hair, African American or Black

When describing a person’s hair in news stories, ask what style the hair is, don’t assume. Black hair comes in a variety of styles and textures. A few include:

  • afro – Characterized by or being a style of tight curls in a full evenly rounded shape.
  • bald, shaved – Not synonymous. A bald person has naturally lost some or all of his or hair. A person with a shaved head chose to have his or her hair close to the scalp or completely off, replicating the bald look.
  • braids – Traditional style worn by many African-American girls in which hair is sectioned into parts and then, in each part, three or more strands of hair are intertwined. Also known as plaits.
  • cornrows – Braiding technique close to the head and also known as French braids.
  • dreadlocks, dreds or locks [sometimes spelled locs or loks] – Long, uncombed, twisted or matted locks of hair, a style worn originally by Rastafarians.
  • extensions – Human or synthetic hair used to make a person’s existing hair longer. Often used with braiding.
  • Jheri curl – Chemically treated curly hair resembling Shirley Temple-like tresses. Other names were California curl, S-curl, carefree curl and luster curl. Jheri Redding, a Chicago-based entrepreneur and stylist, created the style in the late 1970s, then produced his own line of hair-care products.
  • twists – Style in which hair is sectioned into parts and then, in each part, strands of hair are twirled.
  • weave – Synthetic or human hair added to existing hair or scalp to give one the appearance of a fuller head of hair.
[According to 100 Questions & Answers About African Americans, at certain times in history, Black hairstyles “have been very political. People might wear their hair to suit their style sense, personality, history, comfort or convenience. Some people change their hair often. Black hairstyles have creative varieties from natural to straightened to curled and different kinds of braids. Black hair can be long or short, elaborate or shaved, and worn up or down. It can incorporate weaves, extensions and beads. Some people use questions about hair to open up larger conversations and get to know more about the person.”

For more information see the video “Five Questions About Black Hair.”]

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 REFERENCE: NABJ Style Guide
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