Nigerian Youths are Letting Their Hair Do the Talking

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The average Nigerian youth, grew up with certain hairstyles drilled into their head as taboo. The “only bad boys do dreadlocks”, “coloured attachment is for wayward girls”, “responsible men don’t grow their hair long” kind of talk. There were frightening tales too. Like the one about marine spirits just waiting for you to buy that synthetic hair wig, so that they can use it to manipulate you and ruin your life. Well, look how far we’ve come from that. Today, most of us have broken free of those limiting views and are gradually changing the narrative one hairstyle at a time.

On social media and in real life, you can find people with hairstyles that would have been nearly unthinkable just a few years ago. Right now, it seems like one of the criteria for being creative is having dreadlocks. Even the tech bros rock their locks proudly. Now more than ever, we can find more girls on buzzcuts and boys with long and/or braided hair. Then what about coloured hair? From extensions to straight on dyeing, young Nigerians are making statements with their hair colour.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that things have changed in terms of the general progressiveness of Nigerians. Every other day, young Nigerians have to contend with the powers that be, for the freedom to wear their hair however they please. These powers come in the form of people-pleasing parents, police profiling, religious reformers and your friendly neighbour. Take the recent #endsars protests as a superior example of what the youth is up against: a whole government machinery. Damn.

However, this is precisely what makes it all rebellious and exciting and beautiful. Despite the, sometimes life-threatening, difficulties, many have chosen to defy and subvert the system. What might be simply a style choice can become a political statement in our current climate. Wearing your hair a certain way can be a personal form of resistance against conforming to the status quo. These days, individuality is highly valued amongst the youth. While the demerits of that exist, it does propel a lot of young people to push the bounds of self-expression and hair is only one out of the many ways of doing that.

Now, there are those who consciously decide to wear their hair in specific ways to make a political and cultural statement. Times have changed and as a country, we have so much work to do to get ourselves to this century. The government and police need to realize that certain hairstyles are not particular to certain types of people. Others, that is, those concerned with morality, need to understand that your haircut is definitely not a reflection of your moral convictions or the state of your soul.

Even academia in Nigeria is guilty of profiling people who stand out for these reasons. We often hear stories of those who have faced hostility from their lecturers because they look “irresponsible”. Some have been downright asked to cut their hair or change their hairstyles before they are attended to. Well, sorry to these lecturers because when most universities resume physically, there’ll be more of these.

It is also great to see how hair is being used as a means of breaking gender stereotypes. Definitely, this isn’t widespread yet and probably has the worst reception. However, there are more people pushing the limits of what can be done. You’ll find boys with big afros and properly laid edges, and girls rocking undercuts. Some, if not all, of these things, aren’t new but they’re now more popular.

Not to be a soothsayer, but we’ll be seeing more and more “crazy” hairstyles as we progress. For young people, this is a way to send a message to all those who choose to prey on them for being different. No one is going to back down. Already, using social media as a viewpoint, there is an increase in explorations of this kind. People are taking bold steps and trying new things with their hair. Whether or not they’re doing this to make a political or cultural statement, it’s still saying something and we hope those who need to are listening.


photo credit for featured image: @six5eight on Twitter


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