“How I learnt to love my triangle hair”
One writer weighs in on the glorious return of a once-dorky cut.
The return of a once-dorky cut
Ihaven’t always loved my triangle-shaped hair. I haven’t even always loved my curls. Hair can be so wrapped up in your identity, and often curly hair on a woman means you’re different, zany, nonconforming, or, in my case, ethnically ‘other’. Up until my late 20s, I didn’t want to be those things; I wanted ‘good hair’. References to good hair abound in black culture, and more often than not those words mean straight; they mean soft and smooth. And while, yes, things are evolving hair wise, and showing your natural texture has become more accepted, it’s been a long ride. I mean, look around: no one on The Bachelor has curls. Kerry Washington wears her hair straight on
The Fixer. And when it comes to triangle hair – the flat-ontop, full-at-the-ends effect when curly, layer-free hair goes long – things are worse. Google ‘triangle hair’ and you get: “Say No to the Triangle Effect!” or “How I Fixed My Puffy Triangle.” (There are also a ton of comedian Gilda Radner photos.) I had the triangle growing up and around the end of primary school, a stylist told me that this naturally occurring shape was unattractive. I spent many years after that avoiding it.
But last year I wrote an essay exploring my family lineage and my race, something I am still to this day figuring out. In opening the piece I described what I look like – my brown skin, my dark brown eyes, my naturally curly hair. At the time I wore my hair pretty straight. I would spend about a half hour in the morning blow-drying it and then add in a looser curl with an iron. It was a lot of work, and I’d been doing it for years. Most people in my life had never even seen my hair in its natural state. But after writing the article – and starting to better understand my background – I decided to stop literally straightening out the frizzy-haired girl I was in primary school, and to free my curls to dry however they wanted. I was exhausted by all the work, but mostly I was tired of turning my hair into something it wasn’t.
When I interviewed Solange Knowles two years ago, I was struck by the empowerment she feels about her hair. She’s always seemed so comfortable with it; her earliest memories, she said, were of the endless hair experimentation that went on at her mom’s salon in Houston, US. She had a really positive introduction to beauty because of that, she told me. In recent years she’s allowed her hair to take different shapes, but the one that stands out the most reminded me of the hair geometry of my youth: the isosceles triangle. Which is exactly what my hair became once I stopped blowing it dry and it returned to its natural texture. The triangle, back again after all these years! But this time the familiarity of the cut felt powerful. If hair is tied up in societal identity, this style reflects me in my most comfortable state.
My mother has had this hair. Solange-freakingknowles has had this hair. And I have always had this hair. But now I’m not trying to hide it.
“References to ‘good hair’ abound in black culture, and more often than not those words mean straight.”