*Feature image of Adepero Oduye via Project South.
I have quite romantic ideals when I consider my looks. It was the Valentines Day of 2009 when I got my big chop.
It was as much of a hassle to have my haircut, as it was to keep what remained of its winter damaged, chemically processed predecessor. This is why the big chop for me was more of a political statement than an aesthetic one. I did not want straight hair anymore, I was in the pursuit of nappyness* and societal norms were huge roadblocks.
I went to different salons only to be rejected because my hair was too “kinky” and the barbers would not be able to handle it. I did not understand why it would be much of a hassle to cut a Black person’s hair as I had only been in Canada for a few months. After I realized the fear of the black naps rife in mainstream salons, I hauled my ass to African/Black barbers. Every hair cut from there on cost $50 at least. I knew I was being scammed but I had no choice. The lady who cut my hair, apart from constantly reciting every myth about natural hair, never cut it the way I wanted. She either cut it too low or too freaking low.
Via Petra Alexandra
A few years after, with the growth of the Black population in my city, I began paying $30 to drop-in barbers who made sure to make me wait a week longer than I was supposed to. They would usually cut my hair with a conspicuous anxiety about cutting a woman’s hair. They would dwell so much on this anxiety that they would overlook my advice, which they would never do to their male customer. I was fed up. Equipped with YouTube videos and my roomate’s flimsy clipper, I began to cut my hair myself.
I recall messing up my hair so many times that I now know what to avoid, and the perfect way to achieve consistency in cutting my hair.
1. A good clipper goes a long way.
It must have a good blade, which can be adjusted for closer cuts.
I have a Wahl Color Pro. It cost me about $30 and the color-coding for the clipper guards are wonderful for a novice barber. Do not think you can get away with using flimsy clippers. This is the cheapest I am willing to go.
2. Guard it with your life.
If your hair is an investment, clipper guards are insurance that a reasonable portion of your hair is secure. How much hair you intend to keep depends on the size you choose. I use the smallest sizes: 1/8” and 1/16” on my hair (green and red). I only take them off to lineup my hair or get a closer cut for my fade.
Know your fractions. The larger the denominator, the smaller the guard – 1/2” is larger than 1/4 “, which is larger than 1/8”.
3. Pay attention to the texture of your hair. Never cut your hair when it is wet. Remember that hair with tight curls will shrink when your hair is dry.
4. Make sure you have two mirrors so you can see the back of your hair.
5. Watch YouTube videos on how to cut hair. They are a great help.
6. Play your favorite music. It will calm you down and give you enough courage to cut your hair. Remember what I said about anxiety and male barbers who cut my hair? Confidence counts.
If you have a barber who is respectful of your preferences and time please stay with the person. But keep in mind that being able to rely on yourself is very empowering. I always get compliments on my hair. It feels great to know that everything on my scalp is my handwork. I know my barber and I trust that the boi will show up on time and respect my preferences. That is a good feeling to have.
Also when you get better and your girlfriend sees you in your ribbed tank top, cutting your own hair, you will thank me.
Stay tuned for the next segment on Black hair. It is bound to be interesting.