Heartland Black barbers and hairstylists talk how Black hair is evolving

As we celebrate Black History Month, we look at how Black culture is presented through hairstyles.
Published: Feb. 8, 2023 at 10:33 PM CST
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CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. (KFVS) - As we celebrate Black History Month, we look at how Black culture is presented through hairstyles.

Most hairstyles that are popular today have historical roots dating back to the 1600s.

Hairstylists Roshunda Robinson and Kenitha Pittman both said hair represents more than just looking good, but it was also used as a tool for enslaved Africans.

“Where we started off with braids goes all the way back to Africa when people use to wear braids to determine what tribe they were in. Then it became a style to wear—people just liked wearing braids,” Robinson said. “Then we went to the afro; something that defied gravity, something that stood straight up in the air in a round form— and firm. We can shake our hair, dance or whatever and that afro will still stay there.”

Pittman said Black hair is beautiful and it tells a story. From braids, to a silk press, to a fresh fade and even locs.

“You go back to Madame CJ Walker, when she was making her own hair products and building her own hair salons,” Pittman said.

Hair is a statement in the Black community.

Rick James, owner of The Perfect Gentleman, said his journey as a barber wasn’t easy, but cutting hair is a part of life.

“It’s just being original or just kind of portraying your own identity,” James said. “For instance, how you’re wearing your hair now—it’s natural right—just kind of making it something that you own, not wanting to adhere to a certain style per se.”

James also connected the importance of embracing Black hairstyles to history and culture.

“Knowing where you come from and your culture—that’s everything,” James said. “I feel like embracing it, first you have to know the history...and the reason different things happening to do with your culture.”

The goal of these Heartland hair stylists is to continue to make a difference in the Black community, offering so much more than a shave and a haircut.