Black women’s hair is often political. My hair, however, has often just been a pain. As someone deeply lazy, I’ve spent a lot of hours complaining about the stuff that grows on my head, as well as all the time I’ve had to spend making it look presentable. Over the years, me and my thick 4C hair have tried to get on with every style out there: I’ve had my hair relaxed, natural, in cornrows, weaved, twisted, braided, and with glue-in and clip-in extensions. Last autumn I finally gave up. Shaving all my hair off was a revelation, something that radically challenges a lot of peoples’ notions of femininity – including my own. Six months in, I love being almost bald. However, contrary to what I thought before I cut my hair, a part of me really misses going to the hairdressers.
Accepting my new lack of hair has come with a sort of grief. My favourite style, braided extensions, were a huge part of my life for over two decades. Telling hairdressers about my life, helping to feed a squirming toddler, separating portions of hair, watching Nollywood movies, not listening to requests to keep still – some of my earliest and best memories revolve around the ritual of sitting in a hairdresser's chair. Our hair might be political, but it also represents a lot of our lives.
While a lot of black women accept the fact our hair is seen as a political statement (whether we like it our not), it seems that less of us acknowledge the politics around the act of actually getting our hair done. Where we do our hair, who does it for us, and most importantly, how much we pay for the privilege, is something we shouldn’t ignore. Yet, a lot of us still do under the guise of saving money. Whenever I see people asking Facebook groups about where the cheapest place to get their hair done is, or haggling furiously over a few pounds on Peckham High Street, I feel a mix of anger, sadness, and shame. Why do black women think it’s ok to pay our hairdressers so little?