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November 30, 2009 | 12:00 a.m. CST
Long before Chris Rock made a documentary or Solange Knowles had the “hot or not” lists buzzing by chopping all hers off, there was black hair: straight and long, kinky and thick, locked and strong. In part due to what the media and mainstream society dictate all hair should look like, black men and women have obsessed over their locks and drained their bank accounts to make a good impression or a bold statement with their hair.
For most, black hair isn’t fit to “wash and go.” Few black people can wash their hair everyday as the excessiveness of the task can cause the hair to break off. With hair of all different textures, it’s hard to find shops that can adequately cut or taper, straighten or curl or wash and perm black hair. There’s no one way to do it, and different oils and shampoos that may work on one head might not work for another. With the prospect of watching hair fall out in clumps, the constant problems that come up with black hair call for expert help — or at least a second opinion. With the help of several Columbians with totally different hair care regimens, Vox tells where to go and how to deal with the needs of the dark, curly and wavy tresses.
Rumors Beauty Salon
1111 Rangeline St.
Unexpected perk: The chance to play with stylist Roy Lovelady’s toy poodle, Dolce, the fashion-forward canine with almost as much energy as his owner.
Mary Smith’s Beauty Salon
101 E. Forest Ave.
Unexpected perk: Can get your ‘do done and out the door in no time! Free hair consultations available as well.
JC Penney Salon
Unexpected perk: Conditioner made especially to fit your specific hair type.
A Better U
1250 Rangeline St., Suite A
Unexpected Perk: Any shoe, painting or bling you need, all in one place.
A Cut Above the Rest Hair Salon
705 N. Providence Road
Unexpected Perk: Candy machines to help with your wait and an information board with all the community’s happenings.
601 Business Loop 70 W, #213B
Unexpected Perk: Hilario-sity. In exchange for 50 push-ups, the barbers have given patrons free haircuts!
The hair lying comfortably near the middle of Ashley Price’s spine is all hers. Thick, long and dark like ebony wood, Price’s locks often receive a flurry of compliments, and it’s all thanks to her trusty perm. For black hair, perms turn thick, coarse hair bone straight. Also called a “relaxer,” it literally relaxes the root of hair. “I’ve been getting relaxers in my hair since I was 14,” Price says.
Price, like other students, returned home during breaks to get touch-ups on her relaxer, oblivious to the notable shops here in town. But when she needed her hair done immediately for a special occasion, she tracked down Roy Lovelady of Rumors Hair salon. What sealed the deal for Price, other than the reasonable fees ($55 for a relaxer), was Lovelady’s interest in her hair type and how she cared for it. “A lot of people don’t care what you do with your hair," says Price. "They don’t ask questions.” Price was so impressed with Rumors that she now only visits Kansas City to check-up on family.
Charnell Hickem, a hairdresser at Mary Smith’s salon, prides herself on offering her customers tips to keeping their hair healthy and manageable. “With our hair being as curly as it is, people take that as nappy,” Hickem says. To alleviate this problem, she informs people on the right hair products to use for different hair textures. Hickem’s passion for healthy hair might stem from growing out her own. Receiving perms since 17, Hickem, now 27, has been abstaining from perms for almost six months and cuts her processed hair monthly to wear it naturally curly. “I’m doing it because I’m trying to get back in touch with my roots,” she says. Hickem says that those skeptical about getting their hair done around town need do their research. “You have to really use your best judgment and ask around,” Hickem says.
MU Senior Daryl-Kirkland Morgan, a Detroit native with natural hair since birth, was hesitant to allow her long hair to be handled by stylists in the area. But with the help of friends, she was referred to the JC Penney Salon in the Columbia Mall. After the past semester, Morgan is now a staunch supporter of the shop. “They customize your conditioner, and that’s what I like the most,” Morgan says. The shop has also helped her learn about straightening her hair, a practice done for broadcast news work that her family disapproves of. “They didn’t believe in straightening hair because that was conforming to an ideal of standards of beauty that was not our own,” Morgan says. Morgan describes herself as someone that has always set trends with her hair, even when it’s unintentional. But as she gets older, she doesn’t want to feel trapped by her tresses. “I just want do things that I want with my hair and it just be a style, not a statement,” Morgan says.
It’s almost 7 p.m. on October 27, 2009, and A Better U barbershop is inviting customers in with the hum of buzzing clippers. While they sell Nike shoes and contemporary artwork, they also offer a good haircut. “We get them from a little bit of everywhere,” says Tony Robinson, a Kansas City bred barber and a master at fade cuts, of the shop’s clientele. The men present on this evening come from Boonville and Moberly to have Robinson cut their hair. Each man’s hair is a different texture. The thing that Robinson says keeps them coming is the shop’s expertise. The knowledge that some hair needs to be handled a lot differently than others and being multifaceted is key. “The trick is to not only to be able to do our hair but to do all races,” he says. “Build a clientele of all races. Learn how to do all hair.”
Running down Mizzou’s Recreational basketball court, Uche Mbah’s dreadlocks run with him and grab more attention than his basketball skills. “My age played a factor,” says Mbah on his decision to wear dreadlocks. “I was getting too old to have cornrows. I figured dreads were the next option.” Mbah does get his dreads re-twisted in Columbia, but has a local friend do them after a shop previously located in Columbia Mall broke the principle locking rule: “They didn’t twist from the root,” he says. “If you don’t twist from the root, it looks nappy. It won’t maximize the growth, and your hair will stink.” Shops like Rumors and A Cut Above the Rest twist dreads just in case you don’t have a convenient hairstylist friend. Although his hair is in healthy form now, Mbah is uncertain about the future of his dreadlocks. “I don’t want it to get too, too long,” he says. “I’m kind of playing it by ear. As long as I can keep them up, I’ll let them grow.”
Although these people can’t answer every question about black hair, it’s important to learn how to care for black hair in Columbia and appreciate and keep it healthy — without feeling the need to obsess over it.