What’s In A Haircut?


Hair and its length also denoted a method in which Europeans colonized the Native Americans. The native’s hair was cut to deny their cultural identity and make them more closely resemble the European images of civilized culture. Short hair for some American Indian tribal affiliations was worn by mourners, and shingled hair (cut in tapered layers) by cowards.


A native saying by Paiute Indian, states,” You ask me to cut grass and make hay and sell it and be rich like white men, but how dare I cut my mother's hair?”


This saying indicates the extent to which native hair is treasured in some tribal cultures. To cut hair in this context is to bring shame upon a person for it is tied with religious and ancestral beliefs.


African Americans have also viewed hair in positive and negative ways. Seeking to resemble European culture for assimilation and approval, hair has taken on controversy over the centuries. As hair is a symbol of identity for many African Americans, it has changed from naturals/afros, to press-n-curl, to perms and hair straighteners, to Jheri Curls, to cornrow braiding, and back again.


Hair also is a means of identifying and stereotyping African Americans. Many have heard the saying that ‘if an African American has naturally straight hair it is based on their racial composition including a mixture of Native American or European’. This is simply a stereotype as African peoples have many and varied textures of hair from their predecessors in Africa.


Amongst African American people are the myths of ‘cutting hair on the moon’ to grow it and thicken it. These myths are also part of the emphasis on hair and cultural preferences. Very little proof has been noted to substantiate this claim.


Throughout history both men and women have been noted for their ethnic and cultural hair lengths and styles. Notably famous historic Native Americans, Red Cloud, Black Elk, Tecumpseh, Crazy Horse were known for their hair. Notably famous historic and modern African Americans, Frederick Douglass, hair entrepreneur Madame C. J. Walker, and boxing promoter, Don King are characterized by hair.


Thus, before making general statements about ‘what’s in a hair cut?’ it is best to note the historic context, social leaning, and cultural significance of hair. Long, short, or in between hair significance depends upon the person. Ethnic and cultural identity is in the heart, its outward manifestations are only sometimes in the hair. Seek your belief and hold on to it.


Article by: CherokeeCloud

written August 17,2006        

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