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Black Voices Atlanta Spotlight: Exploring 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 beauty convention is most well-known.
As over-the-top as the styles at Bronner Bros. usually are, Derek J. of The true 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, known 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, then it could 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 starting to do color now because they were so frightened of color. Also, just trying new things, like cutting your hair.”
In response to 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 facility 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 brand new York-born, Detroit-raised hairpreneur, who has over a dozen locations in Georgia, Illinois, Michigan and New Jersey in less than five years. Jennifer Williams from Basketball Wives is even featured on their website.
Explaining the allure of the weave human hair afro wigs 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” as well as “versatile.”
Affordability, says Saunderson, who initially moved to Atlanta to pursue a music career, also factors big in Atlanta’s rise because the nation’s weave capital. Saunderson also says, “it’s Black Hollywood here in Atlanta” and “that alone draws people to want to get it done.”
Fall trends for weaves, in line with 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 type of wet it and go,” she says. But, in Atlanta, long hair still rules. “With this being Black Hollywood, we service numerous models and actresses and lots of them do have long weaves,” Saunderson explains.
Natural styles have also found a house in Atlanta. A lot in order that Salon Soy prides itself as the city’s “No.1 Transitional Hair Studio.” Owner Soyini Thwaites, better generally 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’re just in a distinct place in society where everyone seems to be trying to be healthier . . . now we have an enormous movement towards people eager to get rid of 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 just go ahead and instantly transition they usually feel like I want to do a big chop . . . and then you definitely have 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 give 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 today. But, in the end, the way a woman wears her hair truly relies on her.
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