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Black Men & Their Hair…Let’s Talk About It

Hola ladies,

So the other day, I was having a lazy, long lunch at Cafeteria with my ooollld friend Kibwe. Old. Old enough for him to remember me tumbling out of Key Club (a late-Nineties NYC staple), shrieking 112’s “Only You” at the top of my lungs and then walking smack into a “No Standing Anytime” sign (#blackoutdrunk).

This might’ve been the night, actually.

Anyway, out of nowhere, we had an extremely illuminating conversation about black men and their relationship to their hair. Actually, let me back up. It wasn’t entirely out of nowhere. I hadn’t seen Kibwe, a crazy successful designer, in awhile — after working for every major house on the planet (the likes of Michael Kors and Oscar de la Renta), he left NYC to get a fab advanced degree at Brown U. When he showed up to lunch, I was shocked to see that he had a good three or four inches of starter dreadlocks sprouting from his adorable head. He had long locks back in high school, but had basically had a variation of a low cut (ceasars, fades, teeny weeny ‘fros) since then. Cute!

And this was the convo that transpired:

Me: Kibwe! Your hair! Are you growing locks again?

Kibwe: Yeah, but it’s not for style, it’s part of a broader, more global cultural conversation.

Me: Oh Jesus, have you been reading Audre Lord or something? Did you become Rasta at Brown? Walk me through this.

Kibwe: Listen. As a black man…a black man who’s hair doesn’t wave if I rock a du-rag to bed…your hair is this thing coming out of you that you have to hurry up and get rid of before everyone sees it. If I have even a millimeter of new growth, I look like a slave. It’s “peasy,” “beady-beads,” “taco meat.” It communicates “urban,” there’s no other option.

Me: Fair enough.

Kibwe, today. How about that canvas bag?

Kibwe: I’m sick of the Ceasar. I need to see my hair. I need to learn to react positively to it, because the culture is not affirming me. If i keep cutting it, no one will adjust their thinking…including me. It’s like when you’re a woman who feels gross without lipgloss or something. You should try skipping it to learn to love yourself without it.

[In my head, I’m likeumm…never, buddy.”]

Kibwe: Also, just from a fashion point of view…I always wanted to have the “scruffy” option. White culture has the “scruffy guy you still wanna fuck,” like Johnny Depp. Black culture doesn’t. Locks and twists are just starting to kinda become cool, like with 2 Chainz and Wayne and Wale. There’s Lenny, but he’s always been the exception.

Me: Yeah, it’s like the whole dirty chic thing never works on black girls. We can’t wear fucked-up Uggs, or super-messy ponytails. We look homeless.

“White” scruffy.

Kibwe: We’re expected to be clean cut, so as not to offend non-minorities. There’s no lane for a non-conventional black man (especially not for a gay one). Not if you wanna keep your job. Fuck that. I’m all over the new natural hair YouTube videos and shit. Have you heard of co-washing?

Me: Totally! It’s when you skip shampoo, ’cause it’s too drying. You use  conditioner to both clean and moisturize you’re hair.

Kibwe: It’s everything, right? At first I’m like, co-wash? Like you need an extra set of hands? Like community-wash? As in you’re calling your girl, like “come get in the shower with me, bitch…I need support staff to wash my shit!”

Wale. DC stand up!!

And then we both fell out laughing and the conversation went way left. But it’s interesting, right? You tend to think that the black hair conversation solely belongs to black women, but it really doesn’t. Just thought I’d share. Love you, Kibwe. And I love you guys, too.



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  1. January 8, 2013 11:34 am 

    Hilarious! Not support staff though.

    Hmm, I never really thought about that perspective before. Thanks Kibwe!

  2. January 8, 2013 5:41 pm 

    Interesting perspective, I’m still working out this natural thing for myself, good days & bad. But I never thought about men feeling some kind of way about their hair too. Just doesn’t seem like something they think about no matter how they rock it. Good post!

    • quiz
      May 9, 2013 8:53 pm 

      We men in Philly are very proud of our hair. We rock full beards damn near to our chest. We are confident and manly. We just wish our women would stop being so insecure and angry and stop wearing women’s hair from China and India. Women should be embarrassed to be wearing another woman’s DNA (hair). The only time a woman should wear another woman’s hair is if she had chemotherapy, I would understand then. Black men do not like weaves. If you wear weaves to impress us, you have failed miserably.

  3. Adina
    January 8, 2013 7:34 pm 

    Hey, that’s me! That pic was taken at my NYC going away party, minutes before some accidentally splashed their champagne on my face and my bleeding mascara stain remained there until the next morning #blackoutdrunk Great post!

  4. Kierah
    January 9, 2013 10:57 am 

    Co-Washing = Community Washing!! LMAO!

    That reminds of the time I was in Macys with a guy. I swooning over some DKNY Jeans. With a seriously confused expression, he asked “Does that mean Dark New York?”

  5. January 10, 2013 7:22 am 

    Kibwe is hilarious.. You don’t think of brothers having the same hair issues. Great post.

  6. January 15, 2013 11:11 am 

    I totally never thought about that with guys!! Their obsession with waves via a du-rag..and then having to cut it after it grows a couple of milliliters. Wow! I just never thought about it like that. Guys really have a thing about hair too! … On a sidenote, we do have a couple scruffy black guys that are hot- Eric Benet and Michael Ealy come to mind.

  7. Raven
    January 15, 2013 2:14 pm 

    I seriously flatlined at support staff!!!!

    Oh and Kibwe is right…Mr. Kravitz is and always will be the exception!!! Can we have more interviews with Kibwe in the future???

  8. October 22, 2014 3:51 pm 

    I use 2 have long locs for abt 5yrs(during college), and now I rock a small fro(because I feel like I’ve lost my identity & I’m in between growing them back) I personally have dry scalp, can u suggest any good shampoos & conditioners for a black man like myself?? Thx

  9. Bishop
    May 7, 2015 1:03 am 

    Love this topic … I always hear from elders, you should cut your hair….. Growing up the times I cut my hair low I realized I never really liked it…. I just HAD to do it because that was the norm…..

    But what I did notice is that I loved having hair, touching it when I am thinking, and just knowing that’s ME. It’s so soft, and curly.

    The first place that the sun touches, and through my roots does it power this melanated species. I believe our hair truly is our strength.. We must be happy with whom we are.

    India Arie said I am not my hair, and she is an idiot for that.
    But maybe her perspective is leave me alone , imma do what I want.

    peace sister, keep up the great work