[Detangling our Roots] The History of Baby Hairs

[Detangling our Roots] The History of Baby Hairs

Stop the co-opt. In this EBONY.com series exploring Black hair origins, we trace the styling of baby hairs to Black and Hispanic communities

by Princess Gabbara, April 27, 2017

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[Detangling our Roots] The History of Baby Hairs

The Queen of Baby Hairs, Rozonda "Chili" Thomas. Courtesy of Getty Images

Nearly every Black and Latina woman knows the drill when it comes to styling her baby hairs.

Pulling out a jar of gel or pomade and using a tooth brush to slick down those baby hairs before leaving the house for a night out is equivalent to icing on a cake.

Just so we’re clear: Baby hairs are those small, fine-textured hairs that sit along the hairline. They are most commonly found among women of color with textured hair.

Celebrities such as Zendaya, Yara Shahidi, Rihanna and FKA Twigs started embracing theirs in recent years, but Chilli from TLC is often hailed the unofficial baby hairs queen.

| Braids & Baby Hair | Yes, Baby Hair and Braids have made a comeback, resurfacing in pop culture creating a Baby Doll frenzy. Therefore, we must pay homage to one of the original #FlyGirls who had our eyebrows lifting in awe by the sight of her elegantly exaggerated baby hairs, often accompanied by Pocahontas braids. @Therealchilli multifaceted style gave us Indian Culture and urban street in one look. Inspiring girls all around the world to explore their creativity while giving us a detailed description of what a scrub was… and to stay away. Thank you @therealchilli, we appreciate your continuous contribution to #FlyGirls everywhere. #chilli #chillitlc #tlc #FGU #flygirlsunite #babyhair #babyhaironfleek #braids #indianbraids #legend #trending #newtrends #blackhair #hairstyles #urbanfashion

A post shared by FlyGirlsUnite (@flygirlsunite) on

However, the styling of baby hairs as we know it seems to have started in the 1970s. LaToya Jackson’s baby hairs were on fleek for much of the decade. And in 1973, Sylvia Robinson, founder and CEO of Sugar Hill Records, can be seen rocking baby hairs on her “Pillow Talk” album cover. Furthermore, Pat Davis and Fawn Quinones slayed their baby hairs as they boogied down on Soul Train.

Thought baby hairs were reserved for the ladies only? No ma’am. If Chilli was the queen of baby hairs, then Ginuwine was the unofficial king.

To quote Salt ‘n Pepa, standing in front of a mirror for long periods of time trying to perfect that swirl was considered “very necessary”.

“Growing up in the eighties and nineties, wearing the latest hair trend, while sporting baby hairs was synonymous with the ‘Fly Girl’ phenomenon,” explains publicist Colleen Gwen Armstrong, who runs the popular Instaglam News account. “Times may have changed, but the ‘Fly Girl’ phenomenon continues as baby hairs continue to represent a symbol of beauty within the Black community.”

So, as you can imagine, Black folks were hella confused when “Pretty Little Liars” actress Lucy Hale, who is White, tweeted a photo of herself with a caption that read: “The time my baby hairs came to good use at a shoot.”

Outrage quickly ensued as the photo circulated online. The problem?

Hale’s “baby hairs” weren’t baby hairs at all.

Followers and non-followers were quick to point out that her “baby hairs” were simply wet bangs swept down onto her forehead and how there’s a difference between the two looks.

To be fair, Hale wasn’t the first (and she won’t be the last) White celebrity to offend Black folks with her “baby hairs.”

Katy Perry rubbed a lot of folks the wrong way when she rocked manufactured baby hairs in her “This Is How We Do” video in 2014. She wore them again in 2015 at a Givenchy show during Paris Fashion Week.

There’s also the time when the now defunct Lucky magazine referred to baby hairs worn during a DKNY show as “slicked-down tendrils.”

And the time when Elle U.K. referred to baby hairs as a “new trend.”

“Our baby hairs and afros have always been cool to us,” Armstrong says. “The rest of society and the fashion industry is just now starting to catch up.”

Why do we love baby hairs so much anyway?

Part of it stems from the Eurocentric beauty standards heavily placed on Black women in particular and our obsession with having “good hair.” Many of us go so far as to purchase lace front wigs with the baby hairs still attached, but Armstrong points out that they’re “that extra something that gives you a more youthful appearance.”

She continues, “Baby hairs are a way of showcasing all the unique ways we can style our hair and how we can take the smallest thing and turn it into a display of individual expression.”

Not as popular as they once were in the ‘90s, baby hairs will probably never completely go out of style because they make us look fly without looking like we tried too hard.

Some folks, Black and White, refer to baby hairs as “ghetto fabulous,” but I beg to differ.

There’s nothing ghetto about the hair that grows out of our heads no matter how we choose to style it. So…pass the pomade, please.


Princess Gabbara is a Michigan-based journalist whose work has been published in several national publications, including EBONY Magazine, Jetmag.com, HelloBeautiful.com, BET.com, Huffington Post Women, and Sesi Magazine. Visit her site or follow her @PrincessGabbara.

 
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