Good Hair vs Bad Hair

‘You’ve got good hair!’ I’ll bet this isn’t the first time you guys have heard (or read) that phrase before. Heck, maybe it’s been said to you or, maybe you’ve even said it to someone else. It wouldn’t be surprising as it is all too common. In fact the term ‘Good Hair’ is quite prevalent in many afro and black communities. For example, in the Latinx community it’s been known that people use the terms ‘pelo bueno’ and ‘pelo malo’ (which translates to good hair and bad hair) to describe different hair. 

afro hair

Now the term itself isn’t bad. It’s genuinely possible to have good hair and even bad hair. The issue lies with the term’s nuances and connotations. When people say good hair, they’re often referring to either eurocentric hair, or loose curls that resemble that of someone who has mixed heritage. Whereas, the term bad hair is generally used to describe hair that is coarse or tough hair. This has given way to negative associations to afro hair, like 4C hair. Resulting in self-hate, hair discrimination and, a skewered vison of beauty as we’ve created inherently negative perceptions of black feautures.

To most of you this isn’t news, which is unfortunate in itself. Moreover, to suggest that this is a thing of the past would be a lie. We’ve become more conscious of our language and how we express ourselves. We’ve become more ‘PC’ however, we need to deal with the subconscious biases that lie beneath. We need to dismantle this binary categorisation of European and African features as good vs bad. We want to avoid the perpetuation of this unhealthy and untrue labelling of hair. 

What’s unknown to most is the origin of this notion of good and bad hair. Whilst it originates from the slave trade, it’s been perptuated through the media which has inculcated us to believe this. During the slave trade the term ‘nappy’ was used to categorise all black hair, it was overtly a deragotory term. From this stemmed the view of afro-textured hair being sub par and beneath european hair. This was passed down onto generations to come.

With this now inherited view of afro texture hair as bad, and european hair as good, impression has become commonplace. Both the media and society testify to this. Television programmes and movies often favoured black women with straightened or relaxed hair, contributing to the idea that straight hair suggests affluence and success.

Then we saw a rise in the natural hair movement did something great, as it debunked the myth of afro hair being bad. It was powerful. It was needed. Soon after there were complaints within the natural hair movement, that it was being hijacked by people who had looser curly hair. One of the major contentions was that those with looser curls often complained about the bullying they received about their natural hair, something people with Afro hair know too well. Women with looser curls were often praised as opposed to women with afro textured hair. Nonetheless, we’re seeing the awareness of the need to undo the generations worth of damage and we’re getting there. 

So, I’ve acknowledged the problem and shown that the term good hair is merely symptomatic of unconscious biases. I believe in not just pointing out problems but pointing towards solutions. Now I won’t pretend to have all the answers, because I really don’t. I do think the first step is education. Where do these concepts come from? What do they actually mean? As we delve into the true definition of good hair and bad hair, we quickly realise that it refers to the state of the health of someone’s hair. Ask any good hair stylist, they’ll say the same. If we debunk within ourselves the prejudices we have, we can begin to love ourselves and then emulate that love onto others. I don’t pretend this will solve all the problems but it’s a start. 

You are beautiful and your hair is beautiful. Your hair is good. Just in case no one has told you - I am telling you.