Written by | Ray Cornelius
Hi-Top Fades, Afros, the Jheri Curl and Hair Weaves are just a few of the iconic hairstyles worn by African-Americans throughout the decades. To commemorate Black History Month, I have compiled a list of what I think are the Top Ten Most Influential Black Hairstyles of all Time. I had a little help from my sister in media Rose Scott (WABE 90.1). Keep in mind, these hairstyles were worn by some of the biggest names in entertainment and have often been emulated by fans and foes around the world. Check them out below:
D’Angelo’s CORNROWS are as much a part of his “je ne sais quoi” as his falsetto vocals. The Grammy winning singer-songwriter was one of the first R&B hearthrobs to rock the look consistently in the 90s. Other famous cornrows include the late dancer and actor Gene Anthony Ray of Fame, hip hop stars Ludacris and Bow Wow and R&B singer Trey Songz.
Nobody wore DREADLOCKS in the 1980s like Whoopi Goldberg! The Oscar winning actress, stand-up comedienne and talk show host was (in my humble opinion) the first Black female superstar to bring the look to the mainstream and wore them as a sense of pride. She even defended the twisted look in 2015 when E!‘s Juliana Rancic made a negative comment about the faux locs Zendeya wore to the Oscars. Other celebrities to rock the locks include Bob Marley, Lenny Kravitz, Lauryn Hill and Toni Morrison.
8. THE AFRO
Nothing symbolizes Black folks like the AFRO. BIG and bold is exactly how they are to be worn and that’s how Angela Davis rocked her’s back-in-the-day. Afros were also synonymous with the Black Power Movement and remains to be the most iconic look of the 1970s. Other famous AFROS include Pam Grier and Soul Train’s Don Cornelius
Box, Two-Strand, Dookie and Micros are just a few of the names associated with BRAIDS. The ethnic look has been apart of our history for as long as I can remember. Former editor-in-chief of ESSENCE Magazine, Susan L. Taylor, R&B singer and actress Brandy Norwood and box office bombshell Bo Derek (Remember this scene from the movie “10” ?) are the celebrities I immediately think of when it comes to this iconic style.
6. THE LACEFRONT WIG
No one can anchor a LACE FRONT WIG like the drag superstar RuPaul. The 6′ 4″ glamazon has been wearing the custom-made hair pieces since his early days as a “club kid” in the streets of New York City and definitely long before Tyra Banks and Beyoncé made them popular in the mid 2000’s. #NOTeaNOShade
5. HI-TOP FADE
Kid ‘n Play will forever be remember for their outlandish lyrics, colorful attire and legendary hairstyles. Kid’s HI-TOP FADE became a symbol of the Hip Hop generation and was worn by every little Black boy in cities around the U.S. Beloved singer, actress and model Grace Jones was one of the first female superstars to boldy wear her fade and redefined hair options for women. It was definitely a gender neutral look that reeked of power and precision.
Josephine Baker was the toast of Paris during the 1920s and was always photographed in diamonds and furs or sometimes nothing at all. But what remained consistent about her appearance were her signature curls and FINGER WAVES. It is a hairstyle that is actually quite simple but requires the right length and texture of hair + the pinning of the curls to make you look as fabulous as La Baker. Tres magnifique!
3. THE JHERI CURL
THE CURL revolutionized Black hair all around the world and partly due to the popularity of one man – THE KING OF POP – MICHAEL JACKSON. Complete with “baby hair” and all, MJ had everyone running to the salons requesting a curl. It also morph into a number of other names including The Jheri Curl, The Carefree Curl, The California Curl and The Leisure Curl.
2. THE BALD HEAD
While not much hair is needed for a BALD HEAD, the look became an emblem of power and pride. Superstars like Michael Jordan, Isaac Hayes, Montell Williams and so many others wore the quick and cool style and not because they were losing hair either!
1.THE HAIR WEAVE
THE HAIR WEAVE is the most popular Black hairstyle of all time (hands down). It totally revolutionized the hair and beauty industry back in the late 70s and early 80s and has become a million business, with human hair being traded around the world daily. No one and I mean NO ONE, symbolized the look more than Motown legend DIANA ROSS. Her flowy, mane of locs has been replicated in magazines, music videos, films, books, dolls and on runways around the world for decades now. Her iconic concert in New York’s Central Park in July of 1983 put the weave to the test when she performed with hers “in the wind and the rain.” The fabulous Miss Ross didn’t let the elements stop her and the rest as they say is hairstory!