When famed hairstylist and Oprah favorite Orlando Pita said that “Hair is your best accessory, and you wear it everyday,” he was on to something. From the afro to the Salt ‘N Pepa asymmetrical cut to shoulder-length bobs, black women have drastically changed our hairstyles, but nothing has been more instrumental in the switch-up than the hair weave. Dating as far back as the 1950s, hair weaves and extensions have transformed women with just the swivel of a sewing needle.
No matter your personal view on hair weaves and their effects on self-image, they drive a billion dollar hair industry, and it seems that they’re here to stay, atleast for a little while. Let’s take a look at how they’ve changed for the good and the bad.
Setting the Standard (The Supremes)
There’s no greater hair diva than Diana Ross. When she and the Supremes hit the scene, everyone took notice. Wearing wigs and hair extensions, then called “falls,” the super trio became known for their style and shiny and…unmovable tresses.
Unbe”weave”able (Jody Watley)
Jody Watley was rocking a classic 1980s weave on this 1987 album cover. From R&B singers to video girls, more and more women were shedding the once popular “natural” hair and the wretched Jheri Curls for long flowing locks. Unfortunately, no one ever told them there’s a thing as too much hair.
The Synthetic Hair Era (Tichina Arnold)
As weaves became more accessible to the everyday girl, more women joined the secret society, but still publicly denied that they wore them. They were mocked for rocking synthetic hair, which was less flattering, not to mention flammable. Pamela James, the hilarious character on Martin was the biggest butt of weave jokes on television. “There’s a bald-headed horse running around somewhere.”
Variety is the Spice of Life (Lil’ Kim)
One of the first black celebs to don wigs of every color in the crayon box, Lil’ Kim showed us how to be playful with our hair. From short wigs to long highlighted extensions and curly do’s, Kim made switching it up was the new rule.
Where’d You Get That Hair? (Beyonce)
Gone are the days when people would whisper among their friends, “Is that her real hair or a weave?” The popularity of hair weaves has skyrocketed to a new frontier. In 2009, Chris Rock’s Good Hair broadcasted black women’s hair secrets, but sent a finite message about weaves: It’s no longer taboo, and it’s okay to wear them with pride. Besides, you’ve got the receipt, right?
“Long Hair Don’t Care” (Lala/Ciara)
The takeover of the Remy Indian hair has changed the game for women who desired the “real thing.” As weave technique and types of hair have evolved, ladies are shelling out thousands of dollars for the best hair money can buy. Rather than a ploy to deceive, weave has become a friend and necessity to those who wear them, especially those who suffer from hair loss or those transitioning from relaxed to natural hair.
Versatility and Convenience (Janet Jackson)
“I wore a weave when I went on vacation. Who wants to comb their hair when they’re on vacation?” says Theryl, 29-year-old engineer in Atlanta. Besides kicking the daily hassle of tackling your hair, weaves provide options. After recently showing off her sleek, short natural hair, Janet Jackson hopped back on the weave bandwagon to create a new look. “Back then most had the mindset that people wore weaves because they didn’t have hair or didn’t like their own hair. I initially started wearing them for convenience,” says Almashea, a pharmaceutical representative in Maryland. “It was easy to wet and go or just toss it up and go. Then it just became fun to me to switch up my look without making permanent changes to my hair.”
Keep Your Weave Tight, But Not Too Tight (Naomi Campbell)
When this picture of supermodel and longtime weave-wearer, Naomi Campbell surfaced, fans were shocked. Recent studies report hair loss in Black women is attributed to weaves and braids being worn for extended periods of time. It’s smart to let your hair breathe from relaxers and chemicals, but remember your hair needs a break from weaves, too.