Wednesday, June 23, 2010


My Grandma Ethel always taught me good matters. She was a little tiny lady from Atlanta, Georgia that migrated to New York in the 1920’s. She brought with her the social customs, values and the unwritten practices of a vibrant people that transcend time. In this millennium, social matters, how we embrace each other and how we talk to each other is vitally important. The importance lies in how we make people feel. We have social codes so that we can co-exist and affirm one another.

We all have had experiences where our textured tresses were the topic of conversation. Perhaps you have had the following experience. You’re running late for work or you are on your way to an appointment and some strange woman comes up to you and says, “Is that your real hair?” You try to smile, but you really want to say “That’s none of your business!”, or worse. Years ago I was shopping with my daughter when a woman walked up to me and said how beautiful my loc adornments were. Before I could turn around to thank her, she had her hand in my hair. She actually touched me! I felt violated and annoyed.

Why do people think they can do something so personal? Have we lost all sense of what is socially appropriate when it comes to our hair? When is it acceptable to ask someone the personal details about their natural hair? Questions like, “Is that all your hair?” or “How much did you pay for your hair style?” can be personal and intrusive. When is it appropriate to ask someone about their hair or where they get their hair done?

I have thought about this for some time. After 30 years in the industry I have heard many stories. We laugh about some of the situations because they were so ridiculous and comical, but the women that have been approached didn’t always find it funny. When approached they are made to feel uncomfortable, distracted and put on the spot. Have you ever experienced an uncomfortable situation where you were touched or approached about your hair? Or were you one of those people that approached someone you didn’t know to ask about their hair? Whether you are the former or the latter there courteous ways to ask someone about their hair.

The following are a few suggestions on how to approach another sister when you’ve just got to know about her hair or what I like to call the “The Kinky Girl’s Hair Code”:

A smile goes a long way. Approach the person with a smile.

Engage the person. Be warm and soft spoken.

Compliment and acknowledge how the hair styles appeals to you. Let her know how much you admire it. Use words like beautiful, attractive, gorgeous or just hot. Everyone wants to be complimented. Complimenting a person is the key to getting the information you want.

If you like the texture or color, mention it. Noticing the details is always a great in.

If you want to know where the person got their hair done, ask respectfully. She may have a referral card or the phone number on hand.

Be brief, direct and always polite.

It’s not polite to stare or point, even if the hairstyle looks crazy and over the top.

Don’t ask about the cost of the style. How much someone paid for a hair service is truly personal and can be based on the individual client. Call the salon or stylist and get all the information that can help you make a decision.

Never ask “Is that all your hair”? Personal questions like that may be offensive.

 If you need the feel the texture ask, “May I touch your hair”. Never touch someone’s hair without permission.

End the conversation quickly and thank the kind stranger for the information.

Always leave the person feeling good about how she looks with complements and a smile.

At the end of the day, it’s about how we make people feel. Hair etiquette offers a general guide line to how we communicate to each other as women and as “sister” consumers of natural hair styles. When we see each in the mall or in passing sometimes just a simple nod, direct eye contact and a smile is all we need to affirm our beauty.

By: Diane Bailey of Tendrils Hair Spa - Brooklyn, NY

Before I started practising my religion and covering my hair when going out of my home. I use to get a lot of the questions stated above, People would always ask me if my hair was real .  They thought this way , because my hair was soft with a nice shine.  After, I would answer politely "yes" , some would then go onto asking if they could touch my  I would , let them especially since I had nothing to hide.  It really didn't bother me much ...I don't know if it was because at that time I was in the hair business, or what.

What about you ladies...have any of the mentioned above happened to you...or have you seen some beautiful hair styles ...and wanted to approach the person? 

As for myself ....if I see a beautiful natural or even non natural ...I will often make a compliment with a warm smile and keep it moving ...but, that's as far as I will go.  never ,  asking to touch and or stare.  I am always going to be in love with hair's like second nature , for me ( smiles). 



ChocolateOrchid said...

Hmmm. Having someone touch my hair has never bothered me either, as long as they ask.

And yes, I always compliment a beautiful hair.

zainab1 said...

@ChocolateOrchid...Yes, I will compliment beautiful hair as well, I cant help it ( lol)

Thanks so much for stopping by CO, TAKE CARE.