7 In Bomb Life 101/ Claire's Life/ Featured/ Hair

Hair is Nothing, Hair is Everything: Reflections on the Politics of Hair on the Eve of My Big Chop (Yes, I’m Cutting My Hair)

“Now question: is every nigga with dreads for the cause?
Is every nigga with golds for the fall? Naw
So don’t get caught up in appearance”~Outkast, Aquemini

Happy Monday!
I’m writing to you on the day of the big chop. Yes. I am cutting off the locs I’ve had for over 15 years and exploring different hair styles. Weaves, wigs, bundles down my back or faux locs, I’ve decided to take the plunge and switch things up.

I am terrified. Change is hard. And for so long, I felt as if my hair defined me. It was my signature. It’s how everyone spotted me in a crowd. But as I continue to move into the realm of ‘public figure,’ I can’t stay in a neat little box. I have to explore and dare to do something different.

My history with hair is a short one. I attempted a perm in junior high, but my no fuss mother didn’t really know what to do with my hair. My school would have swim class, and I always looked like a teenage mutant ninja turtle after emerging from the pool. I have no pictures from that era because I looked horrible (imagine puffy, baby fine hair and big coke bottle glasses). But the year I started high school, I got contacts and box braids…and I was suddenly cute. And I was determined to go with what worked.

In college, I wanted to keep box braids, but finding someone to braid my hair in Boston with a small budget was hard. I tried to braid my own hair, but it was too time consuming. So I got dreadlocks. I figured it would give the same look as braids but it would be with my own hair, so it would be easy to maintain. I honestly adopted the hairstyle partly out of laziness and limited resources and also because I wanted to show that I could be beautiful naturally.

When I decided to loc my hair, I remember my uncle told me I’d have issues finding a job. He said, “You get that hairstyle after you have the big corporate position. But to get the job, you have to have straight hair.” I rolled my eyes at him, dismissing his advice as antiquated. My hairstyle was in fact an act of rebellion. I wanted to wear my hair the way I wanted to! Conventional thinking be darned.

There was a moment, after completing several internships and working full time, that I wanted to work in fashion with a serious passion, but felt I had hit a brick wall. I kept sending in my resume to work at fashion magazines and received rejection after rejection (those who read the Bomb Life know the deal). Sure, I didn’t necessarily have the right clothes, and when I started dressing better, things did change for me. But I never ever thought my HAIR could have been a barrier.

Call me naive (it’s ok, you can do it). Honestly, who knows why I didn’t get a shot when I was first starting out? It could have been a combination of many things. And ultimately the initial rejection I experienced led me to create Fashion Bomb Daily, which has added so much joy to my life, the world, and the culture. I am grateful for all those ‘no’s’ that I turned into my own ‘Yasssss.’ But now, I’m ready to take my career to the next level, and have decided to see if changing my hair will open new doors.

I read reports of women being denied jobs for having dreadlocks in 2016 and think that would never apply to me! Or see how Giuliana Rancic of The Fashion Police automatically said Zendaya looked like she smelled of “patchouli and weed,” when she sported faux locs, and never think people could think the same of yours truly. It’s a cold world out here folks, and most people are ignorant and misinformed.

Hair is political, but it’s also simply decoration. The real reason I’ve decided to go for the big chop is because my new red color didn’t take the way I wanted to, and my locs are now two tones (and I hate it). I already cut it down to my shoulders, and I still hate it, so I’m just gonna cut it off. Dying my hair back to blonde would cause my hair to fall out anyway!

Hair is so many things to black women. We have India Arie who crooned, “I am Not My Hair,” but then we also have Solange, who said, “Don’t Touch my Hair.”

Hair can be an act of rebellion or it can be an adornment that one changes as often as they change their shoes.

Hair has always made a statement for me. My blonde locs were a high fashion hybrid of afrocentricity and glamour. And now my hair will be on the floor and I will emerge from the tresses like a Phoenix. A new woman, ready to take on the next chapter in her life.

Wish me luck, love, and light.

*I’m also curious to see how life will change if at all. Will doors truly fly open? Will my ‘likes’ increase? It will be an interesting experiment. You know where you can get the blow by blow (right here).
**I will still be as Afrocentric and as glamorous as ever, even with a weave, hello!
***Read more about my journey here.

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  • Wilanda Nicolas

    Welcome to this new hair journey! I’ve been on this since the age of 16-17 with my first pixie cut! I’ve done it all: color, faux locs, big chop (like 4 times), relaxers, and natural (where I’m currently at). I have also done crotchets, wigs, and weave…the whole shabang. After a lot of years, I am now pondering constantly what my hair means to me. Good thing is, you can keep the locs and add them later. If you’re like most of us, you’ll have good days and then you’ll have days where your hair annoys you. I hope this hair journey is a meaningful one, the way all journeys should be!

    • Claire Sulmers

      Thanks for the note! I can’t wait to have fun with my new ‘do.

      Stay tuned for the big reveal later this week!

  • J. Richards (Diva Chronicles)

    I guess I will never know how my hair played into lost opportunities, but I can say I am very much aware of how my natural hair is perceived. Well, black hair in general. I have had an edgy mohawk style that I cut down into a TWA for interview (I got the job). I don’t know if I would have gotten the offer if I went in with my previous hairstyle. At the job, I have been asked why black people care so much about their hair and why we change it so often, so I would guess not because the ignorance of our culture was evident. I recently wore a braid out and shaped to look like a bob for my most recent interview (again, I got the job). Would I have gotten it with the picked out afro I usually sport? I’ll never know. I hate that black men and women have to seriously contemplate how our hair plays into our opportunities. Good luck on your new journey Claire. I BC’d several times simply for change and never regretted it. I plan on starting locs by the end of the year and can’t wait.

  • This is fantastic! I truly believe every black girl have a true hair journey as I myself have begun exploring and learning ‘my hair’ as a natural newbie…thats what makes us unique, magical even. Im sure you will be working with the best of the best styling your new look. Kudos to you for cutting it all off, getting a brand new do!!

  • Joy Alison Cooper

    Claire!!! This is exciting news. I must say you were one of the few other black women with natural hair when I stepped on the campus two years after my big chop. So thank you for being a trailblazer for me 15 years ago so I felt more comfortable on campus being black, female and damn near bald. It’s amazing how identity is often linked to our hair and I hope this is the next step for your ascent to the next level.

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