It’s funny how the things that were the subject of my most cringey childhood memories are the things I celebrate most with pride and fondness today.
Case in point; having to wear outfits made from ‘native’ fabrics to kiddie parties, eating what I considered unfamiliar ‘African’ food, which today I crave, and the worst, getting my hair made into intricate braid styles or threaded.
Hair threading has been a common hairstyle for women in west Africa for centuries, but many in the western world only discovered it when it was brought into the wider mainstream fairly recently when Erykah Badu rocked the look at a recent fashion awards event. It won’t surprise many of our readers that the creator of that particular hairstyle was none other than Afro hair guru, Charlotte Mensah, British Hairdressing Association Hall of Fame recipient, read about that here.
In a recent feature on hair threading in Refinery 29, Charlotte explained what the art form is all about: “Hair threading is a technique of wrapping extra strong cotton, wool, yarn or nylon around sections of hair.” She continues: “All the styles are three-dimensional and are a combination of patterns etched on the scalp and threaded strands which are raised from the scalp. The hair becomes stiff but pliable and is easily coiled into bold geometric shapes. The length of the hair determines the simplicity or complexity of the style.”
I remember that hair threading wasn’t only about keeping the hair neat and tidy, it was also a natural alternative to straightening the hair, a natural hair relaxer if you will. While I wasn’t always keen on the angular shapes that the threaded hair style created, I loved how soft and flowy my hair felt after the threads were taken out, at least for the couple of days it was allowed to remain like that before it would be put back into another hairstyle. It’s this diverse nature of Afro hair that should be celebrated and loved.
Charlotte said: “Our hair, in all its diverse texture, from kinky to curly and straight, is truly one of the marvels of our race. Whether we celebrate the rhythm of our natural curls or opt for a straight look, our options are greater than ever. It is important to know your hair and the TLC it needs to stay healthy and luscious. By doing this, every day can be a great one.”
The feature in Refinery 29 includes a beautiful photo series of threaded hairstyles, created by Charlotte with brightly coloured cotton, bringing this ancient style bang up to date.
Images by Lily Bertrand-Webb