What is an Afro?
The Afro often abbreviated to the ‘fro is derived from the term “African-American,” however, the style dates to the nomads of East Africa’s Somalia. The nomads had a custom of wearing their hair in variable sizes of bushes smoothed out with or without butter depending on their age and marital status.
The hairstyle gained traction in the United States in the 1950s, leading into the 1960s through a small group of women who no longer wanted to feel pressured to conform to straight hair standards. The style later became prominent during the Civil Rights Movement and, more specifically, through the “Black is beautiful” movement in the mid-twentieth century.
For the African American community, wearing an afro in the late 1960s and early 1970s represented a celebration of the black beauty and a rejection of the Eurocentric beauty norms. Today, an afro still represents pride in one’s natural hair texture and heritage within the Black community.
What is an Afro?
An afro is very fluffed out hair that is generally performed on coarser hair textures. During the 1960s, the afro hairstyle began in a relatively tightly coiffed form referred to by the Black press as “close-cropped.” It was a hairstyle worn by a small number of young Black female dancers and jazz singers to express their racial pride.
Progressively, the close-cropped style developed into a large round shape worn by both male and female African Americans. The hairstyle became very popular in the 1960s and early 1970s and had seen some resurgence in the 1990s and the 2000s.
How to Achieve Afros?
The afro style is performed on natural, textured, or kinky type hair. The hairstyle can also be done on other hair types using creams, gels, or other solidifying hair products to hold the hair. The style is achieved by lifting the hair outward, often with a wide-toothed comb called the afro pick or fro comb.
- The first step in creating your dream afro is to prep your hair by washing and conditioning it. You want your hair as clean of any previous product build-up as possible. This will make your hair much more pliable and susceptible to achieving the style. Using products that promote volume is optional but can aid in the overall hairstyle. The Love Beauty and Planet Volumizing shampoo and conditioner is an excellent product for this.
- Next, if you apply a leave-in conditioner or moisturizer directly after washing your hair, you can do so now. However, make sure it is a lightweight product. Stay away from heavy creams and butters as they may weigh down your hair. For an afro, you’ll want your hair to be light and movable. It will help with the afro’s fluffy effect.
- If you prefer to limit heat usage on your hair, you can opt for air-drying your hair. This can be done by leaving your hair loose. To stretch your hair, you can separate your hair into sections and plait those sections to air dry. This might take some time, depending on how thick your hair is. Another option is to go straight in with a blow dryer. When blow-drying, be cautious not to overdo it. You aren’t going for a bone straight blowout. Instead, you want a light and voluminous blowout that doesn’t destroy our hair’s coarseness. If you would like to use a heat protectant before blow-drying, that is fine.
- Now comes the fun part! It’s time to pick out your fro. Take your pick of choice and begin to pick out your afro. The afro comb digs down to the scalp and allows the hair roots to be stretched straight. For a more manageable process, the hair can be divided into sections; however, in the end, you’ll want to pick it all at once to ensure it’s even. You can pick your hair in any way you’d like and as much as you’d like until you reach your desired volume. There is no uniform technique for picking your hair for an afro.
- Once you’re done picking and have reached your desired volume, you can choose to set your hair. For coarser hair textures, this may not be necessary as your hair should keep its form. If you have a looser texture, however, going in with a hairspray (preferably a volumizing one) can help with the hold. Also, if you’d like to go on top of your afro with sheen spray for some shine, now is a great time to do so.
Though there are several variations of an afro, in a traditional afro style, the hair is extended out from the head in a round shape, like a ball or cloud. Afros can take an hour or less to achieve and are very inexpensive if you’re looking for a stylist to do it for you. The style averages $35.
Are Afros Versatile?
Afros are extremely versatile as they are not discriminatory of gender or age. There are just as many afro men out there as there are women and children.
Afros can also be done in several other variations. You can create ponytail puffs that are like your average ponytail, but due to the volume of the afro creates a “puff” appearance. You can add a side or middle part or go the traditional free part route. There are many options for the hairstyle.
My big afro hair routine on 3C/4A natural hair
How Long Do Afros Last?
Afros are quick and easy hairstyles, but they are not long-lasting ones. On average, afros last no longer than three days.
Who Are Afros Suitable For?
Afros are traditionally worn by Black men, women, and children to show pride for their natural hair. Coarser and kinkier hair textures will work best for achieving the hairstyle, but looser textures can also wear the style with holding sprays and products. The style requires minimal manipulation of your scalp, so it is perfectly fine for sensitive scalps.
When to Wear Afros?
Afros can be worn year-round. Be cautious when wearing them in wet areas or weather conditions, as this will ruin the hairstyle.
Pros and Cons
Afros are easy to do and maintain at home. Afros require minimal effort. If you know how to work a pick, you’ll be fine.
Afros are inexpensive hairstyles. They can easily be done at home with minimal products and tools, making the supplies very manageable cost-wise. If you prefer to go to a stylist, it will not be a very costly style to request.
Afros allow Black men, women, and children to embrace their natural hair textures. For some, this may be the biggest pro, and it speaks for itself.
Afros are not a long-lasting hairstyle. If you’re looking for a hairstyle that will last you weeks and months, this style is not suitable. Afros are not meant to last more than a few days.