H&M is in the news again, this time for featuring a young black girl wearing a sweatshirt. No, her sweatshirt didn’t advertise that she was the “Coolest Monkey in the Jungle,” like an unfortunate incident the fast fashion brand apologized for in January of last year:
This time around, the internet has focused its outrage on a young girl sporting a benign looking floral printed sweatshirt. The issue? Her hairstyle–or lack thereof. Her crown appears to be unkempt, without even the courtesy of a brush smoothing out her kinky ponytail.
While many weighed in, hairstylist Vernon Francois, who coiffes the coils of A-listers like Lupita Nyong’o for red carpet events, had the most pronounced point of view that pretty much summed up everyone’s angst.
He wrote, “This beautiful young girl’s #kinky hair appears to have had very little to no attention yet all of her counterparts have clearly sat in front of someone who was more than capable of styling other hair textures. My heart breaks imagining yet another girl from my community sitting in front of a mirror being ignored by the team around her, left to her own devices because someone didn’t know how to handle her texture. It’s breathtaking to me that not one person looked at this shot and had the same reaction that the internet seems to be feeling since the campaign broke. THAT IS AN ISSUE. We must do better. Our girls, our young women deserve better. “
I can definitely see Vernon’s point of view and I do agree that one should be groomed when doing a photo shoot for a major fashion brand. But, it seems the shoot called for “Messy Hair” for all girls. Should the girl with kinky hair be exempt when it comes to the ‘unkempt’ look?
People of African descent in America frequently adhere to the ‘politics of respectability,‘ which is a term coined by Professor Evelyn Higginbotham which refers to minorities , “distanc[ing] [themselves] from the stereotypical and disrespected aspects of their communities and adhering to hegemonic standards of what it means to be respectable.” At a time when we were thought to be 3/5ths of a human, select members of our community (mainly upperclass) overcompensated in order to prove their full humanity. That meant always being pristinely put together–clothes always super clean, hair styled, and always wearing the best. A hair left in its natural state or out of place meant we were subhuman; so many made pains to reflect the exact opposite.
This behavior is still pronounced in our community. Even to this day, black women in particular know (and feel) that they have to be 10 times better than their fairer skinned counterparts in order to get ‘respect.’ Not only do they feel that way, but they also know their community will ridicule them if they are not ON POINT. I can’t even think of how many times Fashion Bomb Daily readers have looked at what, at the surface, seems like a fine photo, only to point out someone’s ashy ankle, or some other minute detail. We hold ourselves and everyone in our community to a sometimes ridiculously high standard.
In the case of this young girl, and in the context of the photo shoot: why can’t she be free to be who she is, even in her ‘imperfection’? What is so truly wrong if her hair is uncombed? They are all children, styled in similar ways. Are we going to continue to pass on this false narrative that one has to do and be ten times more ‘put together’ in order to be accepted and respected–and on an equal playing field with her peers?
What do you think?