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Parlour’s Best Of 2011!: Natural Black Hair Isn’t So Natural In Berlin

Since we’re on a mental and physical vacation this week — I’m in Connecticut, Shannon’s in New Jersey, then London and Paris, and Sherry’s in Adele’s favorite city — we’re serving up Parlour’s Best of 2011! Each day this week, you’ll get a chance to reminisce on what made us all laugh, cry and suck our teeth during the last 12 months. I dug up a few of our faves! Ready?

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And you thought getting your hair done in America or Europe was bad. Try Germany. Our fabulous columnist Nicole broke honest about local Berliners and their reactions to her natural and started a bit of a therapy session on our beloved Parlour. Perfection. Read the rest

Generally speaking, Afro-Europeans see my natural hair as something that needs to be fixed with perm or covered up with a wig and this kind of thinking frustrates me. Living in Berlin I can honestly say that I miss seeing women wear two strand twists, afro puffs and dreadlocks. Apart from the occasional American tourist, black women in Europe typically rock straight hair, weaves and extensions. I imagine the pressure for a women of color to appeal to the European standard of beauty must be stifling in Germany. Ironically, that pressure doesn’t come directly from the Germans themselves but from other Afro-Europeans.

I experienced similar peer pressure in America when I went natural ten years ago. The most vocal critics of my decision were my black family members, colleagues and friends. The naysayers took their own insecurities and misconceptions about natural hair and tried to pass them off as the overall perception of the dominant culture. I see the same behavior here in Germany but even more so, as if to wear your hair in its natural state is an indicator of being “too black to handle” or unwilling to conform to the German way of life.

Read the rest of Parlour’s Best of 2011 post here!

Last 5 posts by Hillary Crosley

  • Funny, but your experience in Berlin is totally contrary to my experience farther west in the same country. I have been natural for more than 25 yrs. and while my visits back to the States were often like running a gauntlet (incl. an uncle shouting to me across a hotel lobby at a family reunion to ask when I was going to stop running around looking like “Topsy”), my natural hair – whether ‘fro or twists or locs or Bantu knots – was most often greeted in my part of Germany with curiosity, approval and wonder. And never in my job as a European ad exec was I given the feeling that the hair God gave me was anything less than suitable for a professional image.

    Admittedly, until recently many Afro-European women (brought up as they often were by white grand-/mothers) hadn’t mastered the ABC’s of ethnic haircare – and many African-born women routinely resort to wigs and fake braids and extensions – but those sisters who are natural “own it” with a lot less obsession with the whole artificial “I got my hair did” stance that many American sisters are still so frantic to achieve.

  • Funny, but your experience in Berlin is totally contrary to my experience farther west in the same country. I have been natural for more than 25 yrs. and while my visits back to the States were often like running a gauntlet (incl. an uncle shouting to me across a hotel lobby at a family reunion to ask when I was going to stop running around looking like “Topsy”), my natural hair – whether ‘fro or twists or locs or Bantu knots – was most often greeted in my part of Germany with curiosity, approval and wonder. And never in my job as a European ad exec was I given the feeling that the hair God gave me was anything less than suitable for a professional image.

    Admittedly, until recently many Afro-European women (brought up as they often were by white grand-/mothers) hadn’t mastered the ABC’s of ethnic haircare – and many African-born women routinely resort to wigs and fake braids and extensions – but those sisters who are natural “own it” with a lot less obsession with the whole artificial “I got my hair did” stance that many American sisters are still so frantic to achieve.