Ahh, yes. The age old question, “Does hair matter?” And more specifically, “Do people treat you differently based on different hairstyles you have??”
We all know India Arie’s anthem “I Am Not My Hair” but hair sometimes does align with identity and the way that society perceives you. I started thinking about this because over the past few months I’ve been switching my hair up A LOT. From short, too long, blonde, to red. And each time I changed my hair, I noticed that people would act different around me or perceive me a certain way because of it. This physical phenomenon was so new to me because I’ve pretty much had the same medium-long dark brown hairstyle my whole life.
So I wanted to know, does this just happen to me? Do people of color experience others treating them differently when they change their hair styles? So I did what any curious person with wifi and a slight social media addiction would do… put my Instagram Story voting feature to work. The responses were surprising. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one who has noticed this trend in behavior in lieu of switching up a hair style.
Many people responded saying how they 100% get treated differently, other people responded with expressing how they have been told by friends or family members prefer a certain look. This was super interesting to me because it really shows how society, even the people closest to us, can indirectly condition us into believing that we are more beautiful with certain looks.
Because of this, I decided to ask a few of my friends, Will, Kayla, and Taylor about how they felt about the topic. They provided their insight into how switching up their hairstyles gets a different response for each style. It was also cool to hear how hair weighs so heavily, especially in the dating scene. In my personal experience, I’ve noticed that when I rock a long dark look, I get complimented by strangers more than when I wore a short curly bob. Also, when my hair was blonde, I noticed a certain type of person, mainly men, would approach me in public.
In the interview Kayla made a few points about how she feels every time she changes her hair style. “When black people change their hair it’s always a big deal and I hate starting that process all over again whenever I switch my hairstyle.” She also touched on how she feels somewhat anxious about how people will perceive her in a corporate setting, expressing, “I’ve only felt uncomfortable wearing a new style when it came to working in corporate America. Not because I’m embarrassed but majority of the time I’m in the mood for the ignorant questions and unwarranted attention.”
The natural hair community has definitely blossomed in the past 5 years or so, which is wonderful. It’s created a space for women of color to feel comfortable and have tips about how to take care of their hair readily at their finger tips. However, does this dismiss the fact that certain styles and textures are still preferred and fetishized? All in all, I thought this was an interesting topic that hits close to home for so many and an opportunity to start a conversation.
Please feel free to comment and stay tuned for a part two on this topic because a lot more can be said. Thanks for tuning in! And thank you to Will, Kayla, and Taylor for helping me with this project!