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Facial Hair and Identity: A Male Perspective

As I was shaving my face this morning I thought of Tina Opie’s post on hair and identity. She raises some interesting questions. From a male perspective, I know that the expectation in a professional setting is to either be clean-shaven or if we choose to wear a beard/mustache, the expectation is that it be neatly trimmed.

Hello everyone,

I recently wrote a Post on facial hair and I am delighted to publish commentary that I received.  Mr. Amir Reza wrote an interesting personal piece on his experience with facial hair.   Here it is; I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

“Men and Facial Hair” by Amir Reza

As I was shaving my face this morning I thought of Tina Opie’s post on hair and identity. She raises some interesting questions. From a male perspective, I know that the expectation in a professional setting is to either be clean-shaven or if we choose to wear a beard/mustache, the expectation is that it be neatly trimmed. I recall when I stopped shaving a few years ago during vacation and decided not to shave before returning to work – that period when your beard hasn’t fully grown in and you are not clean-shaven is interesting – there were colleagues that loved the facial hair and others that didn’t care for it. There wasn’t much in between. Most everyone had an opinion one way or another. There were many questions; was I going to grow it indefinitely? Would I consider a goatee? What did others think about my new look?

Mr. Reza sporting a beard

There were also joking comments about my identity as a Middle Eastern American and what facial hair meant in light of the stereotypical terrorist suspect. This makes me think of that period after September 11, 2001 when the Department of Homeland Security instituted color-coded threat levels and profiling of Middle Easterners (in particular young men) was prevalent. I recall half-jokingly commenting to my friends that if the color code was “orange” or higher I would definitely shave, lest I be profiled as “one of them.” Maz Jobrani (an Iranian-American comedian) has a funny segment on this topic – “you don’t want to be Middle Eastern and show up at the airport with a beard!” (watch here minute 3:50 of this youtube video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fYlaIxNX01Q ).

Returning to Opie’s blog on facial hair, it seems that facial hair is a political & social matter for men, whether you are running for office or trying to navigate society (east or west). As for me, I ended up shaving my beard/mustache eventually, not because of my colleagues’ comments, but because my two-year old daughter didn’t want to kiss me because I was too itchy!

Mr. Reza sans beard

What do you all think?  Please share any thoughts that Mr. Reza’s story triggered in your mind.  Thanks for reading!

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Beards, Goatees and Mustaches: How Facial Hair Frames Identity

Hmm, what does the beard symbolize? As a matter of fact, most politicians I envision are clean-shaven, no mustaches and definitely not a goatee. Wait, there are Che’ Guevara, Fidel Castro but both men were revolutionaries. In some cultures, does a beard symbolize divergence from the norm? Men, please chime in, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Do you wear facial hair? Why or why not? Any stories to share?

Hello everyone,

The other day I heard a radio story about Egypt’s new Prime Minister Hisham Qandil.  So, why am I discussing Mr. Qandil on a website about hair and identity?  Interestingly enough, the story was about how Prime Minister Qandil’s beard is stirring discussion about what a beard symbolizes.  I am not an expert on Egyptian politics or on Islam, so I apologize if I am oversimplifying the story.  Apparently, in the past, beards have been associated with Muslim “hardliners” (according to the article, hardliners refer to devout Muslims follow the exact teachings of the Prophet Muhammad).  However, Egypt is described as a country with secular traditions; therefore, a beard might not be a welcome symbol in some circles. Please see the BBC’s story on this topic here.

Come to think of it, off of the top of my head, I can’t think of ANY politicians (other than Abraham Lincoln) who wear beards?

President Lincoln donning his famous beard

Hmm, what does the beard symbolize?  As a matter of fact, most politicians I envision are clean-shaven, no mustaches and definitely not a goatee.  Wait, there are Che’ Guevara, Fidel Castro but both men were revolutionaries.  In some cultures, does a beard symbolize divergence from the norm?

As I did some research on this idea, I came across an article by Slate.com–> Slate’s article on “Beards in Politics”.  Wow, the article is all about politicians and facial hair. An interesting read (e.g., I never knew why the military banned facial hair!). This story has prompted me to consider how facial hair frames identity. Men, please chime in, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Do you wear facial hair?  Ladies, do you love or despise men’s facial hair?   Why or why not? Any stories to share?  Now, should we venture into facial hair on women?  Wow, that’s a whole different series!

Thanks!
Tina

  • rosemaryandrock

    Yes, I’d agree with your comment that today, beards indicate a sort of alternative culture. Full beards make me think of the Unabomber. Neater ones make me think of people who are maybe academics or writers. “Scruff”, on the other hand, I associate with hipsters or people who (think they?) are really handsome and can “get away” with not shaving. I agree though that historically beards would have been associated with power and masculinity–think of the horrible attacks in the Amish community of late that involved people forcibly cutting off others’ beards: http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/16-amish-ohio-reject-beard-cutting-plea-deals-16887977 Then too there’s the story of Samson–hair = power. A topic with a lot of substance to it!

    • drtinaopie

      Hi Rosemaryandrock. I’m usually much better about responding to comments! Forgive me. thank you for taking the time to read the post. It’s amazing to me that something as common as facial hair can carry such meaning!

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Mixed Chicks Lawsuit Against Sally Beauty Supply

Have you heard of Mixed Chicks? It’s a hair products firm that caters to multicultural women. The firm appears to be doing phenomenally well, so well in fact, that it was recently covered in Inc. Magazine (see 2/12 edition). The founders, Kim Etherede and Wendi Levy, were caught off guard in 2/11 when they learned that Sally Beauty Supply was selling an alarmingly similar product on its shelves.

Have you heard of Mixed Chicks? It’s a hair products firm that caters to multicultural women. The firm appears to be doing phenomenally well, so well in fact, that it was recently covered in Inc. Magazine (see 2/12 edition). The founders, Kim Etherede and Wendi Levy, were caught off guard in 2/11 when they learned that Sally Beauty Supply was selling an alarmingly similar product on its shelves. Sally’s version, Mixed Silk, also catered to multiethnic women. According to Inc. Magazine, the bottle shape, package design, colors and fonts were also the same as those used by Mixed Chicks. Hmmm? What to do? Can a $5MM company face a multi-billion dollar juggernaut? You BET! I’m so proud that these ladies went with their gut and sued in 3/11. This is no cakewalk and who knows how the suit will turn out. However, I applaud the ladies for standing up for their convictions.

Here’s an email that I sent to them via their website on 1/23/12:

Hi there, I’m not mixed but I heard about your products because I’m a professor who blogs on hair and identity. I just learned about your suit against Sally Beauty Supply in Inc. Magazine (2/12). I am so proud of you all for not succumbing to such bullying. Congratulations no matter what the outcome (but I’m praying that you all win!!!).

Thanks,

Tina Opie

If you’re a blogger, vlogger, manufacturer, CEO in the natural hair care industry (or any industry for that matter), it’s important to protect your brand. Tips on how to do that? I’m on a hunt and will share when I find some good ideas!

IMAGES:  http://fashiondailymag.com/tame-the-curly-mane/    |       Mixed Chicks Founders, Wendi Levy (left) and Kim Etheredge

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What Drives Us to Wear Wigs?

I am embarrassed to say that we spent ~50-hours driving during our roundtrip RV trip and I drove a grand total of TWO HOURS! Even during the two hours I was nervous wreck because you don’t really drive an RV, you guide it. It’s HUGE and it blows in the wind. I didn’t last long. BUT, during my driving stint, I saw a sign for a wig outlet in Fayetteville, NC. Of course, I couldn’t wait to see it!


Sign welcoming visitors to the Fayetteville, NC wig outlet

I am embarrassed to say that we spent ~50-hours driving during our roundtrip RV trip and I drove a grand total of TWO HOURS! Even during the two hours I was nervous wreck because you don’t really drive an RV, you guide it. It’s HUGE and it blows in the wind. I didn’t last long. BUT, during my driving stint, I saw a sign for a wig outlet in Fayetteville, NC. Of course, I couldn’t wait to see it!

The wig outlet was large and wigs adorned shelves, counter tops and displays. I was amazed by the sheer number of wig options. Blonde, red, black, curly, straight, wigs for females…even wigs for men!

I’m going to research the varying reasons people might wear wigs. We often think of it as a voluntary fashion statement. However, some people wear wigs for medical reasons (e.g., lost hair due to chemotherapy, alopecia, etc.). Do you have a wig experience you’d like to share? Please do!

Here are a few pictures of the wigs I saw.

  • Jeffrey Smith

    Thx for the info, and your web page certainly looks wonderful. Just what word press design are you employing?

    • Drtinaopie1

      Thanks! Let me know if you want to talk “Word Press”.

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Sullivan’s Island: My Sankofa Moment Part 2

It should be mentioned that when in Africa, Africans took pride in maintaining beautiful hairstyles. Slaves might use a wooden comb and palm oil to create elaborate styles. Those with matted, disheveled, unkempt hair were shunned and often viewed as insane. Thus, imagine the shame slaves must have felt when they were stripped of their grooming aids and their hair grew matted and unkempt?


Carding combs, a device that slaves may have used to comb their hair

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post (http://tropie7189.blogspot.com/2012/01/sullivans-island-my-sankofa-moment.html), today’s post explores how slaves groomed themselves once they arrived on U.S. soil.

It should be mentioned that when in Africa, Africans took pride in maintaining beautiful hairstyles. Slaves might use a wooden comb and palm oil to create elaborate styles. Those with matted, disheveled, unkempt hair were shunned and often viewed as insane. Thus, imagine the shame slaves must have felt when they were stripped of their grooming aids and their hair grew matted and unkempt?

Again, hair is nothing in comparison to the atrocities of slavery; however, slaves cared and were resilient. Slaves may have used a sheep carding comb (Byrd & Tharps, 2001). A carding comb is a device used to comb through matted or tangled fibers (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carding).

It’s easy to think that slaves wouldn’t have cared about their personal appearance given the atrocities of slavery. However, even under such circumstances, these men and women found ways to groom their hair. You see, hair is much more than a head covering. It symbolizes what we think of ourselves. This small glimpse into slaves’ grooming processes tells us that slaves indeed valued themselves even though their masters considered them less than human.

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Solange Knowles Hair Pics!

When I first started this blog, I did a post on Solange Knowles’ bold decision to wear her natural hair. Recently, Ms. Knowles did a photo spread for Oyster Magazine and she is rocking her natural hair! There is nothing like someone who seems to embrace their authenticity. What do you think of the pictures?

 When I first started this blog, I did a post on Solange Knowles’ bold decision to wear her natural hair. Recently, Ms. Knowles did a photo spread for Oyster Magazine and she is rocking her natural hair!

There is nothing like someone who seems to embrace their authenticity. What do you think of the pictures?

IMAGES: http://freshlikedougie.com/fashion/solange-in-natural-light-for-oyster-magazine-photos/

  • H&B

    That she is gorgeous!!!

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Jean-Michel Basquiat: Lye

I wanted to share some artwork with you. It’s “Lye” by Jean-Michel Basquiat. I’m watching a documentary about him on NetFlix (Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child) and this artwork popped up on the screen. All I saw was the word “lye” but that was enough to pique my interest. Sure enough, he is talking about processed hair. What does the image stir up in you?

Hi everyone,
I am working on a blog post that describes a deep, emotional experience I had on my family RV trip. It’s about our visit to Sullivan’s Island in South Carolina. However, in order to do the experience justice, I need to do some historical research and it’s taking me awhile to get the facts straight. Stay tuned for what I hope will be an interesting and informative post.

In the meantime, I wanted to share some artwork with you. It’s “Lye” by Jean-Michel Basquiat. I’m watching a documentary about him on NetFlix (Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child) and this artwork popped up on the screen. All I saw was the word “lye” but that was enough to pique my interest. Sure enough, he is talking about processed hair. What does the image stir up in you?

For more information about Mr. Basquait, please see: http://basquiat.com/

IMAGE: http://www.josephklevenefineartltd.com/Basquiat-Lye.jpg

  • nick

    Love the blog

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Tomiko Graces Gain Commercial

I was blown away by something that I just saw. I rarely watch daytime TV which may explain why I had never seen the Gain commercial featuring the gorgeous Tomiko Fraser Hines. I love the way the commercial embraces natural hair. Some might feel that it dogs straight hair but I don’t think that’s the point. Apparently, naturalistas are in the numerical minority compared to women who chemically alter their hair. However, more and more women are going natural and it’s refreshing to see this depicted in a corporate commercial. What do you think?

Hello everyone, I know that I’m in the middle of sharing my RV trip with you all BUT I was blown away by something that I just saw. I rarely watch daytime TV which may explain why I had never seen the Gain commercial featuring the gorgeous Tomiko Fraser Hines . Haven’t seen the commercial? Watch it HERE.

I love the way the commercial embraces natural hair. Some might feel that it dogs straight hair but I don’t think that’s the point. Apparently, naturalistas are in the numerical minority compared to women who chemically alter their hair. However, more and more women are going natural and it’s refreshing to see this depicted in a corporate commercial. What do you think? I may have to buy some Gain! 🙂

P.S.: I do believe the voice over was done by Ms. Wanda Sykes! UPDATE: Ms. Tomiko Fraser Hines herself confirmed that this was the voice of Ms. Wanda Sykes. Thanks Tomiko!

P.S.S.: Tomiko and her husband, Chris, have a YouTube channel and I think they’re just the cutest.

IMAGE: http://cheneselewisblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/Tomiko-Gain-Slide.jpg

  • Tomiko Fraser Hines

    Thanks again for this wonderful blog! I really appreciate it! ; )

  • topie

    You are most welcome. It's my pleasure and you should know that the commercial made me shout! So proud of you for forging ahead! Yaaayyyyyy!

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Hair Tips!

Since the twist-out is now my go-to style, I thought I’d share a few tips on how I keep my style fresh: 1) Properly detangle your hair. I start with a wide toothed comb. I then detangle. Once I’m ready to begin twisting, I section with the end of a rat tail comb and then comb out each of the smaller sections. I find that this smooths my hair (especially the ends) and leads to a smoother style. Continue reading for more tips!

Since the twist-out is now my go-to style, I thought I’d share a few tips on how I keep my style fresh:

1) Properly detangle your hair. I start with a wide toothed comb. I then detangle. Once I’m ready to begin twisting, I section with the end of a rat tail comb and then comb out each of the smaller sections. I find that this smooths my hair (especially the ends) and leads to a smoother style.

2) If your hair texture is like mine, an oil-based rather than a water or gel-based product may work best to twist your hair. I’ve tried gels and custards…nothing works as well as a creamy oil (as I’ve said before I use Doris New York products almost exclusively on my hair). For me, I have found that gels may do a better job of “freezing” the curl in place. Big ups for curl definition. HOWEVER, my hair feels like hay and I can’t stand that. When I use the oil-based product my hair feels like satin and moisture is sealed in plus my scalp is conditioned. Of course, everyone has to go through trial and error but this is my experience.

3) Tie your hair up at night. I use a satin sleep bonnet.

4) Oil your scalp…I know some people disagree with this. For me, I find a light oil on my scalp keeps my hair and scalp happy.

5) You DON’T have to redo your entire head when your hair starts to lose curl definition. Instead, retwist the frizzy parts. This has saved me MUCH time.

6) Tie up your hair when you work out (I refuse to wear the satin bonnet in public but I have a scarf that I wear).

That’s all I can think of for now. Please share your tips as well!

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