Perhaps it began when the term “Hipster” was dug up from the 1940s and reconstructed into the definitive label for a contemporary subculture we love to hate. Maybe, when “middle-class” young people started shopping for wardrobe staples at the Salvation Army, so as to carefully assemble a self image that exudes an air of calculated indifference, the concept of beauty among the “cool” and “alternative” evolved along with it.
It has definitely not escaped me that lately, the “cool” and “beautiful” depiction of “Blackness” has evolved from being the embodiment of the Beyoncé into idolizing the Solange. Black girls in the diaspora are embracing their natural hair, shaving off previously relaxed tresses, and maintaining kinky, curly coifs.
As a Black Jamaican girl, this is all at once baffling and wounding to a self identity I have yet to fully develop–which really, is nary a soul’s fault but my own. In 2008, when I first started using Micro Blogging Platform, and “hipster” haven: Tumblr, my dash was typically flooded with images that were considered the epitome of contemporary female beauty. They mostly featured lithe White girls sitting on the floor, frozen in mid jump on a gorgeous beach, or sprawled across disarrayed white bed sheets.
For many years of my life, both following and preceding my discovery of the internet, I have felt too Black–and really, why shouldn’t I? I have spent all my life seeing women embrace the norm of straightening their hair and lightening their skin while Black men embraced the view that a fairer complexion and characteristically Caucasian features are always to be desired in a beautiful Black woman.
Sure, if I had better self esteem all that would have probably not affected me to the point of sheer emotional frustration due to feeling blighted by the way I was made, rather than blessed by my assets–for as I saw it, I had none worth anything.
But that was years ago, and last year, when I returned to school in September, I had noticed that a bevy of my peers had cut off their previously relaxed hair. Surprisingly, the world went on turning, people definitely liked their new image, and so did I. I envied how well they wore it, and all the while thought–I couldn’t do that do my hair, because it just wouldn’t look good on me.
The reality of that thought is, even for me, shocking at the very stupidity of it. Why wouldn’t I look good with the hair I was born with? Logically, it makes no sense, but in reality it is the very thought I get every time I think of going natural.
The internet wasn’t behind on the trend–Fashion Bloggers like InnyVinny went au naturel with her crown, celebrities like Solange and Janelle Monae were on board sporting gorgeously coiffed natural hair and even my Tumblr dash transformed.
Today, my dash mostly features gorgeous Black girls, the majority of them donning their natural curls. I had originally chalked up the change to the fact that I started following more African girls living in the Diaspora and Blacks in general, but the reality is that quite a few of these blogs that pop up promoting all things kinky, curly and Black, are just months old. Take KinkyCurls for example: it’s only three months old and was started by a girl that got fed up of hair relaxers and wanted a change.
You would think that this would be great–and it is. You may also expect that I would feel a whole lot better about my self image as a Black girl–yet, I simply don’t feel Black enough with my straight hair and relaxers.
I worry constantly about what I would look like with natural hair, and if I would even want natural hair. All the while it’s battling between emotions similar to the ones I felt in high school when a friend asked me: ” when will you finally decide to straighten your hair?”, and the emotions I feel when looking at gorgeous Black girls who are either fair and appropriately blessed with assets in the right places, or cool and chic with natural bobs and an assortment of other natural hair styles.
It’s almost like I fail at being appropriately Black.
And even American Apparel the hipster Mecca for clothing, that supplies the classier pieces of apparel one would perhaps pair with an assortment of Salvation Army basics, would agree. They agree so much that they have specific policies regarding the types of Black girls they will and will not hire and at the top of the “WILL NOT HIRE” list are those trashy Black girls that don’t have nice hair.
When a store that makes its name selling basic tees and high waisted lycra pants has the following to add to their policy on hiring Black girls:
“none of the trashy kind that come in, we don’t want that. we’re not trying to sell our clothes to them. try to find some of these classy Black girls, with nice hair, you know?”
I have to wonder whether my complex feelings on matters like this are all that unusual or unreasonable.
In the meantime, I’ll try not to occupy my time with pondering mysteries like whether “nice” hair is hipster code for “curly biracial look”–and judging from a couple photos of their Black models, I’m going to assume that the path to that answer is no Rubik’s Cube.