My dear friends, it is just about my one-year anniversary at xoVain. This is a huge deal for me. Making the jump from commenter to contributor has been fulfilling, enlightening, and just plain fun. Getting to flex my experience muscle on new topics is always a challenge, but today I want to talk to you about something deeply personal: my addiction to faux hair.
I have hinted at this predilection in previous posts, but now I feel comfortable enough with this community to share some of my deepest, darkest hair secrets. I personally don’t think there is anything wrong with wearing fake hair every day, sometimes, when you feel like it, or whatever, but there are those who look down on the practice. Because of many encounters with such people, I wait until it is "safe" to tell someone that oftentimes a portion of my length and/or fullness is fake.
Once, in a hipster burrito shop in the East Village, I overheard a strikingly ignorant conversation between two workers--young white women--about Chris Rock’s documentary, Good Hair. They went on and on about how "it" (a weave) never looks natural, that they didn't want guys touching their hair when "it" was "all up in there," and other generally demeaning stuff about what they thought was a mostly "black" practice. It is not.
Aside from the connotations of casual racism these girls were spouting, little ol’ weave-wearing me was standing silent and undetected right in front of them. I wanted to slap the shit out of them, but of course I didn't. Instead, I didn’t tip for my food and went back to my salon to cry. Ignorance knows no bounds.
It hit me kind of hard at the time, because a guy I was seeing had also been inadvertently talking smack about my hair situation. People just don’t know when to STFU sometimes. Much like Lauren's conversation about makeup and how women everywhere are looked down upon for what we choose to do with our bodies, I felt marginalized and judged for doing something to feel pretty.
Extension Addiction: Where It All Began
I started wearing extensions after a misguided Mandy Moore cut in the early 2000s, when I wanted to look nice for my senior portrait. I was told that extensions were expensive and took too long, but I asked around and discovered the sew-in weave.
I went to a hair store, got my color (a simple-to-match blue-black), and headed to a braiding salon in Asbury Park, NJ. This was before I knew I could go on the Internet and just root around until I found a technique or place that worked for my hair type, so I rolled the dice on the first "braiding" salon I saw. It was the first of many times I would get a few tracks of sewn-in weft.
But for a long time I NEVER wanted hair past my collar bones. I don’t know why--maybe I just liked the idea of getting haircuts so much that I never let my hair grow out. Around 16, though, I decided I to grow it out--but it didn't grow.
My hair is wavy and fine to medium, but I have a tiny nape, which means all of that foundation length is super fine and has less area than most people. If you were to make a ponytail of all of the hair from my parietal ridge down, it would be as thin as a toothpick.
Basically, my hair takes forever to get long, and it can’t be too layered, lest the bottom layer be too weak and have to get trimmed off. (Side note: this is a super common practice of hairstylists who don’t take the time to check out your whole head before chopping away.) I have had my hair cut off to the point of tears more than a few times, and it was always because the stylist did not understand the struggle I go through to grow my hair out.
To get the long hair I desire, I've been using extensions for the past 10 years. I have tried nearly every single method of extension wearing in my days. Semi-permanent methods like tapes, glues, and braids; temporary methods like clip-ins; permanent methods like fusion, dreadlocks, linkies, shrinkies, and a whole mess of one-off experiments. I have done IT ALL.
Do I wish my hair would grow faster? Yes. Have I tried everything under the sun to make my hair grow faster? Yes. Am I going to stop wearing extensions? Perhaps someday. For now, my hair is a cloak of armor. It’s part of my style, and whether I wear it asymmetrically or not, I’m wearing it the way that I want to.
Please share your hair stories and challenges. I know I am not alone out here!
Photos by Darnell Scott