I have a very tumultuous and somewhat unorthodox relationship with my hair. Whilst some people have strong emotional attachment to their hair, precise ideas about what colour they want it and how many inches they’re willing to part with, I really couldn’t care less. I’m more likely to get emotional over hair growing in more southern regions of the human body.
When clippers or hair dye are held to my head I feel the farthest thing from held hostage: I feel liberated, because I know I’ll be at peace with whatever masterpiece or hot mess has formed on my head.
To this end, I wear my hair – my hair does not wear me. How I wear it is based solely on how I am feeling. When I’m feeling: risky – I might shave a little, daring – I might drastically change the colour, sexy – I might style it in a way that accentuates my best features. I let my hair speak for itself, whether it be in a loud voice or a subtle whisper.
In my various hair guises, of which there have been many, I have gone from blue-black, to magenta, to red, to brown, to ginger, to a blonde ombre which turned into full blonde, greenish-blue highlights and back to black again. You could glance through my Facebook profile pictures and almost think each picture was a different woman. You might even assume that I’ve been doing this since my early teens, but the truth is the very first time I dyed my hair I was 18, and at the time blue-black was anything but daring.
My entire childhood was filled with the standard ‘little black girl’ stylings: a plethora of colourful bobbles, clips and five sections – one twist at the front, two in the middle and three at back. Standard. Don’t believe me? Ask some of your black girlfriends to show you their childhood photos. I rocked this style between the ages of two and ten.
Then I entered the Big Girl arena of braids. With braids, not only could I have a half up, half down ponytail, or a high ponytail (keep in mind this was the Spice Girl era, and Sporty Spice was my alter ego) but when I walked into a room, I was no longer a ‘little girl’ but a ‘big girl’, with her own personal sense of style.
Once I reached 11, I took a few steps further into the ‘big girl’ world and encountered a wonderful product called Soft and Beautiful Just for Me Relaxer. I had no idea where this stuff came from, or how it was made. All I knew was that when applied to thick, nappy hair, it turned it into soft luxurious tresses. This made it highly addictive (later, in my twenties, I would learn that it’s often called ‘Creamy Crack’).
It made my teenage years not only easy but pain free, and once I hit high school I had the flexibility and stability to start experimenting with the ‘poof’. Taking inspiration from Blair Waldorf and her minions, I rocked it with a hair band and a colourful cardigan. *uber chic*
And then I discovered the most wonderful creation yet – weave! I went through a curly Scary Spice inspired do, a Victoria Beckham inspired angled bob, and, for prom, long curly tresses which fell beyond my shoulders in pure Queen B glory. Now that I think about it, my experimentation with my hair started at high school, but making it shorter or changing the colour were never options.
These risqué (and frequent) changes, inspired by Rihanna and Lady Beckham) only came about in my gap year. A time when my hair started to speak a little louder – in style and in colour. An exposed scalp and the intricate designs you could do with that allowed me to try things I hadn’t dared try before.
But, after almost a decade of harsh chemicals, extreme heat and over-processing, the part of me I cherished the most was getting destroyed, and the crown I once hailed started to look a little rusty. The last three years at University opened me up to a world that I spent my teens trying to avoid, and sooner rather than later I found myself taking the ‘big chop’ and going natural.
The ‘big chop’ refers to the choice to cut off all the processed parts of your hair, leaving only natural hair behind. Depending on your hair product history, you might get lucky and be left with a decent amount of hair, or you could be forced to take the harder road and start with barely an inch. I took the latter path.
I found myself trading in flat irons, hair relaxer and easy fixes for shea butter, air drying and tedious bantu twist outs. Early mornings spent straightening and curling turned into long lie-ins and a quick spritz before dashing out the door. However, a quick shampoo, condition and blow dry bi-weekly turned into weekly conditioner-washes, bi-weekly treatments and the patience to air dry – even when running late.
Nonetheless, I couldn’t be happier with my choice to go natural. I can rock an afro, twist outs, bantu knots, or on special occasions straighten my hair for a cute pixie look or chic bob. I am no longer restricted by the texture of my hair. I’ve embraced it, for all it is worth – the good, the bad and the time consuming.
My hair has been on many journeys, some I could see myself revisiting and some – I’d rather not. But through every inch of hair lost and gained, every colour that has been washed out or overstayed its welcome, I have learned so much about myself and what makes me – me.
It is not my place to dictate what you do with you hair but I encourage you to do something that makes you feel powerful, bold and sassy – and don’t be afraid to try something new. It can do wonders for both your look and self-esteem.
So the next time you find yourself playing with the ends of your hair or heating up your straightener, ask yourself: what does your ‘hairstory’ say about you?
Siedah Martey is a 24 year old, University of Edinburgh Law graduate, currently studying for a Graduate Diploma in Law at BPP University in London. She attributes her strong sense of personal style and self-confidence to trying new things and remaining unfazed by the opinions of others. As a self-proclaimed newbie to London town, she hopes life in the capital will bring her love, laughter and lots of late nights.
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