Curly Hair Bias

curly hair bias

My hair is naturally curly/wavy and has been since I was a baby. My mom’s hair is naturally pin-straight and I have literally never seen her without a perm. I grew up in a household that revered curls, had a long string of boyfriends who adored my curls, and have never gotten anything but praise for my own voluminous curls.

When I cut my hair short and began straightening it, I got some comments and e-mails lamenting the loss of my curls. I am about 6,000% happier now with short, straight hair than I ever was with long curls and don’t foresee going back anytime soon. And over time I’ve realized that despite the near-constant influx of praise for my curly hair, I never actually liked it. Never felt like myself in it. Even though I never got anything but positive feedback about my hair, I never enjoyed it or felt like it suited me. I felt like it was the most dominant thing about my appearance, that it overtook nearly everything else about me, engulfed me, even eclipsed me. Also my curls were delicate and unpredictable. A stiff breeze or a shirt pulled over my head would completely change how my hair looked for the remainder of the day. It drove me nuts that my hair took such intense and constant babying to look good. My current ‘do is reliable, predictable, blissfully boring.

But even while I struggled to tolerate my own curls, I actively LOVED curls on others. I grew up with a gal named Tracy who had the shiniest, bounciest, most perfect ringlet curls I’ve ever seen in my life, and I would stare at her longingly from afar. When I went down to San Diego for the CAbi event, one of the spring line models had a massive mane of untamed curls and I absolutely swooned over how gorgeous she looked. Although I think she looks dynamite no matter how she styles it, I completely adore Solange Knowles’ hair worn big and natural. Alex Kingston’s curls just add to her overall energy and radiance, and I can’t imagine her without them. I think curls are gorgeous. Just not on me.

Back in March, I gave a presentation to a women’s leadership program about dress, comportment, and grooming for personal branding and professional situations. One of the young women in the program asked if she should straighten her curly hair for interviews and I was surprised by the rage that surged through me. I have short, straight hair now, but when I had long, curly hair I wore it down to interviews. And I got just about every job I ever applied for. Not only have I never been told to straighten my curls or wear them up to look appropriately professional, I had never even heard of such nonsense until a few years ago. And, to this day, I am thunderstruck that curly-haired women are told they look wild, unkempt, and even “crazy” because of their natural hair. This is sexist. No curly-haired man is ever told to straighten his hair or risk looking unwashed. This is racist. Curls exist across the world, but they are virtually always present in African people, and also common among Middle-Eastern people, Jewish people, and other ethnic minorities. This is ludicrous. I understand that interviews and professional situations often demand slightly more buttoned-up, conformist versions of ourselves, but to tell curly-haired women that their natural hair texture is inappropriate is akin to telling them that their eye color is inappropriate.

What did I tell the young woman who asked about straightening her own curls? Well, after a rather lengthy rant, I told her to do what made her feel the most confident and comfortable. I admire appearance-related activism, but also respect that such acts aren’t always possible. And I know that sometimes you’ve got to get inside a system before you can spark change. Curly hair bias is awful and should be abolished. But if it’s something that you, personally, worry about it’s your prerogative to manage that anxiety as you see best.

I hope, though, that every curly girl out there will remember that there is nothing wrong, shameful, dirty, unkempt, or crazy about curls. Any more than there is anything wrong, shameful, dirty, unkempt, or crazy about having blue eyes.

Image courtesy del mich

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47 Responses to “Curly Hair Bias”

  1. Jennifer

    Thanks for this interesting post! As an exchange student in the U.S., I was always confused by this norm of “hair has to be straight”. In most European countries, using flat irons is not such an important part of daily beauty routines, and women just wear their hair as straight, wavy or curly as it naturally is. I’ve been wondering whether the reason is that in the U.S. curls are associated with not beeing WASP.

    • Coleen

      It may actually be to do with the extra effort required to straighten one’s hair, and the corresponding ideas about “togetherness” or “organisation” that one might assume one has to have in order to have enough time to do so in the morning.

      I noted in England that the vast majority of women straightened their hair, even more so than in the US. It seems to be part of an overall look, complete with a bunch of makeup and sometimes even fake tan. Maybe it is about showing everyone how much time you can afford to spend on your appearance with visible changes?

  2. Kimberly Gomez

    I have naturally curly hair and totally refuse to straighten it. As you said, I feel that most of society including the fashion industry expects us to straighten our hair. Oh, I feel a rant coming on. Let’s just leave it at, I love curly hair on everyone. The more curls the better.

  3. BethL

    I am in my mid 40’s and have had curly hair since my teens (had them when I was little, they went away for awhile and returned, weird!). I love my curly hair and get lots of compliments on it. Only over the last few years have I read that the new trend was to straighten hair for work, and that REALLY ticked me off! I never felt any pressure to wear my hair any way other than how I do but for those who suffer that pressure, it is horrible! and I agree, discriminatory. If you have curly hair and just want to wear it straight, that’s totally fine. But to feel you MUST to be accepted is awful. If anyone ever says anything about my curly hair being unprofessional they better stand back because they will hear something loud and unpleasant from me! Hang tight curly sisters!

  4. charlene

    I have naturaly wavy hair. As of right now I wear it wavy with my asymetrical cut and I get tons of compliments. I hate the fact younger woman feel they need to conform to what society deems right. Where it the way where you feel comfortable.

  5. Olivia

    I have pin straight hair, and my daughter is biracial with lots of tight curls. I have realized that I was socialized to think curls are great, as long as they are “tamed”. I’ve been trying to rid words like “wild” and “crazy” from the way I talk about her hair.

  6. Vanessa

    “My current ‘do is reliable, predictable, blissfully boring.”

    It’s also fabulous. I’ve seen it in person. I can say that with authority.

    My mom has always been obsessed with curly hair. She has straight hair, but it’s always permed. When I was younger, she forced me to wrap my hair around those “Perm for a Day” rollers for that curly look. I thought I looked like a poodle.

    But the idea that women have to rein in their natural curls to look professional? That’s outrageous (as well as racist and sexist, as you mentioned).

    It was great meeting you at Fountain Square! I love your blog.

  7. AnaJan

    It took me almost 20 years to start loving my curls. As a child I was often mocked by other kids because of the curly hair – I’d been called names such as witch and ragged, so I started hating curls. When I enrolled college, I realized guys actually loved it and girls were jealous of me because of the hair. That’s when I started enjoying my locks and curls. I love it better when it’s frizzy, wild and voluminous, rather than polished and neatly curled – I believe this way it expresses my nature better. However, I do try to tame it a bit when going to job interviews, even though no one has ever said to me I looked more professional that way. I just have a feeling it’s sometimes distracting, being (as you have said) the most dominant thing about my appearance, so I try to keep a focus on myself, rather than on the hair. However, I’d never go to the extreme of straightening it (I do straighten it from time to time, but only when I feel like having a straight hair for a couple of days). I don’t think I’d ever work on a place where curly hair was “banned” – I’d feel as if a part of my personality was cut off without my curls.

  8. Ericka

    I appreciate this post. I came at it the opposite way, having had my hair straightened from a young age then permed. I finally got sick of the chemicals and burns and unhealthy hair and went natural. I had no idea I had curls; I honestly had no clue what my natural texture was. Fast forward 14 years, and I love my hair. I never loved it straight. It is completely me and low maintenance because I am not fighting its natural tendencies. That said, you have to do what makes you feel confident and like your best version of your self. For me it’s curls, which I adore. Others may make a different choice; more power to them.

  9. Stephanie

    I love, love, love that you name-dropped Alex Kingston for her curls. Oh, Alex Kingston. Be still my beating heart.

  10. Lucy

    I’m a natural curly but as I’ve got older (I’m 28 now) it’s got thinner and is now more of a wavy texture. I still wear it curly, but oh boy is it hard work to make it look good. Hair products across the market are designed to make your hair sleek and smooth because they’re full of silicones and the sulphates/sulfates in shampoo are terrible for drying out already delicate curly hair. There’s also a bit of a movement of people who are completely obsessed with their curls over on various websites – Curl types so you can categorise yourself from 1a to 3C depending on shape; no-shampoo, “low-poo”, expensive leave in conditioners from specialist websites; special salons trained in curly hair; wrapping your head in a cotton t shirt instead of a towel; the correct methods to diffuse; and if you’re not following the Lorrain Massey “curly girl” method you’re seen to be doing “it” wrong.
    Frankly I just scrunch a bit of curl gel in and leave it, but it ends up in a bun a couple of times a week because bits of it have gone floppy or are poking me in the eye.
    It drives me nuts when women with pin straight hair get all focused on not getting any fluffiness or kinks in their hair to the point of carrying around mini-straighteners because most of the time it looks so much better not flattened down to the scalp and y’know, it doesn’t make you a better person if you have poker straight hair or make you look more organised, put-together or capable. I think the dawn of GHD straighteners has damaged the way a lot of girls younger than me think about hair.

    • A.B.

      Curly hair type also goes into the 4s, which you neglected to mention. It’s called “coily” and is what most African-American hair would fit into.

      I find it odd that you’re talking down on Lorriane Massey and her method yet trying to talk up curly hair in the same post. Her method works for some (of course not all, because not all curly hair is the same) but I feel like you’re dismissing it as trendy or “in” when it obviously works for some people.

      And if people use it (or any other method) on their hair and love their results, who are we to judge them?

  11. SamiJ

    My friend has long, curly hair. One day when I was out with her, we ran into my cousin. The next time I saw the cousin he mentioned my friend, “the one with the Botticelli hair.” And ever since, that’s how I describe her.

  12. K-Line

    I find it amazing that you prefer the straight short hair – which, as you know, is really my only recourse given that my hair is fine and entirely curl-free. It’s nice to see that someone wants this even though she has the bounciest and loveliest curls and thickness in the land 🙂 Gotta say, though, if I had bouncy, curly, thick hair, I’d be my own walking shampoo commercial!

  13. A.B.

    Thanks so much for this article. I get emails from a website touting natural hair. The email I got this morning was about straightening your curls. It never ends, does it?

  14. Eleanor

    Is this really true? I’ve never heard this before and it seams a bit.. far-fetched . I have wild crazy curly red hair, completely natural. I’ve never straightened it for a job interview and have gotten almost any job I interviewed for.
    I’m currently in a management position and apparently, after my interview, the owner of the company referred to me as the lady with the amazing hair that she just has to hire.
    I don’t think that anyone would not get hired for a job they are perfect for just because of their hairstyle.

  15. Anna

    My hair has always been straight (but read on). For years I envied girls and women with curly hair. I couldn’t understand why they usually hated it. In my youth I got perms, usually unsatisfactory ones, and eventually gave up the attempt. For the past several years, I’ve had shortish hair (not as short as yours, Sally) and in summer, the humidity causes it to curl and wave and float around wispily in a way I really like. I had to wait all this time for natural “curls!”

  16. Kate

    I love this, Sally! Thank you!

    While job-hunting, the number one thing I heard from interview specialists, university career councillors, and friends/family is that I should probably straighten my hair. I was told often that “the data proves” an employer will take a brunette more seriously than a blonde, and a woman with straight hair more seriously than a woman with curly hair.

    I’m blonde and curly.

    But I never actually straightened my hair for those interviews, because I’ve always felt that if an organization doesn’t want to hire me just because they can’t take my natural hair seriously, then I really don’t want to be working for them.

    What irks me more is the general preference from the men in my life for me to straighten out these curls. In fact, the only time I hear positive feedback about my appearance as a whole (from men) is when I straighten my hair. So, I adamantly refuse to do it. Sure, my partner likes the sultry straight-haired look, but I feel better (and totally, authentically me) with my curls.

    Thank you SO MUCH for the empowerment this morning, Sally!

  17. Tanya

    At an interview for an exchange program to the US, someone called me aside and ‘suggested’ that I have my long, curly hair ‘professionally cut and straightened’ as my employers in the US would feel it did not fit in with their image and he ‘wouldn’t want me to miss out because of it! Besides the fact that I spend a boatload of money on having my curly hair ‘professionally cut’, I told him that if that’s the case, I want my money back and will forget about the program. Needless to say he just walked away and my hair never came up again. Clearly my curly hair was only a problem as long as his commision wasnt at risk! I couldn’t believe that had actually happened, I was furious!

  18. Laura

    I have worked in Human Resources for 20+ years and have never heard of any bias toward straight hair when it comes to hiring decisions. However, I would advise thinking about practical job requirements when styling your hair for an interview. Whether your hair is straight or curly, a food service job will require you to have your hair pulled back from your face and off your collar for sanitary reasons. A manufacturing job will require that your hair be tied back so it doesn’t get caught in a machine. For those jobs, I recommend keeping your hair as neat as possible for the interview.

  19. Jennifer

    I have always envied my friends with curly hair. I have completely straight, baby fine hair that is a real challenge. True straight hair bears no relation to the straight styles worn by celebrities and models — a hairdresser explained to me that most of those straight-haired women on TV actually have wavy or curly hair blown straight. When people say that they want straight hair, please know that it is not really what you want! That bouncy, straight thick glossy hair you see is just another illusion created by the beauty industry. We straight-haired people are not allowed to complain because supposedly our hair type is desirable, but limp, flat, fine hair is never considered attractive.

    • Dee

      I SO agree with Laura and Jennifer! I have worked in Human Resources for over 20 years also and a woman’s hair has NEVER come up in discussing her qualifications. I have fairly fine, straight-ish hair and agree with what Jennifer said….why do we always wish for the hair we don’t have, LOL! I do believe hair should appear clean and neat in an interview, but women can have straight hair and come in looking like they just got out of bed. I do beleive that having thick curly hair would, or could, be more of a challenge to style/cut than my fine straight hair, but I have virtually no options- unless I wnat to get a perm, and I did that for years. Honeslty, I beleive you Sally that you love your new hair style, but I just don’t “get” why you don’t like those tousled feminine curls you used to have, and would prefer to use a staightening iron to force a style. I have never seen you in person, but as far in photos, I thought your longer hair was one of your best features. I guess “to each his own.”

  20. Coleen

    My hair is ridiculously thick, wavy-ish, and naturally blonde. I always picture myself in my head with tight “wild” curls all over, and am so envious of those who can do that naturally. I’ve never heard of curly hair being thought to be unprofessional or unkempt. What industry was she in?

    • Amanda

      I don’t read Corporette as much as I used to (in part because I left the “Corporette” industry group of consulting for IT) but when I did, this was a constant discussion. There were definitely people who asserted that going into an interview with natural, non-straight hair looked unprofessional, though there were just as many or more people who called bullshit on that. These were primarily lawyers, with some finance and consulting mixed in.

  21. Abby

    What a timely post for me! I have very thick wavy/curly hair. It actually requires very little styling and maintenance, which works for my lifestyle these days. I’ve been debating going back to blow drying and straightening wondering if it would give me a more professional appearance. I think this post and the comments were the final vote in favor of leaving it in a way that works for me. If others don’t like it, too bad for them.

  22. Maggie

    I have pretty straight hair but my children all have curly hair of varying types. The girls both complain about it, play with straightening it, etc. We go to a curly salon where they get positive feedback and learn how to take care of it, and I compliment their natural wave and curls without being over the top. Their hair is quite long now so much less curly than it would otherwise be. My son’s is quite short so it is less curly/textured than it would otherwise be. I cannot imagine discrimination based on such a characteristic, not even subtle, and that sort of nonsense should be put in its place immediately!

  23. Myndie

    I absolutely adore my naturally curly hair, but it has taken me years to figure that out. Just this weekend i passed on that love by teaching my young niece and get mom a bit about carrying for my nieces wild (and awesome) curly hair.
    On another note, that bouncy straight hair does really exist sometimes. My fifteen year old step daughter has perfectly straight bouncy gorgeous hair. Its sickening because she doesn’t have to granny product and it always looks perfect.

  24. Stephanie

    I think many of us have a bit of grass in greener syndrome when it comes to hair. Mine is strait and mostly brown with what we will be calling lovely grey highlights. I’ve always loved curly hair specifically wild curly hair. Its not that I don’t love mine and I know I could get a perm and have curls but to me they are just lovely. I even had a half up half down with curls do for my wedding.

  25. Robin

    Interesting topic and comments. Have you heard about the controversy surrounding this:

    I am white woman with long wavy hair. It was straight and blond when I was a kid, then curly and brown when I was in high school, and now it is wavy and brown/blond ombre. If I let my hair dry naturally then it is big and wavy. Since I became a professor about 8 years ago I started to blow dry and straighten my hair (and wear makeup and skirts/dresses). As a young woman I felt I had to look totally put together to be taken seriously among the old guys teaching at my university (they were much more informal however). At the time I struggled with getting all dressed up…it felt unnatural. However, now, while I still feel pressure to look more professional, I embrace the fun of wearing dresses/skirts, make-up, etc. I see it as a way to reflect my personality and not a constraint on who “I really am” (still trying to figure that one out).

    Back to the hair “thing.” I think it is less about ‘curly as unruly and straight as serious.’ I think it is more about taking the time to look presentable. My wavy hair looks messy to me, but my DH loves it. I feel more professional when I straighten my hair and that attitude most likely is projected outward. Curly hair looks just as professional to me as long as it is not a “rolled out of bed” look. I see that with my students and trust me it does not make what tecture your hair is….messy is messy. So, I guess what I trying to say is “all depends on how you wear it!”

  26. Annabeth

    My whole life, I’ve had slightly-wavy-but-mostly-straight, baby fine hair and longed DESPERATELY for curls. Of course, my brother inherited incredible curls and longs for straight hair. Genetics is a harsh mistress.

    • Karoliina

      My sister and I have always been jealous about the fact that our brother is the only one of the three of us to have inherited our mum’s naturally curly hair. I’m normally perfectly happy with my long, straight hair, but there are times when I find myself hoping that it had just a little more volume naturally or that it was a little more likely to hold a curl when I curl it.

      That said, I hope I’ll be able to support my brother’s middle child embrace her beautifully curly hair when she’s a little older. Her two sisters (as well as her two cousins) have straight hair, so it might be tough being the odd one out.

  27. tropigothmama

    I had fine ringlets when I was a tiny tot, then wavy hair until I hit puberty. And then the curls came!
    For a while I let my hair just be big and frizzy and curly – mostly because I didn’t know how to make it different – and then I rocked a pixie cut for a while.
    I grew my hair out and learned how to make the curls POP. And I loved it.
    Then I moved to Hawai’i and cut all my hair off again, it was too hot.
    I let it grow out until I was 8 months pregnant… and went for a pixie cut again.
    When my daughter was over a year old, I locked my hair (dreadlock, pixie lock, elf-lock) and I don’t think I’ll ever look back!

  28. Anamarie

    I’m sure I have mentioned this in a comment before – I had a fellow Latina tell me she liked my (long, thick, curly) hair, then said hers used to be similar. She went on to say she now straightens it so she’s more professional for court. I asked if she was an attorney (yes) and I said, “so am I!” in a fake-friendly way. I wanted to kick her. I actually had some moments of self-doubt on my way to my office until I mentioned the incident to my colleagues. They all told me my hair was totally professional, and they would never think otherwise. A total stranger made me doubt 40 years of loving my curls – for about 20 minutes. Lame. In my opinion, people who hate their curls have just absorbed the negative opinions of others or never learned how to properly care for and style their curls. It’s worth the effort to research and experiment what works best for your own texture and type of curl!

  29. Sara

    Like you, Sal, I have very delicate, temperamental curls. During the summer is is pointless to try straightening my hair as even a few moments of exposure to humidity will make it frizzy and unkempt looking. If I wear it curly with some gel, no frizz and I am pretty happy with how it looks. However, I get serious bedhead and the only way for me to wear it natural is to shower in the morning and let it air dry. I get up at 5 to be ready for work at 7…any later and I get snarky comments from co-workers and customers about wet hair being unprofessional. This is another double standard that drives me crazy…most of the men I work with go to the gym in the morning and roll in freshly showered, complete with wet hair, with no complaints. I would love to do the same but I don’t dare, as I mentioned even slightly damp hair on a woman is pushing it. And yes, I have tried diffusers, silk pillowcases, sleeping with my hair in all kinds of braids, buns, and pincurls, cutting it short, sleeping in a head wrap, etc. and all of these things just make it look terrible. People also act like I am unkempt if I go run errands after a post-workout shower in the afternoon. Basically, the whole definition of professional hair for women seems very time-consuming and limiting for most of us, straight or curly. Sorry for the rant but you definitely struck a nerve with this topic!

    • Shaye

      I go to work with wet hair sometimes, and I do feel a little awkward about it. But my office is very casual, so no one’s ever said anything to me about it. Though if they did, I’d probably ask if they’d prefer I DIDN’T wash my hair. 🙂

      Still, my hair is so thick that I can wash my hair at night and it’s still sopping wet in the morning. On cooler days it can take close to 18 hours to fully dry! But it looks so much better dried naturally. Plus it’s so much less damaging. I feel for you! Getting up two hours early just to wash your hair sounds horrible.

    • RM

      I know you said you’ve tried it all, but have you tried pineappling when you sleep? (Google it–basically putting hair in a scrunchie at top of head. I do 2 b/c my hair is shorter.) It has saved me the same EVERY morning shower to deal with my hair.

  30. em

    To me it’s not even as loaded an issue, but simply a trend of the times. When I was younger (I’m 37), it was perms, and everyone had to have curly hair. If you were a straight haired person this was seen as being flat, boring, greasy, neglected – curls through perms or rollers were the sign of style and proper attention to beauty.

  31. LydiaG

    I have had curly hair for most of my life (wavy, as a child, and curled as a teen). Mostly, people admire my curls, and compliment me on my hair, but when I have it straightened (usually after a haircut, or sometimes, when I brush it out), people do indeed treat me with more respect, and have told me I am not as approachable with straight hair as with curly hair — in other words, they think I look more professional with straight hair — more ‘no nonsenese’. I like my hair curly, though it does require careful drying, detangling, second dair hair maintnance (different than after a wash… and so on).

    I beleive that straigtened hair with volume evokes this ‘imagined ideal’ look people beleive you ‘need’ for work — just like many wardrobe must have lists suggest the ‘button down’ white shirt for a complete wardrobe. I personally do not buy into this idea, but I have friends that like to fit in by straightening their hair — it makes them feel more of a part of the workplace culture, and if that makes them more comfortable in their jobs, than so be it. Luckily, where I work, any hair goes!

  32. Shaye

    The thing straight-haired people should understand about curly hair is that you don’t get to decide what it looks like. It does what it wants – and you can TRY to style it, but most of the time you don’t get a vote. It is an autocracy and your hair is the dictator, and yes, I did just imbue my hair with semi-sentience. 🙂

    I can do the exact same thing to my hair twice in a row and it will look great one day and horrid the next. Caring for your curls is a commitment. Any time I’ve talked about curl maintenance with a fellow curly in front of a straight-haired person, they’ve looked at us like we’re nuts!

    That said, I love my hair and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. WELL – I might trade it for slightly more uniform curls, as my hair is much curlier underneath than along my part or at my crown. However, it’s been more than a decade since I last straightened my hair and I’m not looking back! (Yes, I straightened all during high school and for most of college. Though to be fair, college had less to do with internalized curlphobia and was more because me and my very short bob were doing our level best to pretend I was Dana Scully.)

    • BC

      Guess what – same applies to straight hair! I don’t get to decide how it looks and I can do the exact same thing to it and it won’t behave the same way. Flat, greasy bangs, split ends, trying to make an updo stay or even just a clip stay in my hair, trying to make curls last more than 15 minutes – good times. More than always wanting what we don’t have, I think it’s more a function of assuming the other person has it easier. The popular “look” right now is “beachy waves” – doesn’t seem very easy to create for either a straight or curly haired person. Thanks, Fashion Mags! ;-/ The best thing to do would be to work with our natural texture, and not say disparaging things about our own OR other people’s hair!

      • Shaye

        So, obviously hair is complicated in general and everyone always wants what they can’t have, etc. To clarify, when I said you don’t get to decide how it looks, I mean the everyday “neutral” style. The curl never forms the same way, the products that worked to make it less frizzy yesterday seem to be causing your frizz today, etc. This is to say nothing of actually trying to put your hair in a style other than just down and parted normally, which I agree is a whole different monster.

        I do know whereof I speak. I straightened my hair for close to 6 years. The reason some curlies straighten is that the style, while not 100% in your control, is often more predictable. And some people prefer that to doing the same complicated routine that involves 5 styling products, a special towel and maybe a blow dryer attachment that looks like it’s trying to eat your head, only to look like you took a weedwhacker to your hair after it dries. I’ve decided to embrace the chaos, but it’s not for everyone!

        I don’t mean to imply that straight-haired people never have that problem, but that can sometimes be more an issue with texture rather than curly or straight – very fine hair, for example, can be difficult to make behave the way you want.

  33. linB

    Oh, late 1960s and early 70s, how you tormented us, with your ideal of long, stick-straight hair parted down the middle! I rolled my hair on orange juice cans — curls still there. I laid my head on the ironing board and let my mother iron my hair — straight on the bottom, curly on top (the worst possible of all combinations of curly/straight). My mother applied a home version of straightener — curly hair with the texture of straw, that stuck out wildly in all directions, all the time, until it grew out enough to chop off the worst of the damage. Salvation for curly-heads came with the movie “The French Lieutenant’s Woman,” and that massive wig of red curls that Meryl Streep flaunted on the screen. In the afternoon after we saw that film at the matinee showing, I washed my hair and let it dry naturally. My friends could not figure out how I had gone to the beauty parlor and get a permanent, in the short time since last they saw me. I was mightily amused at the latest trend for long, stick-straight hair parted right down the middle. I do not intend to participate this time around.

  34. Susan

    I’ve never heard of people being critical of curly hair. Everyone’s hair should look cared for and clean, but that has nothing to do with curls. I actually liked how you looked with your longer curly hair.

  35. Heidi

    I’ve been on the opposite hair journey lately. I usually wear it about chin length and style it straight, but have grown it out for the past year, just ’cause.

    Since I haven’t had it this long in about 20 years, I’m rediscovering my natural waves, especially now that it’s too long (and the air’s too humid) for me to keep it styled straight.

    I’m undecided whether I like it, though. Some days I think it looks like I have “beachy waves.” But mostly I suspect it looks … unstyled. Like I forgot to do anything with it.

    Maybe I need better/different hair products? Any recommendations for something that will let hair curl naturally while tamping down any related fuzz ‘n’ frizz?

    P.S. For what it’s worth, I thought your hair was totally adorable when you first got it cut short and it had a bit of curl to it.

  36. Average Jane

    My hair never had more texture than “wavy” until it started to turn grey (underneath the color). Now it’s quite curly and I’ve been enjoying the heck out of it now that I’ve figured out what products I need to keep it looking shiny and nice. I wear it long but it’s incredibly low-maintenance. Also, it’s a good look for me as the singer in a classic rock band.

  37. Naomi

    Wow – obviously a hot topic! 😉

    We have a family “reunion” going on at our house right now and the bi-racial-ness that is also happening is beyond insane when it comes to our various curls and products AND the social acceptance of it. We have three tight/kinky girls mixed with two gentle-waves girls with one “white girl texture with black girl curls” happening.

    What’s interesting is that as all of us girls share our various experiences with the general public, and share our experience with different products …. what comes shining through is a VERY strong set of memories from everyone (ranging in ages from 6 years old to 38) about being teased, comments made during childhood about curls, compliments and such.

    It all boils down to love the skin you’ve been given …

    Well, that and finding great product! (I love my Deva products and Curly Girl cut (curly hair is cut DRY!!!!) … but there is also a new product line out called Mixed Chicks that may be worth a try. Would LOVE LOVE to be a tester for you if you decide to do a comparison test blog post!)