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Black Voices Atlanta Spotlight: Exploring The town’s ‘Hairstory’ From Weaves To Naturals
From Chris Rock’s Good Hair to Ludacris’s shout-out in “Pimpin’ All around the World,” the Bronner Bros. International Hair Show has put Atlanta at the center of the black hair universe. Launched in 1947 on the Butler YMCA, the Bronner Bros. Hair Show, as it was then known, is now celebrating its 65th anniversary. Jackie Robinson, Dr. King, Janet Jackson and Oprah may have all attended over the years but it’s the zany hairstyles and personalities for which the hair and wonder convention is most well-known.
As over-the-top because the styles at Bronner Bros. usually are, Derek J. of The actual Housewives of Atlanta, Oxygen’s Hair Battle Spectacular and Good Hair fame says, “Atlanta is a trend-follower. They don’t really set trends.”
Still the in-demand stylist, referred to as much for sporting heels as for head-turning hairstyles is hopeful, noting that “now that they’re bringing that whole TV movie situations in, dry and itchy scalp home remedies then it may bring that trend element to Atlanta.”
For the fall, Derek J, who introduced Kandi Burruss to an extended, softer look, is high on color. “I’m just so excited now that black women are beginning to do color now because they were so fearful of color. Also, just trying new things, like cutting your hair.”
Based on the Ohio native, the popularity of weaves has contributed to Atlanta’s newly found tress freedom. Latonya Saunderson, founder of The Weave Shop, where $50 sew-ins rule, knows about the ability of weaves.
“Before I moved to Atlanta [in 2008], I did a wide range of hair but, once i did move, women were coming in back to back [for weaves] so I grew to love doing weaves,” says the new York-born, Detroit-raised hairpreneur, who has over a dozen locations in Georgia, Illinois, Michigan and New Jersey in lower than five years. Jennifer Williams from Basketball Wives is even featured on their website.
Explaining the allure of the weave for Atlanta’s black X chromosome, where it’s so popular that bandits have taken to stealing hair from beauty supply stores, Saunderson, whose salons store hair in vaults, points to weaves as being “fun and beautiful” in addition to “versatile.”
Affordability, says Saunderson, who initially moved to Atlanta to pursue a music career, also factors big in Atlanta’s rise as the nation’s weave capital. Saunderson also says, “it’s Black Hollywood here in Atlanta” and “that alone draws people to wish to get it done.”
Fall trends for weaves, based on Saunderson, point to color, especially on the lower ends of the hair. This summer, Saunderson has noticed that short, curly, wet and wavy weaves have dominated. “People want something convenient where they will just sort of wet it and go,” she says. But, in Atlanta, long hair still rules. “With this being Black Hollywood, we service loads of models and actresses and a variety of dry and itchy scalp home remedies them do have long weaves,” Saunderson explains.
Natural styles have also found a house in Atlanta. So much so that Salon Soy prides itself as the city’s “No.1 Transitional Hair Studio.” Owner Soyini Thwaites, better known as Soy, has been helping women transition from relaxed to natural hair since 1999 when she graduated from cosmetology school.
“At first, it was sort of hard to convince people,” she admits. “But now we are just in a different place in society where everyone seems to be trying to be healthier . . . we’ve got a huge movement towards people eager to eliminate the chemicals.” And Atlanta, says Soy, has been on the forefront of the natural hair movement in the Southeast.
Women transition to natural hair in various ways, in keeping with Soy. “You have some clients that want to only go ahead and instantly transition they usually feel like I need to do a giant chop . . . and then you definately produce other clients that need to do it gradually, where they grow their hair out to a certain length after which transition.”
Those taking the gradual approach can expect to be chemical-free in about six months to a year. Although it’s been popular for women to press out the roots instead of relaxing new growth, Soy doesn’t recommend that. Instead, she suggests styles like coils, twists, braided extensions and weaves even to provide the hair a break from heat as well.
Short, long, straight, curly, weaved, twisted, braided, colored, all the stylists agree that Atlanta is embracing versatility more nowadays. But, in the end, the way a woman wears her hair truly is determined by her.
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