Hair As Identity Menu

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Hair the Father by Giuliagas

This photo was taken by Giulia Gasparro and I found it in the Commons on Flickr.  I LOVE it.  It is rare to see such an up close shot of a man’s cornrows and I love the composition of the photo.  This picture is particularly interesting to me given a recent resurgence of interest in Hampton University’s ban on cornrows and dreadlocks for men in its five year MBA program (http://www.wvec.com/my-city/hampton/Business-school-dean-stands-by-ban-on-dreadlocks-and-cornrows-166809246.html).  On one hand, Dean Credle (Hampton University’s business school dean) argues that the ban is simply designed to help students get the job and that what students do after they’re hired is up to them.  On the other hand, those who disagree with the ban state that hair should have nothing to do with employment prospects.  What do you think:  should certain hairstyles be banned for college students?  For employees?

 

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Purple and Green Spiky Hair by fluffy_steve

When you see the image of a purple and green mohawk, what do you think of?  Rebellion?  Anarchy?  Creativity? Independence?  I often wonder about the conditions that drive one person to view this hairstyle in a negative way, while someone else views it in a positive way.  The shades and studded necklace contribute to the look.  What are your thoughts?  Would you want the person in this picture working for you?  Why or why not?  I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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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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Press Release: New Online Platform Launches to Open Conversation

(June, 2012)– Today, blogger and researcher Dr. Tina Opie launched Hair as Identity, a new website that will serve as a hub of untapped conversations, stories and research on the social implications and reactions to natural hair. The site will explore topics from eliminating coloring to dealing with balding to sporting curly hair.

inPress

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Boston, MA (June, 2012)– Today, blogger and researcher Dr. Tina Opie launched Hair as Identity, a new website that will serve as a hub of untapped conversations, stories and research on the social implications and reactions to natural hair. The site will explore topics from eliminating coloring to dealing with balding to sporting curly hair.The new website is designed to promote and initiate discussion around the relationships between hair and self-esteem and perceptions about professionalism.

Through videos, blogs, photos and personal stories, the website will provide an ongoing series of key topics that will echo the sentiments of people striving to manage their professional image.Funded by Babson College, Hair as Identity is designed to complement and prompt dialogue around the research of Dr. Tina Opie, a Boston-based Babson College professor. Her research explores how issues of race, power and status influence public perception about hair, particularly as it relates to what is accepted in the workplace. For the past twelve years, Dr. Opie has consulted, researched and written about creating workplaces that leverage individual differences and motivate members of workgroups to engage. This consulting and research is the basis for many of the discussion topics shared on Hair as Identity.

“I look forward to creating a community where there’s open dialogue between men and women from diverse backgrounds about how natural hair is perceived,” said Dr. Opie. “It is our hope that this site will be the starting point to redefining the perceptions and challenge the stereotypes around natural hair.”

As the hair and beauty industry gears up to celebrate this year’s National Natural Hair Day on May 19, Hair as Identity prepares to be a key  voice in the natural hair community that will reflect the sentiments of not only African-American women, but also of men and women from other ethnicities. Discussions on the site will include considerations about wearing natural hair, the challenges of hair in the workplace and struggles with self-confidence as it relates to hair.
Media inquiries and guest bloggers are welcome. Dr. Tina Opie, editorial director of Hair as Identity, is also available to answer questions about the background of her research or featured discussion topics.

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Hair as Identity is an online platform headquartered in Boston, Massachusetts. Its mission is to promote and initiate discussion between men and women from diverse backgrounds around the relationships between hair and self-esteem and perceptions about professionalism. For more information about Hair as Identity, please visit www.hairasidentity.com.

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“Good Hair” Building Positive Identity & Self Esteem

Recently, the Big Sister staff watched Good Hair, a documentary by Chris Rock, to further explore the different hair typologies and the implications that this can have for women’s and girl’s self-esteem and sense of self. Additionally, Big Sister staff had the opportunity to meet with Dr. Tina Opie who is a professor at Babson College and has studied how hair affects an individual’s self-esteem, identity and the way women are perceived in the workplace.

Recently, the Big Sister staff watched Good Hair, a documentary by Chris Rock, to further explore the different hair typologies and the implications that this can have for women’s and girl’s self-esteem and sense of self. Additionally, Big Sister staff had the opportunity to meet with Dr. Tina Opie who is a professor at Babson College and has studied how hair affects an individual’s self-esteem, identity and the way women are perceived in the workplace. Just because society may stigmatize certain girls, and women, based on the texture of their hair, it does not mean there isn’t anything that we can do to combat these stereotypes and assumptions.

Has your Little Sister ever asked about your hair or made a comment about her hair? Hair is often seen as a marker of status and beauty, but it may be hard to talk about it with your Little Sister. Women and girls that have coarse, curly, or kinky hair are often labeled by media as less beautiful and having less status. This can impact their perception of themselves as well as their professional and social opportunities. For instance when you look at the above image of Beyonce and Solange what immediate perceptions come to mind, what time of professional or social circles’ would you envision these women being part of? The media defines “good hair” as straight, relaxed, and often blonde, while “bad hair” is thick, kinky/curly, and often dark. In the pictures above, Beyonce’s hair is relaxed and dyed so that it is “good hair” but Solange’s hair is worn naturally and would be identified as “bad hair.”

Here are a few suggestions that you may want to consider before talking with your Little Sister about her hair:

· Think about your hair, its texture and how it relates to your sense of self. Before approaching the topic with your Little Sister it will be helpful to think about your views of hair and how these may explicitly or implicitly be communicated to her.
· Watch Chris Rock’s Good Hair documentary to learn more about the ways in which the concept of “good hair” and “bad hair” impacts women and girls – particularly women and girls of color.
· Consider the way in which your Little Sister wears her hair. Does she wear it naturally, in braids, or relaxed? The way that you approach the conversation will vary based on how she wears her hair.
· Think about where you draw a line between grooming and identity alterations according to what other people want you to look like and not what you want to look like.
· Many of us may consider dying our hair grooming, while others may feel that is identity alteration. How do you feel about dying hair? What about relaxing your hair?
· When discussing hair with your Little Sister, approach the conversation with curiosity. Do not assume that if she relaxes her hair it is because she has low self-esteem and feels her natural hair is not beautiful. Ask questions about how she decides what to do with her hair and why she made those decisions.
· Read Dr. Tina Opie’s blog at www.hairasidentity.com where she discusses hair and features women that are sporting their natural hair. This would even be great to read with your Little Sister to help get the conversation started.
· Call your Match Support Specialist if you want more information on how to have this discussion with your Little Sister.

–By Kristie Smith, Impact Specialist

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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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