Our hair is a tool, used for many things. We use it to make ourselves feel pretty, sexy, edgy. It determines, to an extent, how we feel about ourselves…whether we walk out of the house feeling beautiful and self-confident or whether we think maybe a paper bag over our head would have been a good idea. We use it to impress others, to attract others and to seduce. Most importantly hair is a tool that women, and indeed men, use to express themselves. And hair is certainly a great way to show off your individuality…after all, it does sit right on top of your head.
Finally, hair is one of the many measuring tools we use to judge one another. We all do it, all the time. A daring dye job makes one “edgy” while a slick tie-back screams “conservative”. If hair is a mess, its down to negligence while a well maintained head demands respect. This hair based judgement comes from the fact that we all know what a job it is to maintain. It’s a time-consuming and expensive investment. The hundreds of products pumped into it, the countless trips to the salon. The time and money spent straightening, curling, relaxing, weaving, braiding, extending, colouring, styling, trimming, as you know, this list could go on forever!
Two years ago, I reached my hair-patience limit. I had had enough of waking up an hour earlier than otherwise, just to wash (so the curls stayed nice and tight) and then to dry (which usually took about an hour of intensive hand work with the hair dryer, or when I didn’t have one, sitting by the heater with my head crooked at awkward angles). I have enough problems in my life without having to think of washes, cuts and colours! I was determined to never have to deal with any soul-consuming hair issues ever again. I opted to give myself the hairstyle most practically suited to my natural hair. One which didn’t require hair torture on a daily basis and one which allowed me to have a life – not be afraid to get wet, to allow my boyfriend to run his fingers through, or should I say over it, and give me back the confidence which years of hiding behind unnaturally manipulated hair had robbed of me. I made the drastic and logical decision to go back to my roots – literally.
The practice of shaving the head, known as Tonsure, has a history in many different cultures and religions and is widely recognised as a sacrifice of personal vanity. In religion, the idea of shaving the head is commonly to symbolise the look of a slave, hence, a servant of God. Many religious servants shave their heads such as Christian and Buddhist monks as well as Islamic Hajj Pilgrims and members of Hindu organizations such as the Hare Krishna movement, where hair is offered as a sacrifice to God: the sacrifice of beauty in exchange for blessings. Shaving of the head is a ritual which has been adopted by various cultures throughout history. In ancient Greece, the shaved head hairstyle was typically worn by slaves while masters grew theirs. Today, certain social groups such as Punks and Skinheads are identifiable through, among other things, their shaved heads. In certain African Tribes, such as the Yoruba of Nigeria, head shaving is performed as an act of bereavement and as a symbol of spiritual passing. Clearly, shaving the head symbolises many different things to different people. What it is to me is a statement of pride and self-confidence, which for many years I didn’t believe I had enough of.
A good friend of mine recently decided to go natural, so naturally, each time we speak we have to have a hair session. She tells me of her pilgrimages to Peckham (the Mecca of Afro hair products in London) and we discuss people’s perceptions and the different looks of judgement she receives having gone natural. It is interesting to notice that wearing natural hair, be it an afro or a short shave, is considered by some to be a statement of rebellion. And yet rebelling against nature by wearing unnatural hair is not considered socially rebellious.
It really is all about perception. Once we stop trying to convince our hair to be all that it is not and more, and once we accept it in all its curly, uncompromising glory, we realise that we actually all have good hair. My hair was never the problem, the problem was my perception of it. If you are under the false impression that all hair should be silky, long and straight, while yours happens to be stubborn, short and curly then you do have a problem. But the problem you have is not your hair but rather your perception of hair. Is my hair stubborn and curly…YES! But at the same time my hair is fabulous!
It is interesting to discover that in many religions and cultures a shaved head is recognised as a sacrifice of beauty and yet I have never felt more beautiful than with a short shave. Never in my life have I received so many compliments on my hair – clearly my natural hair works for me! In my personal experience, Tonsure is an enhancement of beauty and a proclamation of self acceptance.