On an episode of the Kojo Nnamdi Show titled "The History of Black Barbershops," Mr. Nnamdi says: “Used to be that you could get a shave and a haircut for two bits, and for that price you got more than a trim and a fresh face. You also got a place to air your opinions, connect with neighbors, and a way of supporting a local business. An experience both tangible and intangible and of value in any community but perhaps especially so in African American barbershops.”
Barbershops have been a cornerstone in the African American community for decades. Around 1854, San Francisco was home to 16 black-owned barber shops. During the 1860s, a former slave, Peter Briggs, effectively monopolized the barber shop market in Los Angeles on his own. Barbering was a source of wealth for those who catered to the higher-end clientele. Barbershop ownership was the path to affluence for the black man. One out of every eight black men considered to be wealthy owned a barber shop, with a net worth exceeding $2,000 (equivalent to around $55,000 today). Mounting growing competition from German and Italian immigrants, African Americans provided top quality service coupled with a first class experience winning the business of white patrons.
As a profession, barbering quickly elevated in status. Black barbers, with their artisan touch, won the market cementing their role in society. Barbershops drew their strength and influence from the African-American communities in which they operated. Their commitment to one another fostered spaces of trust and self-expression, giving birth to the barbershop culture today. Barbers worked within their community, selectively grooming apprentices, maintaining a superior level of service, and controlling entry into the profession.
The luxury experience they provided to their white customers went unmatched by the competition. First-class amenities fill their shops, earning them access to coveted parlors locations. Luxury hotels and photography studios were home to many black-owned barbershops. From carpeted floors to laced window drapings, fancy chairs and upholstered furniture to centerpiece pianos, barbershops housed much of the decor which would later become hallmarks of the Victorian home. Hot baths, perfumed soaps, cigars, and the air of exclusivity were all part of the allure so desired by their white patrons.
Not only were black men skilled barbers, they were also fantastic actors.
Out of necessity, they became masters of playing the server role. W.E.B Dubois coined a term "double conscious," to describe this phenomenon, “of always looking at one's self through the eyes of others, of measuring one's soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity.” Black barbers understood the limitations of their time period, yet were able to capitalize on their unique opportunity. Turning the trope of “black inferiority,” for which has plagued them into their most valuable asset.
The ability to “wear the mask” made black barbers a lot of money in the 19th century. As they amassed more wealth, their status continued to rise, as did their notoriety. Barbers such as John Merrick of Durham, who later founded North Carolina Mutual Insurance, self-funded the principal investment from the profits earned from his barbershop. He was the barber of the dukes, tobacco magnets of the Carolinas. Alonzo Herndon of Atlanta also benefited from his wealthy white patronage. He served the white industrialists who moved to Georgia’s capital, with hopes to build the New South. For most of the century, these barbers exclusively cut only white customers, trading deference for dollars. White customers felt sharing barbers with a black man bestowed too much social equity upon the race, resulting in many black patrons being excluded from their shops. This, in turn, led to many wealthy black barbers being despised and ostracized by their communities.
In the 1890s, German and Italian immigrants saw the wealth generated by African Americans and decided to claim their stake. They took to “professionalize” the trade by requiring all barbers attend an accredited barber college. The Germans formed a barber union, allowing them to lobby for barbering licenses and anatomy training. In effect, re-skilling an already skilled profession — which in turn forced many blacks out of the profession. At the same time, Gillette Safety Razor was founded. From its birth in 1903, Gillette Safety Razor redefined what it meant to be a barber. By introducing a line of home shaving products, they transitioned the responsibility of shaving from the barber to the customer, reducing the visits to your local barbershop.
The turn of the century brought about a new generation of black barbers.
Individuals who did not care to cater to those outside their community. As the Great Depression approached, these entrepreneurs looked at barbering as a means to freedom both financial and social. In the era of Jim Crow, barbershops provided safe havens for men and women to talk, think and organize. Liberating themselves from a life of masks, they were able cultivate the culture that still resonates today within the barbershop. Civil Rights movements gained mass support and reach from barbershops. Community members both middle and lower class were able to congregate and socialize, strengthening the bond within the community and spreading the word.
Fast forward several decades in the future, barbershops still remain staples in African-American communities. Men of all ages and social classes still gravitate to their favorite barbershop when it’s time for a fresh fade. Commerce and culture remain key focal points in the relevance of barbershops. Spirited debates, engaging conversations and news both local and national all contribute to the continued burgeoning of the barbershop culture. Clients come in expecting excellent service married to the uniquely local experience that is their shop. The personal connection they make with a barber grows deeper with every cut. The sense of belonging and identity followed by an amazing haircut go a long way in building a generation of strong and confident black men.
Today, barbers and barber shops are living through a revitalization of their artisan craft.
Trade shows and expos are ushering in a new wave of barbers. There is a sharper focus on honing skills and educating themselves on the industry and its nuances. In the '70s barbers were tested by the sheer number of people embracing afros and dreadlocks. No haircuts meant no profits. That trend eventually faded, and barbers resumed cutting the heads that filled their seats. Today, men’s grooming has regained its momentum within society. Natural hair is the new trend going against the grain of traditional hair care. However with a new-age twist, this style is perfected by a visit to your barber.
Both technology and culture trends have spurred this movement. A man’s haircut defines his personality and style. Always has been and will continue to. Technology has made it much easier for men to stay current on latest trends and improve their grooming standards. Each trend fueling the renaissance that is men’s grooming, modernizing the barbershop experience.
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Confession: I am a recovered beauty product junkie. Like most women, I’ve plucked, arched, waxed, bleached, painted, lightened, cut, shaved and whitened all in the name of beauty. Sounds normal, right? Stop me if you’ve heard this story before.
Hidden in my apartment was a department store display’s worth of hair, makeup and bath products that I bought and accumulated over the years. I had beauty products on the counter, makeup in boxes, makeup on my desk, makeup on my dresser, makeup in my closet, makeup and perfumes hidden under my bed, bath products in special pretty boxes both big and small, makeup in drawers, makeup in my purse and even a small bag of makeup hidden under my car seat for those days when I thought I need that little extra "umph." Working at a high-end department store only served to fuel my addiction.
Before long, I was the official makeup artist for all my friends, family members and co-workers. Occasionally, I’d get a paid gig doing makeup too. To my surprise, I learned that my husband and I were expecting a baby. Life couldn't get any better, or so I thought at the time. I was blissfully in love, living a life filled with makeup, yoga, girlfriends and on the verge of starting my own family.
One evening after dinner, I was stricken by a jolting pain in my lower abdomen. I passed it off as cramps and slept it off. As the days went on, the pain became more and more unbearable. I scheduled an appointment to see my obstetrician. After my ultrasound appointment, my physician sent me across town to see a specialist. That’s when I was informed that I had an ovarian tumor four times the size of my ovary. I left the appointment numb, sat in my car and cried.
The ovarian tumor kept growing and it was absorbing the nutrients from my growing fetus. With the huge probability of the tumor rupturing at any given time, I was put on bedrest for the remainder of my pregnancy and I was barely showing. In fact, my doctor said that if I didn’t stop my 7 days-a-week workout regimen, the tumor could rupture and kill me in the process.
Monthly appointments turned into weekly appointments. Nothing seemed important anymore, not even makeup. I hid in my apartment, avoiding calls from the outside world. I was not sure how to process what was going on, let alone how to explain to my friends or family what I was going through. I didn’t want to hear any negative comments or have a pity party. I just wanted to get back to my normal life as soon as possible.
My mom passed away when I was 15 years old from a car accident. If there was a time when I needed her the most, it was then. Just to hear her voice or give me that look of assurance that everything was going to be okay. Oddly enough, as I sat in our apartment alone, I could hear her voice tell me, like many times before, not to give up. I realized I was allowing this tumor to suck the life out of me and my unborn child. I made a decision to stay positive, to fight, and more importantly, to learn as much as I could about what was going on with my body. I became obsessed with ensuring my survival.
I asked questions at every doctor’s appointment. I asked so many questions, my physicians became annoyed. When someone wasn’t able to answer my questions, I found a physician that could.
The more I learned about my health and my pregnancy, the more my hunger for knowledge increased. One afternoon, I stumbled upon a research study explaining the impact ingredients have on our overall health. I discovered the link between food, beauty products, toxic preservatives and the affects certain chemicals have on the endocrine system, the reproductive system and on unborn fetuses. I began to change how I ate and what I used on my skin and in my hair.
Years earlier while in college, I would craft and experiment with natural butters, oils and conditioners in my apartment. I made my own hair care products and thought since I couldn’t find what I was looking for, then I would just make my own natural, luxurious, chemical-free bath and skincare products to use. Years later, I found solace and peace in learning about formulations, plant oils, local sourcing and creating healthy options that were safe enough for me to use while I was pregnant and later on, on my baby.
In retrospect, becoming pregnant actually saved my life. While bearing my child, life began to have a new meaning. While my pregnancy was difficult and trying, I learned about self-love and the true meaning of self-care. I also learned about the willpower I had to overcome obstacles and to truly love all of me, both good and bad. Balancing life and death at my fingertips, I made the choice to enjoy life each day, because tomorrow, after all, isn’t guaranteed.
During my c-section, the tumor was removed and I gave birth to a healthy baby girl. Four years later, I own and run an amazing skincare business where I get to make natural and organic products that don't contain the toxic stuff that harms us all. I can truly say that I am no longer a beauty product junkie, but instead I use makeup and skincare to educate individuals about the effect ingredients in skincare have on our overall health. I have a huge passion for helping others learn about wellness, self-acceptance and staying informed when it comes to their health. By sharing my story, I hope to inspire and encourage individuals to stay strong when faced with challenges.
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A self proclaimed recovered beauty product junkie, Barbara Jacques is the Founder, Creative Director and Chief Formulator at Jacq's Organics, an all-natural plant-based skin and body product line based in South Florida. She speaks and writes about natural skincare. Follow her on Twitter, Instagram, and check...
Frank Ocean is a musical genius, therefore you know his mom is probably equally as dope.
Katonya Breaux recently released a sunscreen for people of color. After becoming fed up with the white film left behind from traditional sunscreen, Breaux created UnSun. The mineral tinted facial sunscreen is SPF30 and includes natural ingredients like coconut oil, shea butter, and beeswax.
"UnSun was made specifically for people of color representing the beige to dark chocolate tones of the spectrum. The desire to protect our skin from the sun should not mean having to wear foundation in order to cover the white and gray film that's present after the application," Breaux wrote on the site. "UnSun was specifically formulated with a mineral tint to address this concern. Tested on tones that range from olive to the darkest of chocolate, Unsun meets the challenge."
Ya'll hear that?
She's protecting your ash.
Back in 2013, Breaux aired out her frustrations on Twitter.
Can someone make brown sunscreen? Please! Must I look like a clown to protect my skin? #blackfolkburntoo
— katonya breaux (@katonya) May 16, 2013
"Shortly after that, I called a friend of mine in the hair-care business and asked if I could meet the folks at their lab. That’s how the whole process started," she told The Cut.
So excited!! It's here! Coming to you very soon!!!🌞🌞#sunprotectionforall #protectyourskin
A photo posted by Katonya Breaux (@katonya1) on Apr 15, 2016 at 10:14am PDT
UnSun is available for purchase online. Breaux says the line will expand with body and lip products currently in development.
As women of color continue calling on beauty manufacturers to become more inclusive with products catering to darker skin tones, Breaux says companies should be put forth greater efforts in addressing the inadequacies.
"There’s still a great need. There are multiple other brands that really need to get onboard. It will happen. The voices are getting louder, but of course there’s a need."
Yaaas Mother Ocean, yaaas!
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As little black girls, when we'd lose hair accessories we'd just chock it up to the game. But Gabrielle Goodwin and her mother, Rozalynn, weren't fans of losing barrettes. Rozalynn went on a Twitter rant about constantly buying barrettes for her daughter, and other mothers joined the conversation, expressing the same frustration.
Behold the double-face, double-snap barrette — a hair accessory that won't disappear from little girls' hair, invented by 9-year-old Goodwin.
Goodwin, who was just 5 years old then, probed her mother to take action on her idea, as she was also unhappy with losing barrettes. Two years later, Goodwin and her mother created GaBBY Bows. To date, families in 48 states and eight countries have saved time, money and frustration by purchasing the barrettes at www.gabbybows.com. GaBBY Bows is also available at select retail stores in the Southeast.
Goodwin's hair accessory line will be expanding its offerings with the $28,000 that Goodwin and her mother have raised on Kickstarter. The funding comes from the generous support of more than 300 backers and businesses.
Though Goodwin founded the company with her mother, she is president and CEO, handling inventors, speaking to community groups and schools and writing thank you cards to customers who order online. She also hosts "GaBBY Play Dates" where she teaches girls in children’s shelters about entrepreneurship.
In 2015 Goodwin was chosen as a 2015 SC Young Entrepreneur of the Year — she's is the youngest to ever receive this honor, to date.
“It feels really good to have people support me because they believe that my business can go to the next level!” says Goodwin.
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Here’s the thing about textured hair — there is no one-size-fits-all formula that will work for every woman’s tresses. I’m sure many of you can attest (or drop a horror story in the comments one time) about that hair stylist who swore she (or he) would have you laid like ‘Yonce in every video circa 2016, but all you got was a face full of tears and solid use of your hat collection for the next month.
I’m speaking from experience. Can you tell?
With vapid distrust of new hair salons and growing wait times for the one person who does your hair right, the overall response is usually to skip on a new experience or block off an entire day for a press and curl. Want some good news? There's a free new app (F-R-E-E...let that marinate) designed specifically to meet the hair care needs of women of color.
SWIVEL Beauty is essentially Yelp for your hair stylist needs. Created by co-founders and longtime friends Jihan Thompson and Jennifer Lambert (they’ve been friends since fourth grade) SWIVEL is the result of two successful women coming together to create something significant, says co-founder Jihan Thompson.
“I had been batting around the idea of starting a business that focused on alleviating the hair care problems Black women face," she says, "[Jennifer and I] talked about it and got equally excited about building something for women with the same struggles we have. We also bring different skills to the table. Jennifer is a Harvard-trained corporate lawyer and I worked as an editor at top national women's magazines for more than 8 years, so our different skill sets have been an asset to being able to get things done.”
The SWIVEL app allows you to search for salons in your area for a stylist that's right for you, but that’s not the only game changer. SWIVEL is taking on tech to bridge the gap between beauty, tech and women of color.
“It's been exciting to see how tech has transformed the beauty industry, but I often felt like the unique issues that women of color face have been largely overlooked,” Thompson says. And the numbers don’t lie. According to Thompson’s industry data, black women spend nine times more on beauty than any other ethnic group on hair care ($500 Billion alone in 2014 according to Huff Post), yet there are more than a dozen beauty-booking apps available in the Apple store right now with very few of them really considering and catering to the hair needs of black women in a truly authentic way For Jihan and Jennifer, the frustration resulted in a call to action. “We were tired of being overlooked or treated as an afterthought. We couldn't find a solution, so we created one.”
SWIVEL sets itself apart, not only because it’s been created by two women of color, but because its sole goal is to cater to virtually every woman of color with varied textured hair types. “We felt like it was important to be honest and real about the fact that everyone's hair is not the same. Jennifer wears her hair natural. I wear my hair relaxed and often with extensions. We don't see the same stylists—and that's okay.” Taking that identifiable need to heart, SWIVEL’s creators cultivated the app with real women in mind. Its user-friendly interface allows potential patrons to easily choose from an array of desired services corresponding with their exact hair type via a drop-down menu. After making your selection, the app generates a list of the best stylists and salons in your area perfect for creating an epic hair flip. Add the fact that you can easily book online through the app and it’s like Christmas in your deep conditioner.
Though the convenience is great and it’s absolutely epic to have all of that information at your fingertips, this is your hair we’re talking about. For many of us, our hairstylists are trusted damn-near members of our family. We’ve built relationships with these people because we KNOW they’re good. So, if you’re like me and are worried about how credible the SWIVEL stylists are, let this ease your fears: All the salons featured have been tried, tested, expertly rated and approved directly by the app’s founders. The app, launched officially last month, only started with a dozen salons and stylists. Stylists also are prohibited from automatically uploading their own profiles. Checks and balances are very real for SWIVEL. “We're hyper-focused on creating a high-quality experience. That means starting with top-rated salons and stylists, which we found through a combination of vetting ourselves and reviews from trusted peers. Also, all of our reviews include a place for the user to include "wait time" so people know what to expect,” says Thompson.
Although Swivel Beauty is currently only listing NYC-based salons and stylists, expansion is already in the works. Additionally, Android users won’t have to wait for long to experience this hair joy as the iOS-only app will soon be available via Google Play for Android. Until then, if you’re based in the New York area, you can download the SWIVEL app here.
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The policing of black hair isn't new. It's a form of oppression that is tied to white supremacy. The same way that our skin color makes a statement to non-black people, so does our hair.
Black hair isn't included in the mainstream narrative of beauty. In beauty schools across the country, how to style black hair (especially natural, black hair) isn't taught and many hair dressers get their certifications without knowing a thing about kinks, kitchens or curls.
We all know that the art of black hair is traditionally taught in living rooms, kitchens (when a hot comb is involved) and on bedroom floors. Today, entrepreneurial women have resorted to starting their own beauty schools. For those of us who are just trying to get our own curls to act right, YouTube has been a savior.
Outside of the realm of cosmetology, when has natural black hair been acceptable? By white or black people.
Imma need gabby douglas to slap some perm on them edges. Or at least some edge control
— mocha mamita (@iDontGiveAFTho) August 8, 2016
The attacks of Gabby Douglas' edges aren't too far from the way that anti-black hair policies are enacted in schools. Perhaps Gabby's edges may have looked better with edge control or a perm, but when you're winning Olympic gold, why does it matter? It doesn't, and certainly in the same way that how a black child wears their hair to school, doesn't matter.
So when black people defend white people (*cough* the Kardashians and Rachel Dolezals of the world) who co-opt black hair styles because they're "trendy," or when they open their mouths to say "it's just hair" they're missing every part of it. They too are a part of the problem.
If it really offends you when White People wear Dreads or Bantu Knots.. you must not have dealt with much in your life
It is NOT that deep
— Khalil (@kbyrd2) August 10, 2016
How many times has Black Twitter had to come for white media publications for attributing traditional black hairstyles to white celebrities?
It's an issue when white people show up with these hairstyles and don't pay homage or even care about their roots. With Bantu knots alone, this has been done so many times that we might just be being trolled.
Working in corporate America, I would often tweet about my frustration from people's comments about my various hairstyles. I'll never forget the day one of my co-workers ran her hair through my bundles and said "I like your hair best like this." That day, also, was the first time my boss called me gorgeous. I was at best, unamused. And in petty fashion, every day after that, I wore my hair in an afro because I refused to subscribe to those validations.
When I was 14-years-old, one day I told my then best friend about my career aspirations. I'd told her that I wanted to be a broadcast journalist and report from Capitol Hill. She told me that I would have to perm my hair. I'd just went natural.
I remember this conversation as vividly as the ladies rom Pretoria High School for Girls in South Africa, will remember their fighting for their hair – a reality which they can not control. Sadly, this is a reality that black women will forego throughout their lives.
So, the next time someone says "it's just hair" when referring to black hair laugh it off or read them with grace.
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You might know her as the star of the VH1’s series Hit the Floor or remember her from some of her big screen appearances in films such as For Colored Girls and John Q, but outside of being a four-time NAACP Image Award winner, Kimberly Elise is natural lifestyle advocate.
Elise invites naturalistas to unearth the beauty within in a week-long digital summit that began September 1 and continues until September 7. The digital summit aims to encourage women to move past conventional beliefs about beauty and cultivate an inner peace and inner beauty.
Elise consults her favorite cosmetologists, bloggers, celebrity stylists and makers across the natural beauty realm to discuss natural hair, beauty tips and more. The free digital summit kicked off with a discussion between wardrobe stylist and natural hair enthusiast Vic Styles and Elise about self-love, purpose and radiating natural beauty from the inside out. Those who reserve their digital seats can catch up on this discussion and look forward to inspiring words and commentary from celebrity hairstylist Aingeel-Z, cosmetic scientist Erica Douglas and artist Debra Cartwright, to name a few.
For more details about the speakers or to register, click here.
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Afropunk was this past weekend, and as usual it was filled with talented artists, black excellence, impeccable style and joy. If you couldn't attend, that's ok. Get your life from the images captured by @v_well below. Music festival style is always beautiful, but Afropunk truly takes it to the next level. Which look is your favorite?
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I remember the first time I wore black lipstick. I was hesitant to buy it. My first encounter with lipstick was a Ronald McDonalds-esque shade of red, and it immediately drew ire from my grandmother who made sure to mention that “bright red don’t look good on dark women,” and that "only Jezebels wear that color." Thanks, Grandma!
But black lipstick is a different kind of beast altogether. It isn't as alluring or safe of a choice as a classic red. I used to think of black lipstick as something sinister, something that only the grungy wore in order to scare people off. That was until I bought my first tube, a $2 Wet n’ Wild lipstick from CVS, appropriately named “Pagan.” I wore it every day for a week after that, and enjoyed every single one of the looks it drew on my small, suburban Catholic college campus.
A week ago, I did a Google image search for “black lipstick,” and I was met with dozens of images of white women. There were five images of women of color at most, and those images were mostly of Lupita Nyong’o and Rihanna, which sums up the range of our representation in the media.
#BlackGirlMagic has been brewing for centuries, although the mainstream is just catching wind of it, and for all of the natural hair celebrations and melanin-worshipping, there still lacks a place for bold black beauty in society.
It never fails that every time I’ve worn black lipstick, whether to hit the dance floor or a Walmart aisle, a fellow black girl will tell me that she loves the lip color, but "could never pull it off."
Show me the receipts...
Black beauty has never fit in with the blonde, blue-eyed narrative that was packaged and sold to us. Black skin stands out and always will. “I wear black lipstick because I was born “other,” and I got tired of trying to be something other than who I am.”
Here are three reasons why you should too:
1. To redefine “black on black”
What comes to mind when you hear the phrase “Black on black?” Probably not images of black love and celebration. When we hear the phrase, it usually precedes attempts to excuse injustice and refute our right to exist. Wear black lipstick to embrace what so many people fear, and maybe in some small but defiant way, you can reclaim the beauty that lies in being boldly black.
2. It's unapologetic
Black has always been a forgiving color, but it’s time to stop apologizing. Black lipstick is a shade that demands to be acknowledged and worn as is. It can't be softened. When you wear black lipstick, there is no hiding but instead a proclamation of your right to be who you are, and not in a way that seeks to ease the discomfort of others.
3. It goes with everything
History has often tried to whitewash away our culture, our beauty, and our spirit, but the color black has always been an essential color. The little black dress has been said to go with everything, and the color black has always been universally flattering, but somehow black skin became something that didn’t quite go with the other outfits. Black lipstick is a shade that doesn’t need to be tampered with or altered in order to be flattering. It needs no liner and no mixing. It is for the little black girl who will grow up thinking that being alternative is only something that white kids do. It's for the black woman who is afraid of the dark, and it's for black guy who knows that masculinity cannot be seen by the naked eye. Black lipstick goes with everything and everyone, and to wear it is to stop being afraid of your dark.
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