Wigs and Weaves Are an Intricate Part of Life for African American Women

November 2, 2022

There are a whole lot of conversations to be had about Black Women and their stylish wigs. In fact, wigs and weaves have been a part of everyday lives of these strong independent women since the ancient Egyptian times. In Egyptian culture, wigs were used to show rank in society. While the upper – class used to wear intricately and elaborately designed wigs, the lower rank was not allowed to wear wigs at all. However, over time, there was a shift in the motives behind the usage of wigs. Still, to date, wigs play an important role in the everyday lives of Black and / or African – American Women,Monica said from Urgirlhair.com

Why do Black Women like wigs these days, you ask? Well, there are a lot of reasons behind that. Let’s have a look...

  • Back to Origin – Hair has been a sacred symbol

A sacred cultural and spiritual symbol in ancient African societies, hair was used to signify one’s marital status, age, religion, societal position, and many more things. As it would sometimes take days to get an intricate hairstyle done, it became an important family ritual for Black families. 

As the highest part of a human body, some cultures believed hair to be a connection with the divine and used braids to send messages to the Gods. 

However, the connection with wigs began in ancient Egypt, where Royal families had the privilege to shave off their natural hair and wear wigs of different styles adorned with things like gold and lace. Egyptian Queens even wore wigs on their face (like a beard) to illustrate their status of a pharaoh!

  • Work Requirement

As the lamentable era of Slave Trade began, the traders used to shave off the heads of the African – American captives: an act towards expunging their identities and connection to their strong spiritual cultures. With the herbal treatments, and hair – care tools no longer at their disposal, the rough and tangled tresses were now tucked away beneath cloth. The deplorable conditions under which these people had to work all day meant that they had no more time to take care of their hair – which was once a symbol of their identity and an artful expression of their being.

Later on, Black Women were required to comply with certain hairstyle standards in society, which were not possible to be achieved with their natural hair. Thus, flight attendants, nurses, etc had wigs as a part of their uniform, justifying their respectability in the work - environment. Even in schools, Black females were required to have non – afro hairstyles that were not “so loud”.

  • Fashion Statement

On a lighter note, the Black doo – wop girls groups from the 50’s and 60’s used to wear elaborate wigs, as an expression of their creativity. It was all a part of their act, bringing about a certain amount of uniformity in the hair of the performers. Wigs have thus been used since a long time as a fashion statement by a lot of women, whether on or off the stage / screen.

  • Variety of easily switchable Hair – Styles

Wigs and Weaves offer women an easy access to a variety of hair – styles. Not always having the time and energy to deal with stubborn locks, it comes as a relief for some to be able to quickly change styles, without going through arduous and sometimes exhausting hair- care routines. 

  • A Part of Life

As most of the Black women have a curly natural hair, it is not feasible to keep using heat treatments to get a straight texture. While it has become an unfortunate unspoken requirement for Black women to wear their hair a certain way to look professional, the fact that their natural hair needs a lot of care and protection is also a contributor in making wigs a part of life for them. Plus, it’s a form of expression and sometimes practicality, like to keep your head warm or to let your hair grow out while staying presentable.

  • Flexibility and Fun

While it can be a lot of fun to experiment with different styles and colours, it is also very damaging for natural hair to regularly go through heat and colour. Wigs and weaves are thus a welcome alternative to enjoy different hairstyles without causing damage to the natural hair. After all, having your hair break off in your attempts at fun makes it totally unfunny!

  • Lack of Self – Confidence

Black women have faced years and years of constant societal demand to “fit – in” and the consistent push – back from schools and offices on wearing their natural afro in public. For some Black women, this has had a devastating impact on their self – confidence. Thus, while others may wear wigs just for fun, these Black women need to wear them as they are not yet confident enough to flaunt their originality.

While there are many reasons why a Black woman has chosen a particular hairstyle or wig, it is never right to ask them insensitive questions like:-

Can I touch your hair?

  • Why, do you let strangers touch yours? Instead, try saying something like “Your hair looks awesome!”

Is this your real hair?

  • What does it matter to you? Why not say “That’s a great hair colour on you!”

Do you wash your hair?

  • Don’t you wash your own hair? Try saying nothing at all!

How long did it take you to do your hair?

  • 2 hours or 2 minutes, why do you care? Just say “I love your style” and be done with it!

Every Black woman has her personal Hair Story. There is a unique connection and relationship that she enjoys with her hair. Some use wigs and weaves for protection of natural hair, which can be highly sensitive to outside elements, requiring high rates of upkeep. For others, it might just be to look professional as enforced by the degraded work – culture that they have to deal with on a regular basis! While it could be a fun way to express themselves for some, it could also be a lack of self – expression – ability for some which led them to the path of wigs and weaves. Everyone is free to do what they want with their hair, and Black women are a part of a free society, who can wear their hair, whatever way they see fit for themselves.


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