"Do you have edge control in here?"
It's an inquiry my niece asked me over the weekend as we got ready for our cousin's graduation. Atlanta's heat is friendly but mixed with nimbus clouds, frizz (and thunderstorms) are on the horizon. Given the circumstances, a high bun seems to be the best choice for me and my niece, a slick-back style with extra attention to our baby hairs. It's typical for either one of us to grab a toothbrush to slick and swoop our edges with pomade or gel, but with The Baby Tress Edge Styler, the process is easier and equally as stylish.
Created by boutique communications agency Mama Tress, the styler is everything baby hair dreams are made of. It's also a testament to the rise of the "style" in popular hair culture. With a dual comb and brush top, its pointed tip elevates a consumer to baby hair connoisseur.
But the styler isn't something created to appropriate black culture or piggyback on what boosts the most likes on social media. The handy styler was created by Mama Tress CEO Hannah Choi and her team consisting of other women of color like public relations coordinator Mariamu "Mimi" Sillah. The New York native tells VIBE Vixen the styler was made as a gift for an event they hosted but its intentions to propel black hair were always present.
"We try to make it clear that this is for women of color. Because we all understand the history of baby hair, we all have connections, we all have stories, we all do it differently, some people swoop it; if you see some of my coworkers they do the swirls," she said. "This is a product that we want everyone to see and think, 'I don't need to be using a toothbrush. I deserve more than a toothbrush.' This is a tool made thoughtfully with women of color in mind and we are women of color who came up with the idea because we know what we need."
Coming in six different colors, the styler's bristles are stronger than a typical toothbrush and give anyone's edges a look all their own. Over the years, styled baby hairs have gotten the white-washed celeb treatment. From the runways of New York Fashion Week to fans of black culture like Kim Kardashian, its recent love affair among popular culture crosses out its rich roots.
Many have attributed the actual rise of baby hairs to the '70s with pioneers like LaToya Jackson and Sylvia Robinson of CEO Sugar Hill Records sporting their luxurious edges with Rozonda "Chilli" Thomas being the all-time queen. Recent entertainers like Ella Mai and FKA twigs have made them fun and creative. There are also the many Latinx and black around the way queens who have kept the culture alive.
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“Our tool is more than a beauty product, it’s a conversation starter," Choi, who is of Korean descent, previously told fashion site Beauty Independent. "There are nuances of someone’s world that you won’t see if you’re not part of that community. And we felt that the conversation around why this market is so underserved should be brought to light and talked about. We are seeing such a big change now in fashion and beauty in terms of representation, and we want to be able to have that conversation without it being heavy. We want it to be approachable. Our brand is very approachable.”
When it comes to moving in the black hair space, Sillah feels empowered at Mama Tress. It also makes it easy to develop black hair tools like the styler. "I feel like my voice is listened to because I am a consumer of all these things. It's empowering to be in a position to have more control," she said. "If we're being honest, a lot of the black hair spaces are not owned by people who look like us. To be in a position where I can say "No, don't create this product, we don't wear things like this,' or 'Actually you should name it this because this resonates with this community,' I'm an advocate for my community. That's part of the reason why Baby Tress was created because it's about a larger conversation, about things not being thoughtfully made for us."
Baby Tress' next steps are to make the styler accessible to consumers and create even more products dedicated to black women.
“We need to be in retail spaces because this is a product you need to see up close and touch it and play with it,” said Shannon Kennard, account executive at Mama Tress tells Glossy. “Everyone who tries it falls in love with it.”
Sillah is more than ready for women of color to elevate their beauty regimen, one creation at a time. The future of Baby Tress includes an array of more products designed with women of color in mind.
"Anything that has to do with baby hair, we can bring to Baby Tress and make it beautifully designed and effective," she said. "That's what this is about. It's about that step up. Again, we should not be using a toothbrush anymore."
Learn more about Baby Tress here.