February 2nd, 2010
Beauty, Black History Month, Just Because
Black History Beauty Trend: The Jheri Curl
By The Fashion Bomb Staff

Did you know that the Jheri Curl, worn so proudly by the Jacksons, Ice Cube, and your crazy aunties and uncles, was invented by the son of Irish immigrants? Yep–’the curl’ was made by a white man!

Born as Robert William Redding in Rantoul, Illinois in 1907, Redding’s interest in the beauty industry began during the Great Depression when he realized that hair stylists and makeup artists had the best paying jobs (even in the midst of great poverty, folks were still getting their hair did–heyyyy). As a young man, he taught chemistry and worked as a hair stylist eventually becoming one of the first men to get a cosmetology license. When the products he was using did not meet his expectations, he began experimenting with chemicals and mixed them with household items like mayonnaise and vinegar to create his own shampoos. Later on, it was Redding who brought the pH balance factor in when it came to shampoos and invented the first creme rinse conditioner. He also started hair companies Redken, Nexxus, Jheri Redding Products Company, and Jhirmack some of which are now owned by other brands.

While permanent waving had been a popular technique since about 1872 when Marcel Grateau developed a tool that would curl the hair, it was widely done on clients with straight hair. It was Jheri Redding who first started to experiment with permanent waving on excessively curly hair using small toothpicks for rolling the hair. And thus the Jheri Curl was born and every pillow in African American households around the United States became saturated with the juice.


A jheri curl was a two-part application that consisted of a softener (often called a “rearranging cream”) to loosen the hair and a solution to set the curls. The rearranging cream used pungent chemicals, causing the naturally tight curls to loosen and hang. The loose hair was then set on perm rods and a chemical solution was then added to the hair to permanently curl it.

Perming the hair was time and labor-intensive and expensive to upkeep. The harsh mix of chemicals required for the process caused the wearer’s natural hair to become extremely brittle and dry.

To maintain the look of the jheri curl, users were required to apply activator and heavy moisturizers daily and to sleep with a plastic cap on their heads to keep the hairstyle from drying out. These products were relatively expensive (a typical bottle of activator was small, retailed anywhere from $3 to $6, and was quickly depleted.) The activator in particular had the undesirable side effect of being very greasy; this would often stain clothing and anything that came into contact with it.

Washing the hair cleansed it of the styling products but also exposed the damage done to the hair by the chemical process. Also, as the hair grew out, the wearer would be forced to return to the hair salon for a touch-up, further adding to the overall expense. The hairstyle went out of fashion by the mid 1980′s and was replaced in part with the hi-top fade haircut.

Sources say the Jheri Curl was out of style by the mid-1980s, but we all remember that classmate or neighbor who lit up rooms with the aroma of their curl well into 1995 and beyond. But the Jheri Curl did have a good run while it lasted. Who can forget iconic curl wearers like Ashford & Simpson, Rick James, Eriq LaSalle, Easy-E, the family that owned fictional company ‘Soul Glo’, and the curl of all curls worn by the late, great, legendary Michael Jackson.


What are your fondest memories of the Jheri Curl?

Source, Source, Source, Source, Source, & Source

~Danielle
*Just for fun:

Soul Glo Commercial

Randy Watson, Sexual Chocolate

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48 Responses to “Black History Beauty Trend: The Jheri Curl”

  1. ak says:

    “Because the greattttest love of alll… woo that boy can sang!”, sorry could’nt resist.

    Wow I use to beg to get a Jheri curl, especially because of Mj, my older sister had one, all I can say it was alot of work, alot of products and alot of jheri juice to clean up, but hey I guess you gotta let your soul glo!!!

  2. themisses says:

    Lol, take this one for black history! Great post and so many long lost forgotten and hidden memories were resurrected while reading it! I had one in the third and fourth grade. I sure remember those grease stains on the pillows and collars of my shirts…eew. LMAO

  3. Now this is educational. Thank you for an original topic in black history.

  4. endESQ says:

    I loved this post!

  5. sun.kissed says:

    You learn something new everyday! Great post!

  6. diane says:

    michael looked so good with his jheri curl

  7. Cleveland Cutie says:

    Great post! My aunt had one and I still remember that smell and the collars of her shirts always being dingy (sp?). hahaha! oh my goodness! I’m glad she only had it for a year or two! (C:

  8. AJ says:

    My curl was laid to the max; I got buku compliments. MJ had nothing on me. My stylist was the bomb. Still admire the photos I’m in back in the day.

  9. [...] final note: Curle wanted us to note that his dog is named Jerry, an allusion to jheri curls. Consider it done, James! And thanks very much for the hog and [...]

  10. Anonymous says:

    I remember having a hheri curl in high school and I played basketball and one of the league rules was that you couldn’t have the metal part of the barrett showing so my coach tried to put the white tape on them to cover them up but because my curl was so greasy, the tape wouldn’t stay on!

  11. Mary says:

    HA!! I’ll have one til they don’t make the stuff anymore. My hair won’t grow with anything else. My stylist puts in on those long rods and it comes out in long curls. The products are not greasy and your hair really looks like it is natural curly. Get the right stylist and no one will know! Good post because I remember my first curl. I looked like Buckwheat going formal!!!

  12. [...] the market in products for black consumers—for many it was due to the popularity of the Jheri Curl style (that money dripped long all the way to the bank). Large white-owned companies who previously [...]

  13. [...] dominated the market in products for black consumers—for many it was due to the popularity of the Jheri Curl style (that money (Read more [...]

  14. chris says:

    I want to find out who aj is please respond I want to know your stylist
    My email is cnepuma@yahoo.com

  15. [...] not BIG! I LOVE big thick voluminous curls! I tend to think my own curls fall into the dried up jheri curl category! Not cute! Even though my hair is VERY curly, it is also very fine, which means my curls [...]

  16. Salam, Home-slice says:

    I actually know someone who has the jheri curl nowadays.

  17. [...] Black History Beauty Trend: The Jheri Curl « The Fashion Bomb Blog ///Named after hair products of Jheri Redding. A perm that loosens the curls of a black person’s hair. Typically seen in Michael Jackson impersonators… … buy jheri curl mugs, tshirts and magnets… [...]

  18. [...] At some point, however, IFrames became really uncool, the equivalent of giving your website a jheri curl. Hated even. But now Facebook is using IFrames. So I guess they’re cool [...]

  19. [...] wit da West. No lye. But the “sport ya vest in the West” era got played out like the Jheri Curl, LA Kings and Raiders hats. Unlike the folical products of the late 1980s, Cali is inactive in [...]

  20. [...] chemical hair treatments were banned because of an experience that her father had with “a bad Jehri Curl,” she said. But in college, Walton had a harder time getting to a salon to have her hair [...]

  21. [...] Walton talks about how when she was a child, she wasn’t allowed to wear chemically relaxed hair because her father had a bad experience with the Jheri Curl. [...]

  22. Anonymous says:

    Natural Or Relaxed, For Black Women, Hair Is Not A Settled Matter…

    ATLANTA — All month, Sharee Bryant had been hearing women talk about hair. She’d overheard two women in a grocery store checkout line talking about a $62 shampoo and conditioner combo designed for black women who had decided to forgo chemically strai…

  23. Exactly what I was looking for

  24. Jewel says:

    Most of this is plagiarized from Wikipedia…

  25. Michelle says:

    Great post as Black History is something we all need to know about.

  26. Ahh says:

    Am I the only one who feels that jheris should make a return..? XDD

  27. [...] sequin jumpsuit the late pop star sported in the music video. Worn with matching glitzy boots, a Jheri Curl and infectious smile, Michael’s look was just as eye-dilating as the light beams he danced [...]

  28. [...] sequin jumpsuit a late cocktail star sported in a song video. Worn with relating glitzy boots, a Jheri Curl as well as spreading smile, Michael’s demeanour was only as eye-dilating as a light beams he [...]

  29. [...] sequin jumpsuit the late pop star sported in the music video. Worn with matching glitzy boots, a Jheri Curl and infectious smile, Michael’s look was just as eye-dilating as the light beams he danced [...]

  30. [...] dominated the market in products for Black consumers—for many it was due to the popularity of the Jheri Curl style (that money dripped long all the way to the bank). Large white-owned companies who previously [...]

  31. [...] her uncertain smile, underneath that thrifted wool coat, and ‘supa fly’ Jheri curl mohawk was a young immigrant mother doing what she had to do to [...]

  32. Brian says:

    Verrrry interesting article especially considering who invented this style. But then again, we’d never have great memories of Soul Glo and Sexual Chocolate. (I’m revisiting “In Living Color” which prompted me to look up the subject). Actually most of this was on Wikipedia, but they didn’t have a picture of the creator. Hmm…

  33. [...] giving birth to my hermit and I, she was assured that perms were a approach to go. That is, until a Jheri Curl became renouned in a [...]

  34. [...] adopted, virgin brother to Kenan Thompson and Jay Pharoah. He was just adorable. He even had a Jheri curl. You can’t really be mad at [...]

  35. J. says:

    Guess it’ll have to be Paul Anthony of Full Force Family…he rocked the Jheri curl!

  36. […] the video above, we see Ray sporting the popular ’80s hairstyle to promote an at-home kit called Classy Curl. Her S-shaped ringlets are shiny, bouncy and virtually […]

  37. […] video role, she starred in a Jheri curl hair commercial. In the video above, we see Ray sporting the popular ’80s hairstyle to promote an at-home kit called Classy Curl. Her S-shaped ringlets are shiny, bouncy and virtually […]

  38. […] the video above, we see Ray sporting the popular ’80s hairstyle to promote an at-home kit called Classy Curl. Her S-shaped ringlets are shiny, bouncy and virtually […]

  39. […] the video above, we see Ray sporting the popular ’80s hairstyle to promote an at-home kit called Classy Curl. Her S-shaped ringlets are shiny, bouncy and virtually […]

  40. […] the video above, we see Ray sporting the popular ’80s hairstyle to promote an at-home kit called Classy Curl. Her S-shaped ringlets are shiny, bouncy and virtually […]

  41. […] the video above, we see Ray sporting the popular ’80s hairstyle to promote an at-home kit called Classy Curl. Her S-shaped ringlets are shiny, bouncy and virtually […]

  42. […] the video above, we see Ray sporting the popular ’80s hairstyle to promote an at-home kit called Classy Curl. Her S-shaped ringlets are shiny, bouncy and virtually […]

  43. […] the video above, we see Ray sporting the popular ’80s hairstyle to promote an at-home kit called Classy Curl. Her S-shaped ringlets are shiny, bouncy and virtually […]

  44. […] the video above, we see Ray sporting the popular ’80s hairstyle to promote an at-home kit called Classy Curl. Her S-shaped ringlets are shiny, bouncy and virtually […]

  45. […] the video above, we see Ray sporting the popular ’80s hairstyle to promote an at-home kit called Classy Curl. Her S-shaped ringlets are shiny, bouncy and virtually […]

  46. […] curl music is not necessarily music made by artists sporting the once-trendy hairstyle invented by hairdresser Robert William “Jheri” Redding–though obviously there is […]

  47. […] curl music is not necessarily music made by artists sporting the once-trendy hairstyle invented by hairdresser Robert William “Jheri” Redding–though obviously there is […]

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