If you know the difference between a braid and a twist out, traction alopecia and sleek edges, or the pros and cons of palm rolling, you probably love a black woman with natural hair. Growing up in the 80’s in the French Caribbean, all of the women around me had what people called “good hair”. Being within beauty cannons of the era, they did not experiment much with their hair; it was either cut short or worn in a ponytail. I definitely have been influenced by them as I am certain that I always dated women with natural hair, regardless of the texture. However, it is only when I moved to London and met my wife with her tightly coiled hair, that I realised how empowering and important this twisting, moisturising, co-washing business was, and now that I am a father of two beautiful black boys, it dawned on me that we men need to actively join the natural hair conversation.
We live in very exciting times where progressive ideas are seriously challenging the established white capitalistic patriarchy. With the help of social media and content sharing websites, women of colour have fought their way into mainstream media and created their own platforms, shifting the alienating norms, redefining attractiveness, charm and femininity with their natural hair (#BlackGirlMagic). This struggle towards realistic and positive representation is within a general trend where more women are in charge and being heard for the good of our society. For instance, some powerful men are being shunned or fired for sexual harassment (#MeToo), and some policemen are finally being held responsible for the killing of unarmed black people (#BlackLivesMatter). These partial results are mostly due to the fact that oppressive norms are hard to kill and that most people who are not involved in problematic behaviours do not question their attitude towards these flagrant injustices. I had to question myself, was I an actor for progress of a passive piece of this rigged system?
When I saw my wife spending entire weekends detangling, washing and plaiting her hair on her own because there were no hairdressers around that she could trust, or when I heard real horror stories about black women in the workplace bullied into wearing sleek wigs over their natural hair to keep their jobs, I realised that I could not remain passive under the pretext that hair was a “woman thing”. I created Afrocks within this progressive dynamic to not only offer an easy and reliable service to care for afro hair but to also provide a support system for those who have to bear micro aggressions at work or in school on top of the “hassle” of doing their own hair.
On a very personal level, I think that I, a black man, have to play a consciously active role into the construction of my children’s sense of aesthetic. Again, self-care is not exclusively a “woman thing”. The same way that women are encouraged to occupy leadership positions outside of the home, men should also be encouraged to be more hands on in the education and training of these children. I have often heard people condemning mothers for relaxing their children’s hair, as though fathers could not have a say in these matters. I strongly believe that fathers should be encouraged to be a part of their daughters’ hair journey. We have to understand that valorising the natural features of our children is part of the process of raising confident and positive adults. I do not have daughters, but I have two sons and I still strive to teach, to identify, and stay away from oppressive tropes towards themselves and women, no matter their shapes, size or shades.
This article was not easy to write because I did not want to come across as “mansplaining” female empowerment to black women. I just felt the need to join the conversation and the Afrocks venture is the outcome of this reflection.
“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, but self-preservation and that is an act of political warfare” – Audre Lorde-
 In the words of bell Hooks.