One thing I’ve noticed that’s an interesting note of cultural differences within America is the gendering of hairstyles. I’ve included variations above of the two-braids hairstyle that, where I come from, is a common male hairstyle.
I’ve included two pictures of Snoop Dogg, who is probably for most people the most famous wearer of this hairstyle in a national/international context. Snoop of course is a bit of a dandy, with the signature long hair that’s obviously pampered and well-cared for. An important note: Snoop is from the LA area, specifically Long Beach, which is also my birthplace and hometown.
I’ve also included a photo of Willie Nelson, who’s rather famous for appropriating the two-braids hairstyle, which is generally considered to be the domain specifically of men of color. The braids are most popular among men of indigenous, mestizo, or Mexican descent, including young Black men.
For young Black men who do not perm their hair, the cornrow-braids hairstyle is a bit more common; six cornrowed braids that are then braided again at the base of the neck into two braids instead of hanging free.
Additionally, being a male and having your hair prepared in this style gives another message: that there is a woman who cares for you enough to take care of your hair like this, whether a mother, grandmother, aunt, wife, sister, or girlfriend. It can have the connotation of being spoiled, como “trenzcito” which means “little braid(ed boy)”; it adds a connotation of “baby boy” or “youngest son”.
Two instances of culture clash: when I first moved up north, I commonly fixed my hair in two long braids, which were almost waist length. In Cali, this is a “butch” hairstyle, or at least kinda gender-neutral. I got so many (sexist AND racist) comments about it, especially at work, that I ended up cutting my hair off an inch or two from my scalp.
Another is my ex-husband had very long hair, which I used to carefully and lovingly braid for him as part of my marianisma duties: a single long braid, the double-braid-in-one style pictured above, two sleek braids parted in the middle, and on special occasions, box braids. In contrast, my (white) partner now really doesn’t like me to do anything to his hair at all; he considers it to be kinda feminizing and/or something only to be done in private. I always end up feeling vaguely offended and rejected, but I just have to remind myself that it’s honestly a cultural difference, and that his lack of braids doesn’t reflect poorly on my care for him.
It’s really kind of funny if you think about it. I’m always imagining people see my unbraided partner at work and their pity upon him for being so unloved, before I remember this is the north and no one thinks that here. Still, it doesn’t stop me from wanting to yell, “make sure they know that I LOVE you!” every day when he leaves for work.
This is great commentary but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t focused on dude in the center most of the time.