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The issue with ‘good’ and ‘bad’ hair labels

23 Jan 2016

Good hair feels right to have, hold and own.

And bad hair? Yeah, I’m not interested in defining that.

Seems simple, but when you’ve had people telling you all your life that good hair hangs, good hair doesn’t make you look like you stuck your finger in a socket, and good hair doesn’t make other people uncomfortable, learning to define that for yourself can be liberating. But by uplifting ourselves and applying new standards and definitions, others are being left behind.

This is the age of body positivity – we’re letting go of the messages that tell us to be down about the characteristics we were born with. We’re making our way through a brave new world of clothes that ‘don’t fit’ and colours that ‘don’t suit’. Black hair is undergoing a similar renaissance. However, much like the new age bodies where the fat are fit and the hairy are barely, the black hair (natural or otherwise) movement is showing us luxurious moisturised ‘fros and hip-length hair. Good hair is being redefined, but to what extent?

When we were children, we’d have picks dragged through coils slathered in grease. We’d be told that our hair was ‘soft’ or ‘rough’ and that became one’s identifier. You’ve got that good soft hair that makes your aunties coo. I’ve got that bad coarse hair that makes the braider snarl when they snag their fingers in every curl.

These days, good hair means moisturised. Good hair has gone through a six hour wash day and overnight rodded style. Good hair has relaxers that are stretched for four months at a minimum. Good hair belongs to someone who has read all the blogs, watched all the gurus and got the likes on Instagram to show it. Good hair is literally an investment which leaves ‘product junkies’ overwhelmed with stashes that will never be depleted.

Bad hair now belongs to the unenlightened. ‘Oh, you don’t follow the no-poo method? You detangle dry? Hmmm. That’s why your hair doesn’t grow! That’s why your curls aren’t defined! No biotin? No wonder your hair is so thin…’ Much like the fit fat person who practises yoga at sunrise and just got back from their yearly marathon, black hair is now only acceptable once you’re an expert on every product, technique, and style du jour. ‘Wash and go’s that make your hair look shrunken are ‘wash and no’s, even if they took all day. While we mean well with our hair advice and product recommendations, sometimes people don’t have the time, space or energy to care about hair. Sometimes their hair is dry and doesn’t retain length. Sometimes they even sleep without a scarf on. Does that mean they can’t be proud? Does that mean their hair is bad? And what about those who will never attain the new standard of good hair, which must apparently be fresh to death at all times?

We all know what good hair has been in the past and is considered to be now. But as well as those who quite frankly don’t care too much about what their hair does or looks like, let’s not forget those who don’t get as much love.

Good hair is short. Good hair is tightly curled. Good hair has no lustre. Good hair can’t hold a style. Good hair wants to stand proud and loud. Good hair is spongy. It is delicate and fine and low density. Good hair has never been acquainted with shea butter. Good hair does quite well with sulphate shampoo thank-you-very-much. Good hair acts a fool. It breaks from time to time. Good hair is what grows out of your scalp.

There is no such thing as bad hair. Good hair feels right to have, hold and own – whatever that means.