Since I was a child, I’ve never enjoyed visiting salons. I would rather have my mother give me a haircut at home with scissors than go to the barbershop. The thought of sitting in front of a mirror with linen wrapped around my neck and watching my hair being taken off in bits or manipulated into some fancy style was never brought me pleasure.
I’m not a big fan of fussing with my hair. I had a pretty hard time putting braids in or taking them down because of the time, energy, and resources that go into it. I didn’t enjoy the discomfort I felt while doing my hair, and there were fewer options available to deal with detangling afro hair back then.
I was always browsing photos of protective hairstyles for Black women, and whenever I saw pictures of women with locs, I thought to myself, “yeah, that’s something you do when you have everything you want and don’t care what others say.” Last year, three months after my birthday I finally dared to change things. Coming from a family with a religious background that ironically considers everything Black to be sinful, it was empowering to say, “to hell with it, I’m getting locs anyway.”
Locs are peculiar in African culture. Its origins may be traced back to Egypt, but it has since been influenced by other cultures, including Rastafarians in Jamaica and the Dada, which is unique to Nigeria, where I was born and raised. It has grown into a hairstyle that can be worn for a variety of reasons, the most notable of which is that it can be worn by someone who seeks to express a sense of nonconformity. My lack of understanding of what being Black represented nearly broke me. A significant part of my identity is the desire to freely express myself, my opinions and my values.
The pandemic offered me a jump start installing my locs, something I’d been considering for over four years. If there’s one thing I learned in 2020, is that its important to live. To be able to do whatever I want without hesitation. Although, I questioned my choice when I made the call to book, while I walked to the salon, and even when I was sitting in the hairdresser’s chair.
I used to assume that self-love meant pampering yourself or shopping for the most luxurious and fashionable clothing item. I recognised those were fabrications promoted by the media. I learned that self-love entails paying close attention to yourself and doing what works for you, even if it is unconventional.
I’m inspired to be gentle with myself as I watch my locs grow. I now see my life in stages, having groomed my hair to neck length and looking forward to its shoulder, mid-back and waist length variations in the future. Not only in terms of the past, present, and future but also as phases of development. Knowing that my hair can’t be stretched to twice its current length in a fortnight, I’m more conscious of the pressures I expose myself to – even self-inflicted. I also can’t wait until I’m gray and my all-natural locs are completely platinum.
Even when others find it difficult to accept my transformation, I am in love with myself and my new look every day. I look in the mirror and I see a woman who’s genuine and true to herself. I understand that, as a Black woman, any personal choice I make to celebrate my identity is inevitably political, and for that reason, getting my hair in locs is probably one of the blackest things I could do and it’s worth it.
I realised I was my only constraint after getting my hairstyle, which made me wonder what other areas of my life I was undervaluing. We all have limiting ideas whether it’s telling yourself you won’t fit in or stand out or believing that changing your style will make you appear less than who you are but the most essential thing you can do to disprove those beliefs is to push through whatever anxieties are holding you back. My hairstyle is, in fact, a homecoming.