Sunday, 7 January 2007

I am all my hair

Afro, but not the real thing

I could not help but notice when I walked down one street in Antwerp and saw an Afro Hair Centre where all the hairdos advertised were variations of relaxed hair and none of the natural African look.

Now, I do know a lot about what real African hair is, not only on women, but also on men. Though, I must say, James Brown’s hair never really did say it loud.

As the big brother when I was younger, my mother did all the plaiting and cornrows of my sisters, but I was co-opted in what might now be systemic child-abuse to lay out the threads in 1 metre lengths of threes with a knot at one end which was used to plait the hair in designs like Eko-bridge and so on.

My aunt eventually became a hairdresser when curling tongs were electronic goods in the late 70s, but I remember using a stretching comb on my sister’s hair having just taken it off the kerosene stove, and stretching the hair which had been drenched in Vaseline – the things we do for beauty.

Relax, it stinks

Then all these pungent and foul-smelling products for relaxing the hair came on the market from the United States, many a scalp was scalded with chemicals when instructions were read reminiscent of the person who shakes his body after taking the medicine when he should have shook the bottle for ingesting it – the things we really do for beauty.

Then men got into this game, I can proudly say, I never saw the need to relax my hair, all that wet look with hair dripping of some spray-on moisturizer was a complete put off – many used the pongiest of the products, this came from Wella, then.

All curly hairstyles

However, when it comes to natural men’s hair, you have to see the signs advertising different styles in African barber’s shops, there is no way any of those styles can be created without putting a wooden model on your head, but they work at it.

It once took 90 minutes to cut my hair in a barber’s shop very much like Desmonds, too much talk in a dialect of English I can hardly understand – I really do not have that much time. Then boys having their hair done in cornrows, do men really spend that much time on their hair?

Once, my father allowed for all my hair to be shaved off, parents sometimes do not know how rotten kids at school can be, I was called Jagoo for days as the hair returned merciful, this was one protest I made to my father that really stuck – Good man.

In secondary school, barbers got it into their heads that students should have their hair cut short and then round the sides and back one extra inch of border was shaved off that it looks like wearing a black dish – Pombe, it was called – those people have no sense of style.

Back to hair gone

The seminal moment about hair came to me when I watched a film where some purveyors of hair were marketing a chemical that restored lost hair in days.

Quite a few people took up this offer, but soon, the hair grew uncontrollably long and then we learnt as the man visited his barber, each time he put the scissors to the hair, he got bitten, the hair was in fact little snakes.

The cure for male pattern baldness was in fact a concoction that allowed human beings to be used as hosts for the incubation of a snake-like organism.

Since, as a black man, I do not have luxury of a comb-over, a sign of fools gone stupid or in some cases, as some lose hair on the front they grow more hair into a ponytail. Jasper Carrott put paid to my respecting anyone with a ponytail when he joked about what you see if you lifted a real ponytail. That is a joke that would make me go red in the face with shock but it is also a smart one.

If it’s going, it’s gone

I decided, learning from that film, if I ever began to see signs of my hair receding or a bald patch appearing somewhere in the middle, I would not agonise over it; I would take it all off. Imagine, the Jagoo, I could not bear to be called is now the Jagoo I create every two days with my Gillette shaving gel and Gillette Mach3 Turbo razors.

Mach3? What speed? I took almost a square inch off my scalp trying to shave in record time; Turbo? Turbines? Who comes up with these poncy macho names? Now, they’ve put a vibrator in the thing and it is called Gillette Mach3 Power – No thanks! I can handle my razor quite competently.

They are probably really the best a man can get, I only grew anything like a beard at 25 and it was not till I got these razors did my skin settle after a shave.

Obviously, I have heard of hair transplants, but not if I am going to look like Dame Elton and Regaine had a friend of mine regaining more hair on his back that it had to be shaved off every week.

As for toupees, I’ll rather have a blonde wig or a pancake, I would look better.

Natural works for me, the only problem being, I have no hairs to pull out when I am utterly exasperated at work, I might have to pluck my moustache – Ouch! That hurts.

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