Overcoming the stereotypes of hairstyle and hair colour

CHANGING one’s hair colour as a Guyanese girl or boy can be either great or unpleasant. The same can be said for certain hairstyles as well. People will either absolutely love your hair or they’ll frown and make judgements. Some people will applaud you for your sense of style, while others will not because they think otherwise.

There’s simply no in-between. What I can say is that I’ve watched my mom (a hairstylist) style/colour hair ever since I was a little girl. With that in mind, I found that hair can be expressive—if you want it to be. It can be so many things for both men and women. For Afro-Guyanese, natural hair can symbolise freedom and courage. For Indo-Guyanese, long hair might be a symbol of tradition and patience. For an artist, hair might be a canvas to express one’s creativity. For the Rastafarians, dreadlocks can symbolise strength.

Personally, my hair has been a tool of expression. My “blonde” phase is my period of regrowth after tremendous loss. My “redhead” phase in 2018 was my revenge period. My green hair phase was my experimentation period. I’m writing this article to reassure you that not every human being who colours his/her hair a different colour than their natural one is a broken, low-esteemed individual. You can use makeup and colour your hair and still love yourself. Makeup, hair colouring, and styling-beauty care are more than what meets the eye. It’s not always about splashing colors on or keeping up with the trends. Sometimes, it is a genuine tool of self-expression, creativity, and even emotion channelling. You may not use your hair, face, or body as a way to express your art or emotions, but that doesn’t mean other people don’t or can’t.

I think most negativity surrounding hair colour changes or “misfit” hairstyles is the misconception surrounding this entire topic. One old but the helpful phrase I’ve heard many times before is that we should never judge a book by its cover. It’s an important conversation we need to have at all levels as this misconception is deep-rooted in stereotypes and even discriminatory attitudes towards people based on how they may choose to style their hair. I must commend the Ministry of Education for its efforts toward having this conversation in schools. Instead of a child being turned away from their classroom, an open dialogue between teachers and the parents can occur instead to discuss the way forward. I’m encouraging those of you reading this to join in on the discussions as well in your community. While I do acknowledge the fact that for certain venues and events, hair must be “appropriately styled”—I think it’s about time we reconsider what appropriate means for everyone. Your definition of the word appropriate might not work for the person next to you with a different background and hair type. As I’ve said before, styling one’s hair and even one’s entire physical appearance goes beyond what meets the eyes sometimes.

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