Black History: 8 Inspirational Black Hairstyles From Different Eras

Black History: 8 Inspirational Hairstyles from Different Eras

Black hair is beautiful. It is and always has been. In honor of Black History month, let’s take a look at how black hair has evolved over the last three centuries. Here are 8 inspirational hairstyles from different eras.

1.The 1860’s Natural Look.

The 1860's Natural Look

Source: Women In History

In this significant decade, slavery was abolished throughout the entire United States. The 14th Amendment to the Constitution in January 1865 meant freedom and equality for just under four million slaves.

Pictures from this decade depict both free and enslaved Black women wearing natural hairstyles. These hairstyles ranged from a simple, uncombed look, to the incorporation of a basic scarf around braids or buns.


2.The 1880’s Experimentation Stage.

Here we begin to see the use of hair remedies among Black women. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the first hair products used were all made of organic ingredients.

Black women of the 1880s used homemade concoctions to improve the look of their natural hair, ultimately trying to achieve straighter hair. These mixtures included oils, soap, and even goose fat!

3. The Early 1900’s Straight Hair Craze

The Hot Comb


By the start of the 1900s, straight hair was all the rage. African American inventors and entrepreneurs began creating and consequently, straightening products hit the market.

The creation of relaxing products, as well as the first straightening comb (AKA the “hot comb”), is attributed to Annie Turnbo Malone. In addition, Garrett A.Morgan discovered a hair straightening chemical in 1909 while working on one of his other inventions- the sewing machine.

4. The Roaring 1920’s

Eunice Hunton Carter in the 1930's

Source: Pinterest

The invention of hair straighteners made it possible for Black women to don the popular styles of the Roaring 20s. These styles included the finger wave and the bob that renowned entertainer Josephine Baker made famous.

5. The 1960’s Transition: Imitation to Tradition

Angela Davis in an afro


Two completely different styles popped up in this decade. Initially, wigs became the ultimate hair accessory. Artificial hairpieces provided women with more versatility and a much wider variety of style options.

But later, as the Civil Rights Movement reached its height, Black women and men began to embrace hairstyles that traced back to their African roots. These styles included afros and cornrows, which are recorded in African history as far back as 500 B.C. 

6. The 1980’s California Curl.

Picture of Patrice Rushen in braids

Source: Getty Images

In the bright and bold 1980s, curls came into the scene. A couple variations of curls that became popular are the “Jheri Curl” and the “S Curl.” The Jheri Curl was a perm that created a loosely curled look. The similar S Curl created the look of more natural waves.  

In addition to the curly hair trend, women became interested in finding ways to extend their hair. Enter the braids and micro-braids! These styles provided a way for women to not only have longer hair, but they also reduced maintenance.

7. The 1990’s Weaves, Extensions, and Dreads- Oh My!

Lauryn Hill in dreadlocks


Women’s preoccupation with long and luscious locks only increased in the 1990s. As a result, weaves and extensions became mainstream. They weren’t exactly a “new” fad though, as they had long been available in the film industry and can likely be traced back to African cultures in 500 B.C.

Another ancient African style that also became more common in this era is dreadlocks. Dreadlocks, AKA “dreads,” were adopted in the Caribbean by Rastafarians. They began making their way to the U.S. because of Bob Marley’s increased popularity.

The 1990s also saw the launch of the Design Essentials hair care system, that has revolutionized African-American hair care.  

8. The 2000’s Anything Goes Movement

Girl in natural waves


Today anything goes! Wigs, weaves, bobs, afros, curls, and straight styles are all still being worn. Hair care products abound in the 21st century, but it’s essential to only use those products that will provide you with both beautiful and healthy hair.

During this significant month of remembering and celebrating Black History, enjoy the personal freedom to choose whatever style your heart desires and wear it wherever you want!

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