Iconic Moments in Black Hair History
Black History Month is a time for all African-Americans to celebrate the amazing culture that has been created from a troubled past. In this blog, we want to highlight iconic moments in Black Hair History! Dating back all the way to the 1900s. We want to celebrate all the kinks, the coils and the curls that we have shaped, curled and embraced throughout the years.
1905: Madame CJ Walker
Madame CJ Walker launched a revolutionary black haircare line — which included the “Wonderful Hair Grower,” the first hair relaxer. Relaxers begin to play a major part in Black Hair History. Madam CJ Walker (née Sarah Breedlove) built a successful hair empire which included the innovation of the pressing comb. She became the first female self-made millionaire in the United States! She’s a true innovator for sure!
1909: Garrett A. Morgan
Garrett A. Morgan started out as a sewing machine repairman in Kentucky. He later discovered how to create a relaxer from a solution used to reduce needle friction on wool in 1909. He then founded the G.A. Morgan Hair Refining Company which created the first chemical relaxer. His contributions are still being replicated today although their little to no knowledge of his work!
1954: George E. Johnson
George E. Johnson founded the Johnson Products Empire in 1954. He introduced the first permanent hair straightener for men and the ultra wave hair culture. The female relaxer followed with the promise of straighter hair textured causing sales to skyrocket.
Motown brings black music to the frontline of American culture. Timeless acts and genres curated the American experience to be inflicted by black culture. Many women copied the hairstyles of singers such as The Supremes by using relaxers and wearing wigs to get the sleek and dreamy essence.
1966: Pat Evans
In 1966, a number of incidents indicated a shift in our perception of beauty. Model Pat Evans broke standards by shaving her hair without constraint of toxic misogynoir!
1968: Diahann Carroll
Diahann Carroll made history in 1968 with her role in Julia. She becomes the first black woman to star in her own series! Her style set the tone for many women of color who then chose to mimic her relaxed hairstyle that emulated timeless beauty and grace. ⠀
1970s: The Afro
The afro took off in the 1970s with help from known Black Panther member Angela Davis. Many celebrities showed support of the Black Power movement by rocking picked out afros to illustrate blackness without white standards of beauty, Celebrities such as actress Pam Grier flaunted their kinks and coils for black resistance in all its essence. ⠀
1973: Cicely Tyson
Our beloved Cicely Tyson makes history by appearing on the cover of JET Magazine with cornrows in 1973. Cicely Tyson embraced this beautiful cultural hairstyle in support of blackness and our ideal of beauty. She’s always done it for our culture, by our culture!
1974: Beverly Johnson
Beverly Johnson became the first black woman to appear on the cover of Vogue wearing long, straight hair. Her face and style stunned the masses to spring forward her career as a revolutionary!
1977: Jheri Curl
The Jheri Curl creation shook the African American culture to its core. The promise of curl definition without kink was enough to lead an evolution. Sales of the perm, activator, and moisturizer continued to skyrocket as many famous celebrities wore these styles.
1980: Grace Jones
Iconic, daring model/actress/singer Grace Jones soars with her flat-top fade haircut and gorgeous natural beauty. Grace is known for her unapologetic attitude and beauty that crossed boundaries she no longer saw fit.
1988: Spike Lee
Spike Lee released the movie School Daze in 1988. It touched on the struggles within the black community such as light skin vs. dark skin and the debate of "good hair". The concept of texture and colorism is still very prevalent in the black community. This movie used satire and humor as means to emphasize black culture in all it’s vulgarity and beauty.
1990s: Perms vs Locks
In the mid-1990s, we see singer/actress Aaliyah become world-famous. Aalyiah’s side swoop gave her an ominous look that emphasized her illuminating swag. The rise in permanent hair straightening and hair weaves took the world by storm. For those in need of something versatile and new? This was the way to go! On the flipside, rapper/singer Lauryn Hill graces the Feb. 1999 cover of Time baring her locks to represent natural hair. She was one of the 17 black persons to cover the magazine during the 90s! She was also listed as one of People Magazine's “50 Most Beautiful People” in 1999.
1992: Halle Berry
Halle Berry makes her first major break in 1992 in the movie Boomerang. She wore a short hairstyle in which women of different races copied. Her hair was the perfect ode to short, blunt haircuts that are sure to stun in its simplicity. Nowadays this haircut is being replicated because it’s just that beautiful!
1993: Poetic Justice + Living Single
Living Single premieres showing four black women with different hairstyles, textures and skin tones thriving in Brooklyn. The show was a hit and ran for five seasons on Fox! It’s now been picked up by Hulu 25 years later so you can binge whenever you need a hearty laugh and dose of nostalgia. The “Poetic Justice braids” became famous after the premiere of Poetic Justice in which Janet Jackson wore long thick box braids. You’ll be sure to hear this reference quite often since Janet’s box braids were, and will always be, stunning!
1995: Nia Long
We can NOT talk about the 90s without mentioning Nia Long’s beautiful pixie cut. Her sleek look captured the heart of millions because it was just that beautiful. In all it’s simplicity we were blessed to see her hair during the premiere of Friday and new episodes of Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Today you’ll see a number of women copy this cut because it’s honestly timeless!
1997: Carol's Daughter + The Natural Movement
Lisa Price founds Carol's Daughter in her Brooklyn apartment for the needs of black natural hair. The natural movement once again creates a wave! This wave inspires artists such as Erykah Badu to display her hair wrapped on the cover of her album, "Baduizm". Natural hair anthems such as Indie Arie’s “Video” were later released praising the beauty of naturalness!
2000s: Lil Kim + Destiny Child’s
Rapper Lil' Kim sports a blonde wig on the cover of her eponymous 2000 album. This led to a diverse amount of hairstyles and color options now being seen acceptable for women of color. Bold neon colors such as green, purple, blue, pink, etc. illustrate the extensiveness of beauty! During the early 2000s era, we can also credit Destiny’s Child for shaking up the industry! Their hairstyles ranged from slick colored pixie cuts, to micro braids, loose curls and more! Such icons inspired women to emulate their creativity by wearing their hair in all its glory. There’s nothing wrong with trying something different!
Tracee Ellis Ross rocks her natural hair on Girlfriends! Her hair was notorious for its big poofy display that spoke on its own. The show is credited for inspiring women to embrace their own natural hair and be willing to switch it up no matter the length!.
2012: Viola Davis
Actress Viola Davis looked absolutely stunning on the Oscars red carpet. Davis’ decision to rock her natural hair texture was controversial but she paid no mind! Her beaming smile matched her luscious curls proving that black is beautiful in all its coily glory. She, along with many other celebrities, have openly started wearing more natural hairstyles.
Still one of the greatest influencers of all time. She’s notorious for her honeycomb colored hair always looking flawless and laid. Beyonce was rocking a 360 frontal before they were even popularized! Today, she continues to stunt a variety of styles, lengths, and textures. Many fans base her hair style on the performance she’s about to give. If it’s in its natural form, it’s about to be a real show!
It’s obvious that black hair is anything but boring. Our beauty is versatile and perfect because it’s ours. They may imitate but they can never duplicate! Our hair is everything to our identity and nothing to be shameful about! We celebrate our hair and our culture every day, but this month we take the needed time to emphasize!
Feel free to comment your favorite moment in Black Hair history! If your favorite moment isn’t listed, let us know why it should be added to the list! If you’ve been inspired, take our personal Hair Quiz, to find the right products. After finding your best-suited hair care products, don’t hesitate to subscribe to our Killin’ The Game Beauty Box for $50! If the Beauty box doesn’t fit your current needs, our Winter Collection is still available for a short period. Its selection is featured on the Home Screen so browse to your heart’s desire. Make sure to follow us on Facebook and Instagram @ericasbeautyshop to stay informed on restock alerts, new articles, and much more exciting news!