Straight, Neat and Black or Brown. Growing up, my hairstyles had to fit into those categories. Whether a straight style, box braids, or extensions, my hairstyles were a continuous rotation between those aforementioned qualities. When I was a child, there was a narrow range of acceptable ways for a young girl to wear her hair, and in my case, those styles relegated towards classic and simple. Wildly long extensions, bright colors, or super afro-centric hairstyles that deviated from the norms seen on TV and magazines were just not real options for me.
When I look at young girls and teens of today, I don’t see many of the hair restrictions that I was forced into while growing up. I am in awe of the Gen Z hair wizards I see on Youtube, Instagram, and in real life, whipping out new and novel hair creations. These young hair magicians slay everything from multicolored braids and neon wigs to super fluffy curly and afro ‘dos. Most styles that I would not have had the liberty to rock in high school, I see these young stylists wearing everywhere from school to special events.
For so long, hair standards were rigidly defined by rules set by previous generations and institutionalized racism. Many standards were based on outdated ideas steeped in respectability politics and, in a lot of cases, anti-blackness. Girls were told they could only wear their hair in a limited number of “respectable” ways. Even just ten or fifteen years ago, extravagant colors and extravagantly long extensions were seen as “ghetto”, “tacky”, or “alternative” for young women. Anything diverging from the norm was simply not encouraged.
I’ll be honest, sometimes I get a little jealous of these Gen Z stylists. As a teen, I would have loved to rock some purple ombre box braids! After the wave of envy passes, I just get filled with excitement about how these girls represent a new generation of women who are growing up with the agency to do their hair as they choose. These girls are celebrating their freedom of hair expression, the freedom I cannot wait for future generations of young girls to continue to express and celebrate themselves.
Watching women experiment with so many different hair types and hairstyles is so affirming; it shows that young women are growing up more confident and secure in the way they present themselves to society. Hair is such an important part of a woman’s identity, and to give young women the autonomy to choose how they style their crown is incredibly important.
It’s also notable that these girls are rewriting the rules of hair respectability. These young girls are rejecting tired notions of what proper hairstyles should be and are rewriting the rules that break open the gates for creativity in the hair game.
These girls are growing up in an era where they are emboldened and supported to try unique and new hairstyles. Every day, new hairstyle tutorials are popping up on YouTube. We are in a time when young girls view their hair as artistic canvases and are routinely encouraged to experiment and innovate the way they style their crowns.
It makes me incredibly happy and hopeful that my future daughters will have the freedom of hair expression in their lives. It’s exciting that my daughters will get to grow up in a society that gives women the ability to express themselves through creative hairstyles without the toxic labels that previous women who went out of the box have to deal with. Girls of the future will get to grow up in a world where they will know they have the right to wear their hair in infinite ways that bring them joy when they look in the mirror!