Good hair

How much money do you spend on your hair? If you’re a guy, do you cut it yourself? If you’re a woman, do you go to Supercuts? Or a fancy stylist? Is there a real difference between a $40 haircut and a $400 haircut?

How about color? Do you spend money getting the gray out? Or putting the lighter streaks in? Do you do it yourself, or go to a salon?

I just finished watching “Good Hair,” Chris Rock’s documentary about black women’s hair. Turns out, all those weaves that women get cost about $1000 a pop. The most expensive run up to $5000. And after spending that loot to get your weave, you’ve got to go in once a week to get it washed, and every six weeks to get it tightened. It’s an expensive proposition, but apparently wearing one’s hair “natural” can be an impediment to getting hired or holding a job. Straight hair is in.

And most of that straight hair comes from one place: India. There’s a particular temple where Indian women go to get their hair shorn for religious reasons. The temple then sells the hair to dealers, who wash it, comb out the nits, make weaves out it it, and export it to America. Have you ever seen tumbleweeds of hair extensions / weaves rolling down the street? Chances are, that hair grew out of the head of a woman half a world away.

I never really thought about the time and expense of getting hair straightened or buying a weave. But I don’t think I’ll look at black women in quite the same way now. It seems kinda sad that the current fashion dictates a style that’s so cumbersome, expensive and sometimes painful to get (the film’s section on hair relaxers is especially illuminating: those relaxers burn through aluminum cans in a matter of hours).


I never felt so lucky to have wash-n-wear hair.

12 responses to “Good hair”

  1. Clippered it myself for over a decade, occasionally going to a cheap barber because it’s hard to get the back of your neck. I loved paying maybe $40 a year and I loved the feeling of clippering it all off. Identified with it even in some way, would say to other guys who clippered their hair “what guard?” as if we had some kind of idiotic insider thing. (I used a 3 or maybe a 2 if I wanted to feel tough.) Later became ambivalent, afraid the clippered look might make me look like a snapping turtle. In the summer it’s impossible to resist, though.

    p.s. this documentary looks entertaining.

  2. Ivy says:

    When I had super short hair, I had to get it done by a person with you know, skill. But I always used to do any colour myself. The alternative seemed like a fantastical gyp. Then I got paranoid about chemicals, so stopped. Then not having hair started to make me sad. So now it is halfway down my back and either my mother or a friend (who has skills, too) cut it for a bottle of vino in the case of the latter, or free in the case of the former. This pleases me. So does having hair, even though my hair can only be described as ‘hair colour’ and in the matter of texture, ‘undecided’. Not interesting then, but still tactile (and in my uninsulated, wintery house (we prefer to camp, here in the Southern Hemisphere, unlike you sensible people up north) a convenient warmer).

    I think of hair as not being a moral choice, but perhaps here it might be.

  3. trixie says:

    Here in Philly we call those wads of hair blowing down the street tumbleweaves. They are kind of everywhere…

  4. LP says:

    My mom trimmed my hair a few times when I was a kid, but after a while I had to insist she stop, as it was always “whoops – let me even it out!” until my “trim” had cut off half my hair. I learned nothing from this, though, as I cut my own hair throughout college, with predictably mortifying results. I cut my own mullet! Wow.

    Now, I go to a nice place in the Valley, recommended by RB, who knows better about these things.

  5. Josh K-sky says:

    Help me set the scene in your frozen lair
    Tell me again what constitutes good hair
    And tell me how the guns and buns unbraided your deep dread of reason
    in Comikbuchland

    All those tears behind your tidal wave
    Do you ever tire of the tightrope wire dance over Melrose Place
    At the bottom of Berlin I learned to screen my sins
    by listening to Paul Hindemith in Comikbuchland

    My haircut just went up to $45. I am a man and I find that startling. But I continue. Athena knows how my head works.

  6. Dave says:

    I pay $40 plus a $10 tip for a good haircut, $15 plus $5 for an unpredictable haircut. Buzzing it all off is a constant temptation, but a buzz cut plus beard makes my head look like a potato.

  7. Astor Place Haircutters always seemed to me like a reliably good haircut for $10 + tip. I think their price is a little higher now though, and the $10 was for the simplest sort of haircut — I think you can pay as much as $25 there depending on what you want done. Alas now that I live out in the ‘burbs haircuts are more expensive, usually about $20. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten a bad haircut, but I’m also not picky.

  8. J-Man says:

    I have long straight hair, which Tim trims for me about once every six months. At one point in my life I had a buzz cut, which I would cut myself. Trust me when I tell you that it wasn’t pretty. There was a stage in my life when I had my hair layered, but I think the most I ever paid was $55. My motto is just leave it alone and brush it once in a while. I tend to get a lot of compliments on my hair, which is quite nice. Ironically though, I have afro envy. I wish there wasn’t all that pressure on black women to put all that shit in their hair – I think natural hair is the most beautiful look.

  9. Dave says:

    Astor Place is my unreliable $15. I need to settle on one person, but then I’d have to make appointments, which just seems like too much for that place. Also, most of the haircutters there these days are from the former Soviet Union, and that brings back PTSD from Ukrainian haircuts.

  10. I first learned of Astor Place from a children’s book Ellen wrote called “Haircuts Through the Ages”.

  11. Also: no. I regard my grey as a badge of…something. When I saw my dad the other day he said “you’re looking a little more distinguished than last time we saw you.” I started to respond in what I judged to be a comically distressed manner and then I realized exactly how much I don’ t mind having some grey and said “I’m almost 37. I think I’ve earned it.”