, you are also probably quite appreciative of beauty and hair. After all, it’s the hair that often adds the glam or appeal we all crave when we’ve pieced together a great outfit. Over the years, women’s hairstyles have basically set the stage for each decade. Whether it was the pinup styles of the 1950s, the Afros of the 1960s, the big hair of the 1980s or the more natural styles of the 1990s and 2000s, hairstyles have made a statement each decade. For many African Americans, it has often started with one hairstyle being the “it” style for a season, and there are some more memorable styles that are still “it” today. One thing is for sure, what we love about 2016 is that we’ve seen styles of the past come back full circle with a more updated look.

The 1950s and 1960s Popular Hairstyles for Black Women

In the 1950s, it wasn’t uncommon to meet an African American woman with chemically-straightened hair in the United States and Britain, as this was what was socially-acceptable at the time. After all, African American women spent previous decades straightening their hair with the pressing comb. An arduous task, still done today that can take hours to straighten the thickest hair only to meet frizz again the minute it rains or gets too humid outside. The introduction of chemical hair relaxers were during the 1950s were welcome by women, allowing for straight styles event after washing or wetting their hair.

During the 1950s, wigs were also popular for African American women, allowing them to easily change their hairstyles without the harsh treatments of lye relaxers. As the 50s came to a close, however, more and more African American women were wearing their hair natural or emphasizing their curls. This is what led to the hair trends of the 1960s, where many women wore the popular Afro, which allowed them to feel sexy and free. The 1960s also saw the introduction of the beehive up-do, which was a popular style for all ethnicities, as well as the bob, which was also a popular hairstyle during the 60s.

The Free Love Era of the 1970s & Its Au Naturel Hairstyles

The 1970s brought about huge changes in the United States, including the Civil Rights Movement led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the Vietnam War and its protests, Woodstock, rock and roll, and some naturally curly hairstyles for all ethnicities. In the early 1970s, long, straight hair continued to be popular, and some women even added the “flicked fringe,” feathers or wings, a la Farrah Fawcett, where other women sported the shag hairstyle.

The Afro continued to be a popular hairstyle among African American women, worn by the likes of Pam Grier and Marsha Hunt; even Caucasian women took part in this hairstyle by embracing the curly perm. Donna Summer was also known to sport the “Stack Perm,” a la wig, which brought curls to the lower portion of the hair while maintaining a smooth, straight crown. The Jheri curl was also a popular style during the 1970s among African Americans and it continued with its popularity into the 80s. These permed hairstyles and the Afro led into the 1980s, which many people remember as the “Big Hair Era.”

The Big Hair Era of the 1980s

Enter the 1980s--- an era that marched in with a variety of new trends for beauty, clothing and music. Some of the popular hairstyles revolved around the extensive use of Aquanet hairspray, and this is how many people recall the 80s, whether they lived through them or not. Trendsetters like Whitney Houston wore signature ringlet curls and other like Grace Jones opted for bold looks showcasing her 4c hair. The women of the 1980s—with or without perms—loaded up their hair mousse and hairspray to scrunch up those curls, a style still seen today. If you were an African-American kid during this timeframe, your mom probably doused your hair with Lusters Pink Lotion, Blue Magic, Dax, or Royal Crown hair grease. Oh, those were the days! In the 1980s, curly and wavy was good. The women who didn’t have naturally curly hair still tried to get the curls by using crimping irons to get the look.

Even African American men were setting trends in the 1980’s with Mr. T bringing back the exaggerated Mohawk that had previously been sported by the punks of the 1970s. Short bangs were also in style, though our current trends no longer embrace this cut and prefer longer, more layered bangs that blend into hairstyles. Stylish bangs also extended into the look of the popular a-symmetrical bob, famously worn by Salt N Pepa. Braids and cornrows are a style among African Americans that continued well into the 1990s and 2000s, and is a traditional hairstyle many men and women opt for, whether under a wig or a weave or just by themselves.

Top African American Hairstyles in the 1990s and the early 2000s

The 1990s brought us a variety of new trends including the explosion of both Hip Hop and Grunge music, both adopting styles entirely their own. Many men and women who were part of the Grunge scene were often seen to mimic the styles of popular musicians and celebrities, such as Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love – better known for their tumultuous relationship, both of these icons sported bleached locks often long and unkempt.

The Hip Hop genre embraced African American culture, but some of the hairstyles sported by the big names of the 1990s might be considered questionable. While cornrows and braids were still a popular trend, these were often exaggerated by the likes of Coolio. And how could we forget style icons like  Busta Rhymes and his wild dreadlocks that were often pulled into strange styles, like high pigtails, and none of us will ever forget the flat top hairstyle, which was an exaggeration of the high top fade that emerged in the 1980s. And a beloved hairstyle of the 1920s, finger waves, reappeared in the 1990s as an elegant or everyday style for African American women. Cancer survivor and daughter of NFL player Devon Still, Leah Still, sported this very style just recently at the 2016 NFL Honors award ceremony.

Many of these styles continued into the early 2000s, though many African American women began to chemically straight their hair for more sleek and relaxed styles, such as the ever-popular “just-walked-off-the-beach” waves everyone strived to achieve. With many of these styles, bangs again made a comeback, whether they were full bangs, long swoopy bangs, or short bangs, this was definitely a recycled hair trend. Natural curls seem to be a trend that some African American women continue to return to throughout the decades.

Let’s not forget the plethora of hair accessories that flourished in the 1990s – from hair jewels to butterfly clips, to mass amounts of glitter hairspray – hair accessories were all the rage in the 1990s for all ethnicities, and is a trend that continued into the early 2000s and are still somewhat common today.

Embrace the Hairstyles of Today & Accentuate with PuffCuff

Though some hairstyle trends have faded with time since the 1950s, there are some styles that are timeless for women of all ethnicities. African American women wear their hair in the Afro of the 1960s, relaxed like the 1950s, in traditional braids, in cornrows under weaves and wigs, or in intricate up-dos.

No matter what your particular style – whether naturally curly or perfectly straight – PuffCuff can help you maintain your beautiful do and be beautifully you. Check out our line of specially-designed hair accessories that won’t snag or break your hair.

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