Until recently, I’m not sure if I really understood the technical term, “protective style.” More accurately, I’m not sure if I knew from what, exactly, I might be protecting my hair. I have lived in Tennessee for most of my life, and in West Tennessee, it’s just hot. Not hot like Arizona hot, but hot like humid, sticky, fry-an-egg-on-the-sidewalk-hot. Sure, in the Deep South, we have wind, snow, cold, and sun damage to consider as it relates to hair care, but styling challenges are the insidious kinds of damage that can stunt hair growth and health. As far as I knew, a head covering, of any type, was the best way to protect my delicate tresses from damage. Over the years, I’ve come to associate protective styling with any way that I cover my hair (relaxed or natural) so that it can relax (pun intended) and rest from the many drastic and often damaging ways that I style, prepare, or handle my hair.
In the past, I have shunned sew-ins, wigs, and weaves. Why? Well, I’m from that “old school” mentality of – “Just wear the hair the Good Lawd gave you. If you’ve got hair, it’s good hair.” However, in my late 30’s and for all of my 40’s, I see braids and the use of weave for braiding as the lesser of the protectant evils-a weave or sew-in is just “too permanent” a fixture for my lifestyle, and I have visions of my hair being “trapped” underneath it-sweaty, moldy, stinky, hot, and I have seen horror images of spider webs and larvae literally growing in unkempt weave. Okay, I know…dramatic and way over the top. It’s my perception though, and as ridiculous as it may seem, it’s the one out of a million reality that keeps me from wearing a sew-in weave. As I said in a previous post (See: Product Junkie: Not I… Well…), I sweat, a lot, particularly at night and during the warmer months in Memphis (May-October). Every single time I have worn braids, I have either 1) planned and increased my exercise activity exponentially, 2) undergone a drastic hair transition, or 3) was indecisive about what I wanted (or needed) to do with my hair and needed an easy style to wear until I determined my next hair move.
Living the easy life of a TWA-er means I am finger-styling my hair on most mornings, beginning with a steamy shower and continuing throughout the ten minutes it takes me to get dressed and to put on a little make-up. Water is my first and most needed protective styling “product,” and considering the manner in which I sleep and wake up, it preps my hair for moisture-infusion and IS my hair protectant in the most basic and necessary way. Along this natural hair journey, I’m learning how to better protect my hair, from me, each day.
Here I am wearing braids, my second most preferred protective style:
A baseball cap does the trick every time! On a casual day, it definitely beats a “bad hair day” like no other.
My late grandmother, Sister Berry, loved hats! In fact, for her December 2009 funeral, each woman in the family wore one of her hats as a tribute to her good taste and fashion sense. Here I am, at a recent sorority fundraiser called Hats for Bettye, wearing the hat that I chose from my dear grandmother’s collection of hats:
Ah, yes! Braids…my “Braidist” (is that a word?) – Braid Stylist – Natural Hair Stylist is one of my former students. She’s licensed, talented, professional, braids in one seating, and gives me the “teacher discount.” I know that I’ll be pleased with the results, and she braids my hair without very much notice although she works as a fellow educator.
Every time I look at the picture below, I smile. Pictured with me is my first love, my cousin, Valencia (Len). We are just nine months apart in age, and we were each other’s best friends growing up; our mothers are sisters.
Here are Len and I together during the Christmas Holiday 2014:
I view my cousin, Len, as a quasi-wig expert. She LOVES wigs, and changes her look often and dramatically. She has worn weaves and wigs for almost twenty years, longer than anyone else I know except our grandmother, Sister Berry, a fashion icon (in the First Lady, Southern Missionary Baptist tradition). Interestingly, Len has some of the most beautiful Type 3b-c hair you’ve ever seen. When she was in her mid-20’s, she just stopped wearing, publicly, her own natural hair and decided to wear wigs and bonded hair. I don’t know what her natural hair looks like now; the last time I remember seeing it was when she was the Matron of Honor for my first wedding in May 1998. She always looks fabulous though, and I call her “Rapunzel” every time I see her in her long, luxurious wigs!
Here are some other pictures of my gorgeous cousin and her many wigs:
Get yourself a fierce wig as a versatile and protective style! Thank you, Len, for the hair inspiration!
Not only do I have a pretty good tan in the picture below, the “bun” I have fancied as a messy top knot is really weave haphazardly twisted around a ponytail on my short-lived road to relaxer-sanctioned, permanent colored-treated hair growth. The colors of my relaxed, color-treated hair and the weave hair are “off”…the “blonds” just don’t match. Funny thing is I took Len with me to the beauty supply store to choose the weave.
In the store, the colors blended well, and the weave hair really was the closest color we could find to my own. As far as that visit to the beauty supply store goes, we both got it wrong that time-looking at the photo. Because of that photo, I never wore the “bun” outside of my house, but I keep it as a gentle reminder to myself: Do NOT be the one who everyone thinks has no friends. Your close friends or family members should be able to state the truth (in a loving way, of course), “Girl, no one told you?! Take that thing off your head!!”