how i learned that weaves did not defy my blackness
I think that during my high school and early college years, I equated natural hair to self-love. I thought that someone who consistently wore weaves was afraid to be their “true” self-- whatever that meant. Without even knowing it, I was ripping people of their authenticity by binding a person’s hairstyle to the love of their own blackness. The politics of a black woman’s hair runs deep, but that wasn’t what I was doing. I was exercising elitism.
I wore my first weave in the eleventh grade. It was not something that I felt pressured to do nor was it something that I felt necessary to do in order to conform to society’s beauty standards.
My story was a little different. I had journeyed throughout various online communities and found the love of my blackness at a young age. I fell in love with my identity as a Black woman, and because of that, I needed to get back to my roots but in a more literal sense. I needed to cut my hair and get rid of the chemically-treated ends. I yearned to be “natural.”
Wearing a weave helped me in my transition to natural hair. I could leave my hair alone until my “new growth” grew to a length that I was comfortable cutting it down to. And so I weaved in my hair extensions, and I wore them with spunk. It was my first time, but I also thought it would be my last. I mean I only got it because of my transition, right? After the weave and haircut, I would be completely shedding myself free of whiteness. I would no longer be “subconsciously conforming” to European beauty standards.
I would soon question why girls did things like get relaxers and wear weaves. Were they not comfortable with their natural locs? How could you love being black but constantly wear straightened hair? I never went as far as saying that weaves were forms of cultural appropriation (eye roll), but I did begin to wonder why these women defied their blackness. I also began to think that perhaps I was more “woke” and more “black” than my fellow Black women in weaves...
...but then as I became older, time became more precious. No longer did I have time to spend hours of my time on my locs. Maintaining your hair as a black woman is no simple task. We run through precious time and money trying to figure out the perfect products and processes to maintain the healthiest hair possible. A new hairstyle is always a risk and commitment-- and sometimes the best thing to do is to keep it simple.
But what happens when you want variety?
Sometimes I wanted straight hair just to shake things up, but I didn’t want to damage my natural hair. Sometimes I wanted to try a new color, but I didn’t want to have to keep on stripping my hair in order to get the perfect color. I wanted the aesthetic, but I did not want the permanent damage. And of course, it was possible to achieve some of these looks with my own hair-- but did I really feel like putting in the extra work? No. Hell no.
A weave was practical. The versatility and protection that hair extensions and wigs could offer me were too good to give up. It was not a matter of feeling uncomfortable with my hair, its length, or its texture. I was in love with the idea of trying new hairstyles with no damage being done to my hair-- and let’s face it, a lot of weaves are way easier to maintain than the hair growing out of your own head.
Society often loves to beat down black women for the things that we wear, the way that we speak, and any and everything else. I had to learn that wearing a weave did not mean that I wanted to be a white girl, a latinx girl, racially ambiguous, or anything in between. It meant that I wanted a freaking break. Wearing a weave did not defy my blackness or challenge my authenticity as a woman-- and anyone who tried to make me believe otherwise did not know a damn thing about black womanhood.