Beauty

Looking Like Outside: Hair Acceptance, Weaves, and H&M

We are back again with another hair conversation. Some time ago, Penny wrote a post on the blog, outlining conversations that black women were not necessarily ready for. One of her comments included hair: 

 

Black women don’t wear all this weave to be workplace-acceptable or as a protective style, it’s because they hate their hair with a fiery passion, but that’s a conversation y’all are not ready for.

 

Like a prophet, her words came home to roost. Shortly thereafter, the Black Twitter and Instagram exploded in outrage over the newest H&M advertisement, featuring children with messy hair, “looking like outside.” While I think Penny did an excellent analysis of the article, I thought I would add in one piece of context: every child in that advertisement had untamed hair. If you take a look at each child in the ad, you will realize that their marketing team, creative team, and all other levels of approval allowed all these children to be photographed looking less than their best. The fact that only the dark-skinned, black child was called out for her presentation speaks volumes. 

 

Anyway, this article is not a personal think-piece. In the comments of the first article linked, Penny challenged me to go back to the Pink Pill space, get their thoughts on wearing weave, and bring some of their thoughts back to the blog. The H&M story broke around the same time, so I figured that I would include some of their thoughts on that too. 

Thoughts from the Pink Pill Group

Note: All names, and identifying information have been changed to protect the identity of the commentator. Comments have also been edited for grammar. 

 

I have personally never been quite settled with my hair. I think it is the one thing about my body, aside from skin issues and weight, that really unsettles me. I love seeing my hair in twists, but I would love to have a routine and methods to really care for and grow my hair.”  – Tanya

 

“I used to think that my natural hair would be an issue at my corporate office job. I tried to prepare myself for any negative comments or feedback I thought I might receive. What I have received has been positive mixed with healthy curiosity.” 

– Lydia

 

“Anytime I try to comment on doing my hair myself, I get push back from the people in my life, as my hair is pretty thick, long and not easy to tame. Weaves have made my life a lot easier, but I am honestly tired of them. I think I am hesitant, and honestly a little lazy to start the process of actively caring for my natural hair.”

 – Monique

“People tell me they prefer my natural ‘fro instead of any wigs or a straighten hairstyle. A few black men have asked if my hair was real, and I’ve answered truthfully. A few nonblack women have asked why would I wear a wig if I had hair on my head and I also answered truthfully. I am pretty good with determining whether someone is asking out of curiosity or they are mocking. Most questions have been asked of me because I am open to receiving them. 2019 is a great time to enjoy our natural hair, as it’s actually becoming illegal to use it as an excuse for anything. Having stick straight hair has never interfered with anyone’s ability to do their job…so why should springy coils be any different?” – Wanda

 

“I feel we need to have all the difficult conversations. If we don’t know are history we are doomed to repeat it. I was born in the 60s so my hair was always pressed or in cornrows. In high school I wore relaxer. When I joined the military, I wore relaxer, weave, box braids or what ever it took to get the military bun. In 2010, I did the big chop, and surrounded myself with afro pictures. I am trying to love and accept me, which has made my three girls want to be natural all on their own.” – Tameeka 

 

“My hair does not fit with my personal aesthetic (neat/preppy). My hair is dry fuzz and that’s how it grows. Instead of damaging my hair with chemicals and heat, or  fighting its natural dryness, I have made a compromise: I texturize twice a year, I get a Brazilian blow dry for special occasions and I am elemental with its care (shampoo, protein conditioner, humectant, comb and brush). My hair is functionally styled in some type of side bun. I learned that if I feel neat, I am at peace.  Black hair is no problem. No more weave watch…edge watch…water watch…nada.” – LaKeisha

 

“I became natural in high school, before the movement. I was made fun of by friends, family, and strangers, but I still wore my hair proudly. Now I stick to extensions because, simply put, I do not like doing my hair anymore. I don’t even like my extensions to require much work. I hate detangling, I don’t enjoy washing my hair in several sections,  and I don’t care for the steps to moisturize my hair.” – Maxine

“I believe that H&M knew what they were doing, but I also believe that it shows just how backwards Black people are.” – Abigail

 

“The messy hair on children was a part of the photo shoot aesthetic. People just have a problem with undeniably Black hair on unambiguous Black girls. It’s only tolerated when slicked back and when it’s not this is what happens.” – Jessica

 

“To me, I agree. H&M leverages black outrage to generate buzz. At the same time, all of the kids in the photo shoot had messy hair, all across the board.” – LaToya

 

“This is true, but its hair. We’ve got to lighten up. We have all the options in the world. If the girl looked clean and her clothes were fresh, then her hair doesn’t represent unkeptness.” – Brianna

 

“Could you imagine being so young and having your looks dissected like that?” – Neveah

 

“Honest truth. The backlash over the H&M ad proves it.  Only black women referred to the girl as unpresentable and unkempt. 🤷🏽‍♀️” – Diane

 

“I agree. We are very used to seeing black hair a certain way.” – Carlene

 

“I too have never been settled with my natural hair. I was teased throughout my childhood because of the way my hair was combed and the short length. I am a person that likes different hairstyles but my texture and length of hair didn’t allow for styles I really liked. My hair was pressed for most of my childhood and I didn’t get a relaxer until my late teens. I always loved the long and sleek looks and when I tried to emulate them on my hair, they never worked out. I was even ridiculed by a hairdresser as a little girl because I wanted a certain style. It really made me feel badly about my hair. I just wanted to look nice just like everyone else. Box braids became my go to styles for length and versatility, especially in college. Then in my early 20’s, I started incorporating hair pieces in my hair area arsenal! It wasn’t until the relaxers broke off my hair badly that I was forced to go natural again. I was VERY reluctant to do this at first. Many of my friends were trying to get me to go natural before I was ready and part of my reluctance was due to my hair texture. The pro-natural women I was dealing with all had longer and more looser curls than me, so they can wash and go and they still looks fabulous with minimal effort. But decided I had to focus to getting my hair back in a healthy state. I wore wigs throughout my transitioning process. I had to learn how to care for my natural tresses. As much as I care for my hair, it will never be the hair of my dreams. It’s multi textured, short, dry and tightly coiled. Natural hair is a time consuming thing and that’s what some people fail to realize. It takes time to find what products work with your hair, how to style it to fit your aesthetic and it’s over all maintenance.” – Raquel

 

Thank you so much to everyone for sharing your thoughts with me. It is much appreciated. Hopefully, we will continue the hair conversation in more subsequent articles. I also think it is important to include an official statement from H&M. When Essence reached out to H&M for comment, the retailer responded with the following statement:

 

“We are aware of the comments regarding one of our models for H&M Kids. We truly believe that all kids should be allowed to be kids. The school aged kids who model for us come to the photo studio in the afternoon after school and we aim for a natural look which reflects that.”

 

The brand also shared their thoughts on their Twitter page: 

 

You can also read a word from H&M’s Head of Inclusion & Diversity, Ezinne Kwubiri, who posted a response addressing the conversation on her personal Instagram page with #LetsTalk: https://www.instagram.com/p/B2pirS0gXB0/?igshid=1eqevl3tkzbxt

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