HARTFORD, Conn. — Walking into Joy’s Hair Repair Salon in Hartford, it’s all about embracing the beauty and the roots of black hair culture.
Owner Joy Watkins Jones has been in the business for more than three decades and she has seen first-hand the evolution and acceptance by the Black and brown communities of natural hair.
"I encourage my customers to embrace their hair, and I make sure I specialize in it," she told FOX61 News. “Just embrace who we are. This is our culture.”
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For decades, the idea of natural hair was frown upon and thought of as unacceptable because it was considered by the beauty and haircare industries – and society in general – as being unkempt and unprofessional.
“Back then, my hair was unacceptable," said Lebert Fitzgerald Lester II, of It's a Gee Thang in Hartford. "I can't go into corporate America; I can't go into a job interview with that hairstyle because my hair is unacceptable to society.”
Through social media, the rise of television shows featuring prominent Black and brown stories, and laws like the Crown Act in the books, the perception of natural hair has drastically changed. Stylists believe the trajectory is motivating younger generations to embrace their roots and crown, no matter what they look like.
"They see themselves in the light of positivity," said Lester. "They see themselves looking beautiful; they see themselves looking handsome. They see themselves looking in an admirable state."
With the new representation and acceptance comes new dos and trends.
Jones said she sees more protective styles, including two-strand twist, rod sets, and box braids.
At the same time, Lester sees more hair installments, afros, textured hair with line ups, and unique designs.
Both said they see an increase in dread locs, faux locs, and confidence.
Vincent Hooks, who was getting his hair done at It’s a Gee Thang, said he has also noticed an uptick in people embracing their hair.
"Today, you could have locs, you could have if you still desire curls, you know you could have any kind of style you could desire today, and it's acceptable," said Hooks.
Tamara Clennon-Brown has showcased her natural hair her entire life and said it's great to see representation and acceptance in the natural hair community finally.
"I feel happy knowing that I'm a part of that group, group of black people that are being shown and being represented," said Brown. "It makes me feel excited."
Because of the representation, she said she doesn't just feel seen, but she feels accepted.
"Sometimes I'm walking and whipping," said Brown as she flung her hair. "I'm just happy when I wear my natural hair."
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