Is Natural Hair Just a Fad?

is natural hair just a fadDo you remember Napster? What about Chia Pets or Cabbage Patch Dolls? Oh, man, what about those old cinnamon toothpicks? Those things were great!

And, let’s not forget about that haircut style poster that hangs in nearly every barbershop in America. When I was just a kid, I remember starring at that poster as I waited to get my haircut. I would wonder to myself if I should get the high-top fade with a part on the right side or if I should keep it basic and go for the brush cut with a part on the left. This felt like a huge decision as a kid.

However, looking back on that time, it’s clear that most of those things were just fads.

Is Natural Hair Just a Fad?

Lately, several people have asked me, “is natural hair just a fad”? Instead of simply giving you my opinion on the topic, let’s take a scientific approach to the issue.

According to Wikipedia, “a fad is any form of behavior that develops among a large population and is collectively followed with enthusiasm for some period, generally as a result of the behavior being perceived as novel in some way. A fad is said to “catch on” when the number of people adopting it begins to increase rapidly. The behavior will normally fade quickly once the perception of novelty is gone.”

Using that as our “official” definition, let’s dive into the this discussion.

The definition specifically says that for a fad to exist a form of behavior must develop among a large population. While the population of women still relaxing is probably larger than the population that has decided to go natural, I would consider the natural hair population to be relatively large comparatively speaking.

Next, the definition states that the fad then must be collectively followed with enthusiasm for some period of time. While the meaning of the phrase “some period” is subjective and may vary among each person, I think that most of us would agree that the movement has been followed collectively with enthusiasm over some period. So far, using this scientific approach results are pointing towards the movement being a “fad”, but let’s dig a little deeper.

The definition then says that a fad is generally perceived as novel in some way and once the perception of novelty is gone the fad begins to fade.

I think that this is the most interesting part of the definition. Do you think the natural hair movement is seen by naturals as something new and different? What happens once that refreshingly new feeling (novelty) begins to wear off? Will naturals begin to revert back to creamy crack?

Even when using a scientific approach to answering this question, we’re left without a conclusive answer.

Here’s my personal opinion: I think we’re potentially asking the wrong question. Maybe a more appropriate question is: Was getting a relaxer only a fad? We were all born with natural hair and chose to relax for some period of time – just like some of us who chose to get Jheri Curls or a high-top fade with a part on the right side. That tells me that maybe getting a relaxer was just a fad.

So, that’s my personal opinion, but it’s only one opinion. I want to hear what you think about the natural hair movement. Is this movement just a fad?

32 Comments

  • For some it may just be a trend, a simple fad to follow. For most it is a new beginning And the start of a liberal movement! most black women relax their hair Because they feel that they cannot take care of natural hair. For so long there was very little information concerning health care for natural black hair. No there’s so Much research and so many huge corporations willing to make products that support typical natural black hair the possibilities are endless! I almost positive that once black women see how long hair can grow if u just keep that mess away from your hair more and more will realize that natural is the way to go! and maybe just maybe our opinions of what “good” hair is will change! :)

    • Hi Ada –

      Good points. Since the beginning of the information age, the amount of information available on black natural hair continues to increase. Almost everyday I find out about a new hair care company or natural hair blogger….and as you mentioned companies spending money developing products specifically meant for black hair tends to make me think it’s not a fad.

      Kenneth

  • A fad, Nooo… once you go natural you will find that there is nothing better. I don’t think anyone who comes to know, love and appreciate their hair, will want to go back to non-versatile, thin relaxed hair.

    • Hi Rosalind –

      Jael and I were having a discussion earlier today about something similar. We wonder how many women have actually decided to go natural and subsequently after going natural, decided to go back to a relaxer.

      I would expect that number of women to be really small and agree that most women who come to know, love and appreciate their hair, wouldn’t decide to go back to the creamy crack.

      Kenneth

  • I personally think it’s not a fad, with a fad there isn’t a lot of thought put into it but being natural it’s a lot of thought. Before I decided to become natural, I had to make up in my mind that’s what I wanted to do. It’s a mental thing as well as a physical. Fads do not give to that much power, they are generally something you do because everyone else is doing it. Becoming natural isn’t a simple fad, well for me it isn’t, but a choice and a way of life.

    • Jocelyn –

      You hit on a very important aspect of becoming natural in your comments and that’s the mental transition. Mastering the mental transition is really critical to the success of your natural hair – especially when you consider that mental struggles often lead to increased stress, and increased stress (if not mitigated) can lead to hair shedding, etc.

      Kenneth

  • Kenneth, great article! Unfortunately, natural hair could be a fad for the few who tried, didn’t commit and swore natural hair wasn’t for them. However, there will be those who truly no longer have the desire to alter the natural texture of their hair and they will be content with their hair as is. They will and have committed to natural hair. You know, relaxers aren’t for everyone and it will be those who are and those who are not and somewhere in the middle you will have those who wish they were but will never admit it.

    • I think I’m starting to see a trend with some of the comments and it may be simply a difference of opinion between natural hair vets and relatively recent naturals.

  • Depending on a particular person’s mindset it could or could not be a fad. In the 60s & 70s a large number of Blacks took to the Civil Rights movement and began rocking afros, dashikis…being Afrocentric for a short stint…they eventually returned to more Eurocentric styles smh. For them it was a fad. Today, the Natural hair movement must strive to reinforce consistency and not budge. What I cannot stand is a woman who makes the choice to go Natural and then recidivates back into the creamy crack. Ugh!! Personally, I will never return to straight hair. It is imperative to set a proper, steady example of how to care for Natural hair, display its beauty & versatility, and encourage others, especially the youth, on making the correct choice. We must show that Natural hair is not a fad this time around but a revolution not to be taken lightly.

    • I think you hit on a some interesting points. It’s definitely imperative that we set proper examples for how individuals should take care of their hair and continue to encourage naturals to keep pushing forward even when they may feel like giving up.

  • This is a great piece. I would agree to say that the reason for wearing one’s hair in it’s natural state is contingent upon the individuals’ personal belief and reasoning. It could just be a fad to some, an experiment to some, a “fit-in a specific culture” to some, empowerment for some, a…ok, I think I’ve made the point LOL. However for me, there was always something in me, sine a little girl, that desired everything in it’s natural state. I felt like it was a sin of some sort to alter that which God has intended to be. When I got my first relaxer and times thereafter, I cringed at the onset. I felt out of place and misrepresented. I felt “not me”. I wasn’t strong enough to change. I wasn’t daring enough to lose whatever I had to lose to become natural. After I had gone through some things in my personal life and learned some hard core lessons, I gained my strength to be! I came into my own and I have never been happier! For me, I have become Aliyah!

    • Aliyah –

      I’m glad that you enjoyed the article. You comments have me intrigued to learn more about your hair story, if you want to share…..we can do a feature story on your natural hair journey.

      Kenneth

      • Me? *points finger at self* If I want to share? Sure, I’ll be willing to share:) I’ve only been walking this journey now for a good month, however, I’ll be honored to share as I continue; And I shall continue!

  • My simple opinion… I believe its a fad… Trend… Whatever you want to call it. Im all for ladies going natural but theyre gonna get tired of it just like the latest fashion trend. But for those ladies who chose to go natural to benefit their health then all the best but ive met too many ladies who transitioned just because… [Trying something new] Those were the same ones who teased us…[ life long naturals] like myself. Now that everyone is going natural they r jumping on the band wagon. But its beneficial to them so kudos. But i believe the sleek and straight will b back so we’ll see. In The mean time lets talk hair.

    • Hi Val

      I was really interested to hear your viewpoint on this, because you’ve been natural for so long – a natural hair veteran – if you will. Thanks for commenting.

      Kenneth

  • People may think that it’s a fad, but I don’t believe that it is. I always hated my hair when it was relaxed, there were some good days where the “burning” was “worth it”. But as I’m doing my hair nowadays, I look at my curls and see the way that they pop and just how beautiful they are. And I would never want to alter them ever again and burn myself. I love my hair now, as is. I just pray that others come to this moment in their lives where they love their has it naturally pops out of their head and find products that have their hair looking awesome. Relaxers are so very harmful. I have to agree with you Kenneth about the relaxers being a fad, we all thought that we had to get them, it was the “in” thing to do for so long. But I, personally, don’t believe that it’s a fad. At least, not for me. Even if everyone that is natural now goes back, I will not.

  • I have been back and forth from relaxed to natural to relaxed to natural for almost 10 years now. I first did the big chop my second year at college (2002) because my mom did it (influenced by her PCS tour in Germany). I wanted to be different from the rest of the females on campus and thought natural was the way to do it. Many guys, mostly Black guys, did not like my hair. Only a handful appreciated it. I ended up relaxing my hair in 2003 due to conflicts I was having with the ROTC instructors regarding military hair regulations, only to immediately return in 2004 when I was medically discharged from the program. By the time I graduated, I noticed a lot more people were becoming natural and that I was no longer different. So, in 2006, I relaxed my hair again…. the cycle continued til 2010 when I decided to appear in my natural state. No make-up, no relaxes, no weave. I became to acknowledge and accept me the way God made me. And by doing that, I no longer fit in the crowd. My ex-husband didn’t like it and left me for the female with the relaxed hair that wears make-up. But I love it and am teaching my daughters that God made us perfect the way we are. We don’t need make-up, weave, relaxed hair to be beautiful because we are born beautiful. :)

    • Hi Lacole! Thanks for responding and I think your daughters will definitely have a level of self confidence that will be attributed to you and your efforts in keeping them natural.

      Keep us posted on your journeys!

  • I personally think it’s a fad. It doesn’t 100% line up with the “official” definition, but I believe a good number of the people who have gone natural in the past year or so will turn back to the perm. I agree with Val–the people who teased and tormented the people who went natural 3+ years ago are now the main ones jumping on the bandwagon. A lot of people I know that have gone natural (or are transitioning) recently are straightening their hair or wearing straight wigs/weaves frequently, which makes me think they haven’t gone through a mental transition. Without a mental transition, a physical one won’t last very long.

  • I am like you Kenneth. I think relaxing started as a fad. We were made to feel we could get the better jobs, and looked more beuatiful when our hair was straighter like white people. I am not saying that nowadays you want to be white if you have straight hair, but lets be real. Obviously thats where the influence and even the negative feeling came from. Relaxing is a fad that just became a way of life. I personally have felt so free and individualized with having my natural hair that I will never go back. And I dont know if anyone else has noticed, but I have never seen so many African American women in commercials with natural hair. Not just for products that are made for black people either, but things that cater to any race of people. I think with the way the world is today, people are more accepting of difference and that alone will help to make sure that the natural hair movement is here to stay. I dont see how being your natural self can be a fad anyway. We as people of African descent always find ways to down ourselves right along with all the other negative bs that we already have to deal with. I still like to wear my hair straight and dont mind sporting a wig on occasion. But I still love my natural look and I raise my son and daughter to feel the same.

  • while having this discussion yesterday with a Sorority sister of mines, she said that she seem to believe that this is a fad, I on the other hand don’t feel the same way. During our discussion, she explained to me that she only went natural to try it and see what it would do for her hair. She continued on the journey for a year and six months (including starting with a BIG CHOP) and after that year and a half she decided to go back to relaxers because she said it was simply TOO MUCH WORK. My heart dropped after hearing this and I am not in any way shape or form trying to convert her to my theory, but it saddens me to hear that after the work she put into growing healthy hair (her hair is shoulders length now) she reverted back to the orginal way of relaxing it because she said it was TOO MUCH WORK. My hope is that this isn’t a fad because as it was stated, we were born with natural hair.

    Manetane Beauty

    • Manetane Beauty – The comment about natural hair being a lot of work is something that we hear often. It definitely sounds like your sorority put in quite a bit of work when she went natural, but if she decided to go natural as sort of an experiment it’s possible that she was going to relax again anyway. However, like you, my hope is that going natural isn’t just a fad.

  • This is an interesting question that I have recently been pondering. About three years ago, when I was in highschool, a girl who had recently transfered from out of town came to school with a twa and was ridiculed by many of the other students. It seemed so foreign to them, they could not understand why this girl was walking around with “nappy” hair. Now that I am in college, at an HBCU, natural hair is quite common. You still have those people who will swear by a perm, but natural hair seems to be accepted. When you turn on the television, whether a commercial is advertising clothes or cell phones, most women of color are rocking their curls. It is definately more common now, and so it is easier for more women to embrace their natural hair when they have the comfort of communities, like this one. It may seem like a fad, but I believe the numbers are increasing because it is easier to do now because one will face LESS criticism. (notice I said less). It is because of women, like the girl in at my highschool, and others that I have decided to do my BC in a few days!!!!
    Nope, I do not think it is a fad, it takes to much work to achieve the “natural look”. I just think that it is not as hard to do now, it is more accepted so woman across the nation are embracing it. And I have a lot of respect for those natural veterans that BC’d 5-10 years ago when it was not popular, they have eased the journey for the rest of us. THANK YOU!!

  • hi,

    it may be just a fad for some ladies who wants a refreshing change to their look, and there is nothing wrong with that, but i think for the majority of us it is part of a lifestyle change. of course some naturals are forced into going natural as they are losing their hair and realise the only way is to give up chemical straighteners…. i hope we all will fall in love with what we’ve got and hopefully over time our hair will become part and parcel of who we are and will not need all these discussions, forums and movements. it will just be another head of hair.

  • I agree getting the relaxer was the fad and soon weaves are going to be a fad. And who did we get this “my natural hair won’t grow” , our mother’s ”what can I do to it” (my fav line) it was like we were cursed or something because we had to use extra time combing and brushing and it is not true and some black women think like that and I feel I have to wear a different style everyday to convince a stranger with a perm or weave like you can have this too.

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