Hair trends in Africa - what shapes them, what inspires you?
Sure, local and international celebrities have always had a major influence on hair styling trends. People see their favourite star rocking a new look on TV, in magazines or (today) via social media and they want to try it for themselves. However, there’s a bit more to it than simply copying famous people. We spoke to some respected hair professionals about the forces that shape styling trends for South African women today, and in the past.
Mashooda Essop, a Mizani sales advisor, explains, “Hair has always played such an important part in our culture and we are now embracing our various, colourful hair textures within our societies.” Basically, today there’s more style variety because there’s been a shift in what’s seen as socially acceptable – particularly for highly textured hair. Although friends, family and the community remain a common source of hair information, social media today “has made it easier for women and men all over the world to connect and share hair inspiration stories,” explains Mashooda. “We are no longer 10 years behind the First World countries.” Africans are doing it for themselves, setting their own trends at a grassroots level, and spreading the word via the likes of Instagram and Pinterest.
This isn’t to say that stars don’t still have a lot of influence. Over the years, musicians, actresses and political icons have all impacted on hair styles in different ways. Sometimes the mere act of copying these fashion statements has become a kind of political declaration, or commentary on a particular social or political climate. Think controlled-shape afros, Kenyan-style braids and even Jheri curls in the 80s and what they’re associated with.
Mimmi Biggar, for Dark and Lovely, explains that in contemporary South Africa, hairstyles for African women seem to have veered primarily in one of two directions, also encouraged by celebs. The first is a move back to natural, “with many young Africans choosing to wear natural styles to prove they are still beautiful with them.” Going natural has also become easier in recent years with the emergence of so many products specially formulated to care for highly textured hair, like the Mizani True Textures and Dark and Lovely Au Naturale ranges.
The second overarching shift is towards long-hair designs, enabled by the likes of wigs, Brazilian hair weaves and the use of relaxers. South African A-listers, as well as members of a certain love-them-or-hate-them Hollywood family, have ensured the continued popularity of these longer-length looks.
Ultimately, South African women today are fortunate to live in an age where they have the freedom to draw their inspiration from whatever sources they like. As Mashooda says, “We are now becoming more and more playful with what we allow our hair stylist to do and are moving far away from conservative hairstyles.”
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