Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Afro Blowout

If you were breathing in the 1970s and closely connected to the African American (then Black) community, you either knew someone who wore an Afro or you wore one yourself fashioned with your own hair or a wig.  There were girls in the community whose hair was too short to create the huge Afro popularized by civil rights activist/educator, Angela Davis.  So they opted for the next best thing, an Afro wig.  Most  were made of black synthetic fibers, but there was the occasional blonde Afro wig as well. 


When Afro puffs became popular, girls created that style using their own hair and also with synthetic, attachable Afro puffs.  At around age 16, I once styled my hair in Afro puffs for a Friday night party I attended.  A male classmate refused to believe the puffs were created with my own hair and insisted that I couldn't make my hair do that until he touched it and realized he was wrong. 

It wasn't until the mid-70s that I wore a constant Afro.  That was freedom.  All I had to do was shower and go.  The steam from the shower softened my hair enough to "pick it out" with my baby blue plastic Afro pick.  For me, Johnson's Afro Sheen Blowout Kit was not a necessity.   My freedom 'fro was a nice size as shown in the image below.


This picture was taken in the office of the radiologist with whom I worked, circa 1974.  A photography buff, after handing him a stack of reports to sign, the doctor asked me to take a seat so he could photograph me.  I complied.  After working with him and his partner for two years, I  was offered another position by one of their colleagues, a local pathologist.  The pay was more lucrative.  So I resigned the old and accepted the new position.  A few days before my final day, the radiologist handed me a dictation belt (pre-cassette tape era) to transcribe what I thought was x-ray report dictation.  Instead, it was an unrequested letter of recommendation.   I still have the original and the carbon copies of that letter that I never needed to use.  A man of few words, this was a nice gesture of his appreciation.  I was quite saddened upon discovering his death a few years after leaving the hospital's employe.

While sitting at my work desk in my home office/doll room the other day, I glanced at Barbie Basics Model 04 who stands atop my desk.  She was still as seen a few weeks ago in my Ebonilicious post wearing a borrowed Afro wig.  Her loosely connected curls gave me the urge to grab my plastic-bristle doll bush to manually blowout her curls into a well-formed Angela Davis-style 'fro. 

Here's a link to a close-up image of how her Afro looked before the blowout.  Below is how Model 04 looks now.

Barbie Basics Model 04 Collection 001 with Angela Davis-style Afro wig
Model 04 with blown-out Afro is back on the work desk with the other dolls that surround me while I work.

Hers is the Afro of my youth.  The one African American women proudly wore back in the day in varying lengths to embrace their natural essence, and back then, the bigger, the better by any means necessary. 


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18 comments:

  1. Cute picture of you in your 'fro. Remember the Afro picks that had a black power fist on the handle?

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    1. Thanks, Paulette!

      Yes, I remember the Afro picks with the black power fist molded into the top of the handle. I had a black one. Others (mostly guys) used those metal cake cutter/rakes to comb their 'fros. I think by the time our schools were desegregated, the metal rakes were banned.

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  2. I was just watching a documentary on TV last night about Blacks in the early to mid 70s. Angela Davis' story was front and center. She had an amazing fro back then. I agree with Paulette. You were so cute with your 'fro. Model 4 definitely has that Angela Davis vibe now.

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    1. I would like to have seen that 70's doc, Vanessa.

      Thanks for the compliment.

      Model 4 is definitely rocking her Angela Davis look now.

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  3. Man, I remember wearing afro puffs as a kid. Mom would hot press our hair and then put on the puffs that had these painful combs attached that would scrape the heck out of your scalp that was already hurting from having your hair pulled back so tight. We looked good though as do you in your righteous fro!

    I do recall the afro picks with the power fist. I didn't know they came any other way.

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    1. Hi Muff,

      I couldn't remember if the attachable Afro puffs had combs or drawstrings. A close friend wore them often. I bet you looked cute with yours!

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  4. Right on! Lol! Very nice post Debbie. Your picture is too cute! : ). I also wore Afro puffs. I didn't have a Afro pick, but my sister and brother did. Loved it!

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    1. Thanks, GG!

      Afro puffs were our own creation as was the Afro.

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  5. Nice photos. I had so many afro picks and I think I threw them out after I went to braids.

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    1. Those original Afro picks are probably collectors items now, MDW.

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  6. Debbie you look so cute with your afro! And your doll looks great with her 'fro. Years ago, I mentioned to my husband that I wanted on of those afro picks with the fist. He actually found one at a local store, and I still have it (still in the package).

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    1. Thanks, Roxanne!

      You're makng me want a pick that has the black power fist on it.

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    2. Debbie, I asked my husband today where he found the pick, and he doesn't remember the store - just that it was a mom and pop shop owned by Koreans. If I'm able to locate a pick with the black power fist on it in a store here, I'll pick one up for you.

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    3. Thanks, Roxanne! I'll be on the lookout for one here, too; and if I find it, I'll let you know.

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  7. I had a friend in Junior High and High School (one of two or three black people in my high school in the CT suburbs) who had an afro wig, I think, that she wore a couple of times a week. I didn't understand black hair at all, so I couldn't understand why she didn't just wear her hair that way everyday, instead of pressed flat so often. Her father was a conservative religious businessman, a real estate developer who was, I think, the first black person to move his family into our town, and perhaps he did not approve of the "natural" look, and all that it implied, and she could only wear the wig when he wasn't around to give her grief about it. So never mind wearing her hair that way all the time---I guess she could only do it via a wig---and maybe she put it on, on the bus to school!

    She used to fluff up the 'fro with the pick, and she just looked so great. She was tall, too, like me, and I think that's around the time I began to love what I think of as Power Hair. It was the era when "being Black" was suddenly fashionable, and she was suddenly also the Queen Bee at my school, even though I know she scorned a lot of the attention for being phony and she had a look on her face sometimes I just didn't understand at the time.

    On the TV show Room 222, I also liked the white kid, Bernie, who had a blond guy 'fro. I later had a Jewish boyfriend who had what he called a "Jew Fro". It was very effective, and very 'fro!

    I was surprised when it went out of fashion for black people to wear afro styles, short or big, and ladies' hair became flat and sleek and tormented into chignons and page boys all the time. I thought---this is a kid thinking, mind you---I thought black people had been liberated from having to have flat hair! What happened?---Well, styles change, and tastes, I guess. But the afro went out and then, after the flat, sleek hair, especially for women, Jheri Curls came in, especially for guys. I guess that was courtesy of Michael Jackson, and maybe Prince. Somehow all the young men seemed to have oily little curls and look like their own version of Latin lovers. I found it off-putting to see, but it wasn't my hair and it wasn't my business. I just remember disliking it, and wishing the afro was still around. It was soft and pretty, and worn with sideburns on a man, like a Sly Stone-type, it was just smashing.

    Better times, though. At least to my eyes. Braids like LL Cool J wears took me a while to get used to, but I am liking them a lot nowadays. And I see a lot of African hair braid styles in my city. And more and more, I am seeing women walking around my city with wonderful natural styles. Are people getting the message these days? That they don't have to wear blond wigs and suchlike? All the same, I see so many shops in my city "selling hair", and I know a lot of ladies are buying hair to augment their own. I am thinking some of this is generational---women in their 40s and older, perhaps, buying lots of hair and wigs, because their own hair and scalp have been damaged from so much straightening and pulling of hair. And the younger ladies are trying something else. At least, some are.

    These are of course just general observations. Individuals who wear their hair as they like are everywhere, and always have been. If someone is happy with their look, they are generally a pleasure to look at, whatever their style of hair-dress.

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    1. Hi Eklectic1,

      It is all about choices, as your conclusion indicates. Whether store-bought or growing from hair follicles:

      "Individuals who wear their hair as they like are everywhere, and always have been. If someone is happy with their look, they are generally a pleasure to look at, whatever their style of hair-dress."

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    2. Thank you for reading my ruminations! And you totally "got" my main idea...no matter my opinion of individual times and mores (the inevitable product of my years on the planet, and my time-traveling experiences), people look great if they're happy with what they're doing, wigged, unwigged, braided, fluffed, augmented, beaded, cropped short, natural, straightened...whatever makes them feel beautiful and in charge of themselves. Thanks for allowing my ideas in!

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    3. Thanks for continuing to share your ideas. I appreciate your view sharing.

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Thank you! Your comments are appreciated!