Hairdressers – or mainstream hairdressers, as I have now been taught to call them – are not trained in cutting and styling curly hair. This won’t be news to any of my curly sisters reading this. We’re exhausted of stylists blow drying our hair straight, only to use curling irons to add curls back to our naturally curly hair. We’re tired of the endless “Wow, your hair is really thick” or “There’s a lot of it, isn’t there?”, as though we’d never stopped to notice our own tresses. Which is how I came to spend three hours sitting in a chair while a trainee curly hair specialist did her very first haircut.
A few weeks later, having let the cut settle, and washed and styled it myself a fair few times, I can say without doubt that I won’t be getting another curly cut.
I had a niggling doubt as I scrolled through the salon’s Instagram shots. Every person had different curly styles in their ‘before’ photos, and each had the exact same cut – without exception – in their ‘after’ photos.
Don’t get me wrong, this cut looks great on some women. Let’s put it plainly; it looks great on Black women, with beautiful Afro texture. It reminds me of the times, as a child, when I begged my Caribbean childminder to give me tight plaits like her own kids, which were a total failure. My hair texture was not, and is not, the same as Black women’s.
Having hair up around my head is also just not the look I’m after for myself. I want a wavy, relaxed shape, with beachy vibes. (Jane the Virgin is my hair goal.)
On white women, this style reminds me of faded posters on the walls of nineties’ hairdressers – the ones you found in the old department stores like Debenhams and Allders. The curls are tightly coiled, 70’s perm-like.
But, I reasoned, I would explain that I didn’t want that look. I would explain that I need my hair long at the front, so I can tie it back. I would explain that I want it long, and relatively ‘natural’ looking – or at least faux-natural, equivalent to the ‘no make-up make-up’ look.
The start of my haircut featured a lesson on the Curly Girl Method I have been playing with for the last couple of years. It was appropriated from Black women, I was told, and was therefore inappropriate – and potentially unhealthy – for a white woman like me. Never mind that the ‘rezo’ cut that this salon offers, I’ve since learned, is “influenced by African culture” and works best for Afro-style hair. Just take a look at the first page of Google Image results.
As we discussed my hair goals, I emphasised wanting to keep the length, especially at the front. That would create a triangle look, I was told in no uncertain terms. Which does not work for 99% of women. It was highly unlikely that I would be in the 1%, the salon owner told me witheringly. No, the rezo cut provides volume and balance with a face-framing shape. Whether or not I wanted my face framed.
To style and dry my hair, the hairdresser got me to flip my head forward, so I was leaning onto my knees with my head upside down. This was really uncomfortable to hold for the length of time needed. (If this is the way they style curly hair at this salon, how about getting furniture specifically for this method? I can’t be the only person to find this process hard – older, less flexible, overweight or disabled women must find it nigh-on impossible.)
Leaving the salon, my hair looked more like a triangle than ever before. With so much cut off at the front, the curls lost the weight that was creating the long, wavy look I was going for. They now shot up and out at the bottom, creating the exact shape I was told would not suit me. Despite salon products and diligent drying, it felt fluffy and lacking definition.
Usually I try to avoid washing my hair as long as possible after a cut, to keep that salon-fresh feeling. But this time I was desperate to do my at-home wash routine, and see what I could salvage.
The tendrils at the front, which always fell in even ringlets have now all but lost their curl. These front pieces fall straight down, with an annoying outward flick at the bottom. How can a haircut have changed the curl pattern of these pieces?
The two sides are uneven, which in fairness may just be due to my stylist’s inexperience rather than the cutting method. When you pull the hair straight there is about an inch difference on each side (not that this matters, as it’s not straight, my husband pointed out).
The bottom of the hair now feels permanently thick and fluffy – I just can’t get rid of that triangle shape, which, ironically, I didn’t have before.
I’m back to feeling as frustrated with my hair as I was before getting it permanently straightened a few years back. I won’t do that, but I am desperate for it to get a lot longer over (southern hemisphere) summer, so I can grow out this one and get a ‘mainstream’ haircut. One thing’s for sure – I won’t be stepping foot back in that curly salon again.