Hair Stories: More Than Just an Aisle

I wonder if corporate buyers for retail stores like Walmart and Target really think that Black women are still doing our hair with Pink Luster. No shade to you if you do, but most of the women that I know have moved on from box perms and Blue Magic.

Beyond the fact that all non-white hair care has been reduced to six, if you’re lucky, “multicultural” shelves in the store, they have the audacity to fill them with items that I’m not even about to use. It’s always so interesting to me to see the difference between the beauty supply stores that I grew up with and places like Walmart. Most beauty supply stores aren’t ubiquitously labeled as some ethnic catch all.

Walking into the beauty supply store is always a cathartic experience for me. Only here can you find a cute $50 wig and the LA Girl concealer that I’ve come to love. You can get packs of Yaki hair for $1.99 and also stock up on an assortment of Jamaican Mango and Lime castor oils and get the bulk size of your deep conditioner of choice.

It is, for me, the quintessential black girl experience: rolling up to the beauty supply with your girls. Wandering through the aisles, consulting on different packs of hair. We go there and learn from each other. Get this, don’t get that. “Ohh, girl! This would look good on you!” I remember the first time I got crochet braids, my home girl, Jordan, took me by one of the beauty supply stores on Cleveland Avenue in Columbus, Ohio, where we went to school. Jordan’s the crochet braid connoisseur and her natural hair game be on point all the time. I followed her through the store as she pointed out the best packs of hair and helped me make my selection. (BTW – my hair was popping. Shoutout to my other home girl, Aja, for hooking me up with the install.)

Honestly, my hair and I wouldn’t have made it through four years at Ohio State if it hadn’t been for my friends.

The thing here is that black hair is a community experience. Most of us women grew up with our heads being squeezed between our mother’s knees as she pulled our kinky strands into braided  styles. We followed her into the hair salon and sat in the sticky plastic stylist’s chair for our first press style. We sat in our sister friends’ living rooms and watched hours of BET as they installed our first box braids or weaves. Our fathers and brothers spend hours at the barber shop talking sports and politics. Sometimes the bootleg man comes through with the latest movies.

I’m not really sure how these retailers think that they can limit us to just a few shelves on one aisle in the store.

“Aye, Mama! I wanna do some more crochet braids this weekend. You gon help me?”