Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
An afro, sometimes shortened to 'fro, is a hairstyle in which the hair extends out from the head like a halo, or cloud. Some people wear their afros long, to several times the diameter of the head. An afro can be very difficult to maintain, requiring tight curls and often, but not always, coarse hair, which typically only people of indigenous African descent naturally have. Virtually anyone can get an afro, however, by using curling tongs and hair gel. With naturally kinky hair, the spiralling, tightly coiled curls can be straightened out somewhat, giving the hair added volume and length, by first braiding the hair, then separating the coils using an afro pick. The afro pick is an adaptation of a traditional African grooming instrument, which is essentially a narrow comb with long, widely spaced teeth.
In 1963, when most African American women were loath to be seen in public with unstraightened hair, actor Cicely Tyson sported cornrows or a "TWA" (a "teeny, weeny afro") in the popular network television series East Side, West Side. The afro, or "natural," gained popularity during the 1960s and 1970s, in connection with the growth of the Black Pride and Black Power movements. The style was a repudiation of the use of hair straigteners to mimic the straightness of Caucasian hair. With African Americans, afros were considered a proclamation of "Black is Beautiful!" a popular slogan of the time. They became symbols of race pride; progressive, often leftist political leanings; and militancy. However, during the later half of the 1970s, the style passed into the cultural mainstream and for many people became simply a fashion.
Afros enjoyed somewhat of a resurgence in the early 2000s, and have remained popular with many African Americans who continue to wear them as an affirmation of the natural beauty of African people, a rejection of European aesthetics and a symbol of political consciousness. Others, including members of other ethnic groups, wear the style simply as an edgy or retro fashion.
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