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What’s Your Hair Style For The Year?

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Image: Nigerian Hairstyles




The hair is an emotive part of a person’s beauty. Hair-dos, like clothing, are a very interesting aspect of the fashion industry. Each day comes with a new style. NICK UDENTA examines the various hairstyles and reasons for their popularity.

Men  and women, boys and girls and even infants yearn for particular hairstyles. In the past in Nigeria, like in most other parts of Africa, men were generally known to grow short hairs while women wore long adorned hairs.

However, many school age girls got their hair cut very short like boys. This was probably the easiest way for them and their parents to deal with their hair at that age given the high cost of maintaining the hair.

These days, both men and women engage in the same hairdo such as hair bleaching, braiding, dyeing, colouring, cutting, dressing, steaming, weaving, retouching, relaxing, fixing, shaving, shampooing, conditioning, tinting, spraying, tonguing, bonding and others. Both genders commit huge resources to all types of creams and plants extracts like aloe vera to keep their hairs in the needed shapes and forms. Clips, bands, nets, beads, brushes, combs, caps, scarves, hats and ties of all shapes and sizes are used to make the hair more manageable, compact and attractive.

Hair-do is also associated with the trend of events in the society. At the nation’s Independence and up to the years of the oil boom and during the Festival of Black and African Arts and Culture (FESTAC), Nigerian men shone with their long and dense Afro hair styles while the women made heads turn with hair-dos like Ojo n p’eti, Suuku, Patewo, Panumo, Aja n loso and Koroba, most of which are plaited weekly at the local Onidiri in Yorubaland while ukwu ose, isi owu ogologo, basket, tomato, Calabar and isi aka were popular in Igboland often plaited with thread, locally called owu isi. In Hausa land, hanu biu and cornrows were quite popular. Many of the above mentioned traditional hairstyles have become virtually extinct, victims of Westernisation.

A Diasporan of Yoruba descent recently shared his feelings and passion for the African hair as he noted that it was here, in Nigeria, that he had his first memories of African hair. Hair styles such as plaiting, which Americans call cornrows or French braids and string-wrapped hairs, thrilled the Diasporan. He compared the Nigerian hair styles to the American string wrapped hair, or coiled hair, which are exported hair styles, done in a way similar to braiding. He described the African/Black American hair as one of the most versatile types of hair on earth, pointing out that Africans and Black Americans can style their hair in a multitude of ways.

In a place like the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja, just like most parts of the country, women are going for the hair-dos currently in vogue. The hair style can be in the category of either the weave-ons or braids. In the weave-on category there are lace wig, Brazilian hair, Indian hair, Peruvian hair, ordinary weave-on and so on. While the braid category include center pattern, half pattern, Ghana weaving, American Ginkoko, tinny braids, twisting, Bob Marley and others.

Today, as gender roles are changing, so are the hair-dos. More women prefer to cut their hairs and wear them short or use artificial hairs to make them look long. Due to the changing roles, women patronise the same barbers as men and are ready to pay more in order to have their hairs cut in a saloon.

According to Mrs Nelly-Margaret Akuchie, a nutritionist and dietician in one of the reputable hospitals in Abuja, wearing a low cut is very convenient. “I save cost because I visit a saloon once in two months and I pay between N150 to N300, depending on the saloon I wish to patronise.  If I patronise a saloon in a big hotel, I may pay as much as N1, 500 but that is rare.”

Among other benefits accruing from wearing low-cuts is the time saved, since much time is often used in dressing long hairs given that most women are choked with duties both at home and in the office. Thus, a lot of stress is avoided as one does not have to leave the house or office to go and queue up and wait endlessly for a hair dresser who may end up doing an unsatisfactory job.

On the hand, Mrs Antonia Udok, a seamstress at Wuse Market, Abuja, says though she wore low-cut during her secondary school days, she has jettisoned that style. She says she was a football player then and so was attuned to wearing a low-cut. Also, being a footballer she was often in the company of boys and that influenced whatever she did. As a mother of two now, Mrs Udok does not give any thought to low-cut anymore. She wears her hair long and in assorted style as the occasion demands.

Also, many women who prefer to wear low-cut explain that it helps them to avoid pains which could come from retouching their hair or weaving it. Nwamaka Ogugua, a seasoned journalist and education consultant, explains that many women who avoid retouching their hairs do so because of the pains and burns accompanying relaxers. She agrees that keeping the hair low makes it healthier and easier to manage. However, she does not wear low-cut because it makes a woman look less feminine. “Of course, low cuts may be more natural and healthier than weave-ons and wigs, but I would rather wear the artificial hair to make me look feminine. With a long hair, I don’t have to wear large ear-rings to prove that I am a female. After all, a lot of men now wear ear-rings,” she says.

One major complaint by women in some parts of Nigeria who wear low haircuts is the discrimination displayed by the barbers. A visit to barbing saloons in Sokoto State metropolis shows that women do not come to cut their hairs in saloons. Umar Zubairu, a barber, whose shop is located along Fodiyo road, explains that culturally, Hausa men do not like their females to cut their hair or wear low-cuts. “How can I stand and begin to touch a woman’s hair, even if she is my wife or sister? Even if she has a mental problem, does she have to cut her hair to be cured?” he queries.  Interestingly, barbers’ attitude to female haircuts in Abuja is different.  Abdulaziz Biu, who runs a barbing saloon in Wuse, Abuja, says he prefers female clients because they pay more. “Although, I don’t get many of them in a day, I’m happy each time they come because they are ready to pay any price you give. My male clients do not require so much. They are satisfied with a little shaving but the women want you to cut and trim and put every hair in it proper place. Actually, it is more challenging to cut a woman’s hair but it is also more rewarding.”

Men, on the other hand, are fast embracing hairdo with attachments and weave-on. Apart from those in the entertainment industry, where hair-do is almost a trademark, a lot of men insist on wearing good hair styles these days. This can mean a whole lot of hairstyles ranging from long, straight, soft and silky, Caucasian-like hair, short, coarse and tightly curled hair, which African Americans call  ‘kinky’ or ‘nappy’ hair. From the pressing combs to the earlier straighteners, permanent relaxers or jerry curls and more recently weaves, men and women everywhere have sought to make their hair more presentable. Explaining, the rationale behind his permed curled oily hair, Dr Ola, a young gynecologist, says he enjoys looking good. “If my patients can look good, why can’t I? I have had my curls and waves for the past 20 years. My hair dressers are women because there are no male stylists where I live. Of course, I’m used to it. I don’t get embarrassed sharing the same saloon with women. I love what I do.”

Today, many Nigerian women and men have their hair chemically processed in some way. The safety of many of the ingredients in many hair products, particularly those marketed to Africans and African Americans, has not been determined. Clearly, this has not stopped the widespread use and sale of these products. For many African women, having ‘manageable’ hair would seem to be more important than the health consequences of using strong chemicals. Also, many Nigerian women have their children’s hair chemically processed from an early age.

The Center of Environmental Oncology in Pittsburgh, United States has studied the links between personal care products and cancer. Their findings show a possible link between the use of personal care products containing estrogen and estrogen-like hormones and the greater incidence of breast cancer in black women under 40, when compared to white women.

One interesting angle to this issue of hair is - what goes into putting the hair-do of an average Nigerian woman in proper shape. While Mrs Okuchie spends N150 to N1,500 to maintain her low-cut, Dr. Mrs Matter  Anuchie, a consultant with the United Nation(UN) spends  N250,000 to N600,000 to wear Brazilian, Indian or Peruvian hair which are the styles she is comfortable with. Mrs Anuchie is, however, quick to point out that these classes of weave-ons she wears, lasts up to four to five years. “So I decide to spend the money once and for all,” she adds.

As the year begins, some people have made one resolution or another. Some may have vowed to look cuter than ever while some may choose to look ordinary. Some may have promised to cut down drastically the amount of money they spend on their hair, considering the fuel subsidy wahala!   Whatever is the case, you have to watchout  because the new  year may have something new for your hair.

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Updated 7 Years ago

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