The history of the Afro

The history of the Afro

The history of the Afro

The history of the Afro

In the 70s, almost everyone wore an afro. It didn't matter if you had frizzy, curly or even smooth hair.

Non-curly-haired women washed their hair with all kinds of mixtures of beer, vinegar, washing powder and other cleaning products, to make the hair frizz, so that they could also wear an afro. My Dutch aunt with smooth blond hair took a different approach. She had an afro wig that she wore from time to time and she probably wasn't the only one. It was the afro and the popular haircut from back then is back.

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What makes the afro unique is that it is the first and probably only frizzy haircut that has ever dominated the international fashion scene. However, this hairstyle was very controversial in the beginning. The haircut was initially worn by politically conscious black Americans who stood up for their civil rights. Through the afro they claimed their African roots and at the same time showed resistance to the conventional order. For the first time, white people saw frizzy hair in its natural glory and for some it was more than an aesthetic nightmare. It was especially threatening because the afro rebelled against the idea that assimilation was the only path to success in Western society. At that time, someone with an afro was therefore automatically considered a militant.

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Afros of today

afrokam3.jpgAfro comb from the 60s For curly-haired people, the afro was just as revolutionary. After more than 300 years, all of a sudden, frizzy hair was not only acceptable, it was even proudly displayed. The fact that the descendants of Africa could shamelessly wear the hair they were born with in public was a historic milestone. Of course, that took some getting used to for them too. For most, this hairstyle brought positive affirmation and started a self-awareness process. Still, not everyone in this community immediately appreciated the afro. Especially the older generation, who had been taught for centuries that also frizzy hair had to lie “neatly” flat and be shiny and smooth, could not get used to the wide-standing frizzy curls. Fortunately, this soon changed.


Afros of today

When the singers and movie stars started wearing an afro, the politically controversial haircut turned into a fashionable hairstyle. The Jackson Five, Jimmy Hendrix and Stevie Wonder have all contributed to making the afro acceptable and even managed to bring it into fashion. Pam Grier, a very popular actress with arguably the biggest afro ever, is said to have started the afro crossover. She did this by pulling out a gun from her impressively beautiful afro in an action movie. After this scene, everyone, regardless of hair type, suddenly wanted such hair. What was initially a controversial hairstyle that rebelled against the dominant conventional beauty ideals was eventually embraced by the western world and even elevated to more than a fad. The afro has been around ever since and has never really been “off”.