Why Black Women Wear Weaves

by Uche Onegeria 18 Feb , 2016  

Hmm. Tricky topic but one that I think needs to be addressed. Before I left Nigeria, wearing weaves and braiding your hair was the norm. It was and I am sure it still is the way of life. There were just a few alternatives and I never heard any complaints from anyone about it.
Did you know that on average, most black women wear their hair in its natural state only about 1 to 2 months in a year? Some cover theirs up all year round. Yes. This is an unapologetic truth.
Growing up, I went from a stage where I wore my natural hair to when I got cornrows to braids, then of course, as you get older, you progress to wearing weaves or other advanced or mature hairstyles.
Imagine brushing this. Image from the web
Maybe I should go back to the nature of black hair so you can understand why we do not wear our hair in its natural state like the other races do. Black hair is not as silky as the Caucasian’s. It is tough (for lack of better words), knots and tangles easily because its strands are too curly and thus not easy to manage. A typical Caucasian battles over-secretion of hair oil while black women have little or no oil in our hair. It is said that because of the way black hair curls as it grows, it is difficult for the naturally produced oils to travel through the hair shaft.
This hair is usually very dry and brittle, breaking off even with the gentlest manipulation. Both children and adults might cry when their hair is manipulated (combed, styled, braided, any kind of touch) in this state. I know I have cried. Washing this hair is also a nightmare.You cannot even imagine. For other races, if your bad hair day was “once in a long while”, a black woman’s is almost every day.
I will break down the stages the black hair management process has undergone through the years in search of answers:
The Necessity stage – 1

Traditionally, our ancestors managed theirs with the thread which they used by making small sections on the hair then wrapping each section with the thread as shown in the picture below. This style is almost never done nowadays though.

Image from the web. This style is so obsolete, 
I could only find a handful of pictures online.

Beautiful Image from the web

The Necessity stage – 2
With “necessity being the mother of invention“, chemical relaxers were invented to manage this situation. It was a god-sent to us; the answer to all our unsaid prayers. It made our hairs softer, bone-straight, silkier and more manageable. We lavishly used this chemical on our hair with no care in the world and not knowing about the damages that could be wrought in its aftermath. I imagine mothers did not think to question its side-effects because their baby girls did not cry every time you touched their hair.
Chemical relaxer from “Creme of Nature” promising advanced hair straightening
 
The Necessity / Lavish stage
Image from the web
The synthetic weaves, braids, wigs and various other extensions were also introduced to help black women manage their hair. My theory is that some people with damaged hair (probably from chemical relaxers or extreme manipulation) embraced these tools to replace their crowning glory albeit temporarily. However, there are many black women who would rather use these extensions to tuck their hair away & save themselves the grief of battling its daily challenges. Most women probably realized how different they looked in these various styles (with all their hair covered in synthetic weaves or wigs) and went for it. I say this stage is necessary for some, but for others that do not need to use the hair products here but still do, it kicks off the “lavish stage”.
It is not surprising that variants of these products now flood the African market in several styles and colours to appeal to a wider range of customers. In fact, this is a multi-million Naira business, with investors from all over coming to Africa for a slice of the cake.
From the pictures below, you will observe that the use of these hair products can be seen across the board in all races. Every woman, irrespective of the race could experience similar hair problems like limp/scanty hair (which you can fill in with hair wefts). Some might have bone-straight hair but want curly hair or just want their hair coloured temporarily or long-term.
Hair extensions installed in various forms
The Lavish stage
I tagged this stage as “lavish” because some products in this stage (real human hair, lace wigs) cost about $60 to $3,000 to procure with the increase in cost usually representing high-quality products. Some might also say this is lavish since our primary needs were met 2-3 stages ago. The customers for this, ranging from your everyday student who would rather starve to buy these to your Hollywood celebrity. Its high cost could be attributed to the fact that most are real hairs from Caucasian women (other races as well). The lace wigs were made in such a way that on a black woman, you would think she is a brown Indian woman (Do you now see the lavishness here?). See the image below.
Black woman (left) Image from the web | Indian woman (Right) Image from the web.
*Hair extensions on the left and natural hair on the right*
The Common Sense stage (popularly known as “the natural hair movement”) 
I termed this “common sense” because this stage has taught us so much about our natural hair. It taught us why it is the way it is, how to manage it, how to grow it healthily and best of all, how to love it. It gave us the strength to shave off our chemically damaged hairs & grow it all back. Prior to this, because we had damaged our hair with chemical relaxers and hair glue for wigs, our hair could not reach its optimum growth potential. This stage taught us something we never knew – that black hair grows to waist-length and even longer IF properly taken care of with proper wash, moisture, conditioning, protein treatment, oil routines etc. (Whew. You did not think it was going to be easy, did you?). 
Take from this post what you want to but the hair market boosts the African economy, provides jobs (through vendors & hair stylists) while also making a woman feel good about herself. You cannot put a price tag on that.
 
Image from Beyonce’s Instagram 
I saw a comment online from someone, who called Beyonce out on her Super Bowl performance, saying that Beyonce strives to look like a white woman but is singing about Black empowerment. Does this person know that a white person can sing about black empowerment and vice versa? Even if I wear clothes, I can choose to support the nudists. What matters is the cause not what you look like.
Some foreigners over the years, misunderstanding the story behind the artificial hair movement, accuse some black women of aiming to look “white”. I can not verify the authenticity of these claims because there is no proof for/against this but I will simply put it this way. Imagine your friend that has the 7 – bedroom mansion, the perfect husband, the 7 – figure salary, the luxury cars & 2 nice dogs, who you wish to have a tiny fraction of their life but you will never give up all of yours for either? It is kind of like that.
Tell me what you would do if you were born with a head of hair that is too tough, that instead of easily running a comb through it (like you love doing. *side eye to other races*), the comb could break in your hair (Yes! This happened to someone I know), and the ensuing pain as well. I know ignorance is a huge contributing factor to the misconception about black ladies on weaves so I thought to share my thoughts to help provide some foundation and understanding to this debate.
Imagine the Left image versus the Right Image

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