Alicia Keys rocking neon box braids like it was no big deal might have momentarily broken the internet but the trend has been around a lot longer than social media.
For years black women with colorful braids have represented stereotypes and judgements. Whether you saw one on the silver screen or the pages of your favorite magazine the message their image was meant to convey was clear. They were dubbed “ghetto” and “classless” only appearing to be worthy of attention when an editor or creative director was looking to infuse a little “edge” into their creation.
While young white girls have always had options like hair chalk, and glitter sprays to express themselves young black girls have had to maneuver around the implications of respectability politics when choosing a style.
Today a (slightly) more culturally sensitive society has sought out new language to describe the many facets of black womanhood and girlhood. While sites like Quirktastic, Refinery 29, and others are presenting more inclusive images showing that black girls can have fun with their looks too.
When covering what they're dubbing the “Unicorn Hair” trend publications haven’t left out women of color. Condé Nast's "Allure" prominently featured Amina Muccio as a “real life mermaid” allowing the young woman to display her love of mixing things up with “colorful braids, backgrounds and personality.”
This shift has been reflected in the attitudes of parents as well. In an article for SocaMom Eva Wilson explained why she chose to indulge her daughter’s request to look like “Rainbow Dash of My Little Pony.” Wilson pointed out “There's been a lot of chatter on social media about how black girls with colorful hair are 'ghetto', but when white girls do it, it is considered 'trendy' or 'creative' and made it clear that with all of the expectations on society places on black children to assume adult responsibilities she’s determined “to let them hold onto their youth as long as possible.”
Mainstream beauty companies seem to be understanding that need as well. This year beauty powerhouse L’Oréal Paris teamed up with the minds behind Curlfest and it seems everyday products are popping up on the shelves to temporarily tint braids, twists, curls, and coils. There’s still a lot of "image activism" to be done before no one bats an eyelash at a receptionist with bright purple kinky twists.
Hopefully the normalization of women with colorful braids will lead to women of color rocking every and any trend being seen as only themselves.
Photo Credits: Joybird.com, Allure.com, Socamom.com