The Vagenda

It’s Totally OK to Have Curly Hair (But Only Sometimes)


I have always had ‘difficult’ hair. Some of my earliest memories are of my mum and I screaming at each other as she tried to drag a brush through my mountain of frizz. My hair has the texture of pubes and the feel of a baked poodle, and I’ve spent most of my adult life trying to change it. GHDs have become my saviour; I’ve used them almost every day for about 10 years, and the thought of life without them makes me want to pace around and claw at my face. The main response I’ve got to my hair is that it’s not OK. Yes, everyone says ‘I’d love to have curly hair! You should just leave it alone!’, until they actually see it. Then they back away slowly, as if trying not to antagonise a large bear. Hairdressers tell me they can easily blow dry it straight, until their arms seize up an hour later, a look of utter frustration on their faces. The worst part is when people say that they have curly hair too, and that they understand; when in reality they sport an adorable little wave when they come out of the sea. They have NO IDEA.

In fact, there seems to be a sliding scale of how acceptable curls are according to the media, bitchy lasses at school, and my own insecurities. See below.

Types of curls (and how OK they are):

The Yoncé: (OK ish)


I’ve seen a picture of Beyoncé with her natural hair. It is glorious; as if Tina Turner had pooed out a golden waterfall of loops and spirals. And yet she rarely ever had it au-natural, preferring to go for relaxed, looser curls. It’s still big and a little fierce, but it’s toned down. It seems to be the same for every female celebrity with curly hair: Taylor Swift, Rihanna, Sarah Jessica Parker, Nicole Kidman. This trickles down to the rest of us, and it seeps into our brains; I looked through an entire Cosmo magazine and found, out of hundreds of images, two (TWO!) images of women with naturally curly, or afro hair. And it was a hair special! Fuck you Cosmo, for making me think my hair is unfashionable. When I try things on in a changing room with natural hair, I feel like it makes the clothes look immediately messy and undone. It makes me look like I don’t have my shit together; like I’m unpolished and a bit ‘out there’. It makes me feel like Curly Sue before that woman made her have a bath. There also has to be something in the fact that two of the most famous WOC in the world, Beyonce and Rihanna, choose to have their hair relaxed. Even bloody Oprah succumbs to straightening treatments. It all adds up to send the message that straight/wavy hair is what we should aim for, and that curly hair is unattractive.

Historical curls: (sort of OK)


I think we can all agree that Botticelli’s ladies were fit as fuck. Their hair cascades over their shoulders in soft waves and the Venus even uses hers to cover up her (suspiciously bald) front bum. They are teasingly wild; a hint of a curl seems to equate to ‘dead good at shagging’. They conform to the image of an ideal woman which is still championed by the Daily Mail, even though it’s two thousand and sodding fourteen. This ideal woman is essentially a giant child. Long loose hair, preferably blonde, hairless everywhere else. These women are meek, bland, obedient vessels; for baby making and sex. They are a gorgeous open mouth and a vagina on legs. Of course deep down they have an uncontrollable, tempestuous side that is brought out in the bedroom to please their partner, but this side scares people. So it is kept under wraps. Or she is vilified her for it: her skirt’s too short, slut, she won’t sleep with me so she’s a bitch. She’s a mermaid on a rock, tits out, unreachable, otherworldly. So historical curls are OK, so long as you stand very, very still, and have a bit of your fanny on show.

80’s curls: (not OK)


This was the last time curly hair was really popular. I had three solid years of contributing my ‘fro to the decade before the 90’s arrived, and it was all about lank Kate Moss heroin chic. If I had been a teenager in the 80s, people would have been like ‘hey, you look like Kevin Keegan, congratulations!’, but instead all I got was ‘hey, you look like you’ve got a fluffy brown bird on your shoulder, ew’. My hair made me miserable throughout my teens. I had a pair of Babyliss Straight & Shines, the ones where you put water in the end and then essentially burned your hair until it died. I used to fight it into a massive bun, shove three Tammy scrunchies over the top, then straighten two fluffy strands down the side of my face. I looked like utter shit, but at least no one was bullying me over my hair. It made me a target; lads shouting out about how gross, dark and frizzy it was. It probably didn’t help that I had a mustache, monobrow, and hairy arms. No one had told me these things might be a problem at secondary school; I was 11, so I didn’t even look in the mirror. In year 8 I managed to get hold of a tube of vile smelling Veet and chucked it everywhere I could, and flattened my hair down with water in between each lesson. And of course the most popular girls always had silky straight hair. If I’d been 15 in the age of Madonna, then maybe I’d have been the hottest girl in school. Instead, I roamed the corridors au naturel, inviting comparisons to a lost, hairy, Portuguese exchange student. Kids are assholes.

The Rebekah Brooks: (Don’t even think about it)


Rebekah Brooks’s hair reduced the Mail’s sidebar to near hysteria when she was on trial during the News of the World phone hacking scandal. They made constant jibes about it being unruly and attention seeking, and intimated that if she wanted to be taken seriously, she should have it tied back or hidden, like some horrible stiff pilgrim. They went on and on about how she used to go out with human testicle Grant Mitchell, and seemed to think that this, and the fact that her hair was a bit crazy and red, meant she was a harlot (gingerism really is the last acceptable fucking prejudice). Having long, ginger curly hair apparently means you are some sort of demon/porn star hybrid. How many articles did you see about Rupert Murdoch’s hair, his looks? Not many. Maybe because it consists of a tiny amount of white fluff that only seems to stay on his head because he’s stuck it to his liver spots with superglue. Or maybe because he was only judged for his actions, his career and his power. I’m not defending Brooks; I think she’s a deeply unpleasant woman. But that has nothing to do with what she looks like. Her hair is not what makes her bad. If I stop straightening my curls I won’t suddenly turn into some hack with no morals, who Snapchats pictures of my dinner to David ‘human thumb’ Cameron.

So all in all, there aren’t many ‘acceptable’ forms of curly hair. I think my need to straighten is partially due to all of that, but it’s also due to the fact that when my hair comes within a mile of a hairdryer it immediately quadruples in size. It takes 6 hours to dry naturally, and once a comb actually broke in it. One time, a wasp got stuck in the maze of my hair and stung me on the ear as it frantically tried to get out. When I was a kid a hairdresser used a diffuser on me; I caught sight of the giant bushy mess on my head, reflected in a shop window, and burst into tears. When I got nits, the situation was so bad that my mum threatened to shave my head. I’ve had so many hair disasters that I just want to scalp Olivia Palermo and stitch her locks onto mine, like some crazed Frizz-ease obsessed Buffalo Bill.

I wish I had the guts to go natural, but somehow it feels wrong. I already judge myself- needy insecure nightmare that I am- and worry that my natural hair will make me less attractive. There might even be people out there stupid enough to think my hair represents my sexuality (in which case it would form into the shape of a lonely tumbleweed blowing across a cervix). But it’s hard enough having curly hair without being constantly curl-shamed by the media.

I’m hoping that the 2010’s will see a re-emergence of the perm; but until then, I’m taking my GHDs to the grave.

- LB

14 thoughts on “It’s Totally OK to Have Curly Hair (But Only Sometimes)

  1. I too have hair that would of looked great in the 80s my hair is something between Sarah Jessica Parkers and Rebekha Brooks’s. Going to highschool in 00s I got bullied lots till I learnt about hair straighteners.However since 2009 I’ve been wearing my hair predominantly natural, and I actually thought curly hair was in fashion. People always comment on being jealous of my hair, and I don’t mind rocking it. Maybe I just stopped being a teenager and just decided for myself that my hair was in fashion.

  2. As a possessor of ’80s/Rebekah Brooks curls, I kind of despise it because I hate having to style it! The effort that goes into making my hair look presentable is something I didn’t sign up for and most of the time I end up washing it, putting a tonne of curl cream in and letting it dry in a braid for a day and night and then letting it out the next day. Day 3 and 4 it is in a bun or side braid.

  3. *sigh* it’s all so familiar. Even with my beloved Aveda “Be Curly” products, I usually resort to braiding, as it hides the frizzy unfashionable, unruly-ness, plus if it rains you can’t really tell that my hair is expanding at a rate of knots amid the maze of twisted plaits, and it stops the uncontrollable fly away strands that constantly fall into my face throughout the day, making me look like I have some kind of imaginary fly buzzing around my eyes, as I bat away stray strands.

    I spent YEARS fighting the curl, and even bravely attempted a fringe circa ’98 when they were big, bold and STRAIGHT STRAIGHT STRAIGHT, but I got bored of having to blow dry it straight again between lessons under the hand dryer whilst spraying copious amounts of Elnett at it in an attempt to tame the locks. I gave up. Quite simply…I just don’t have the patience to try and straighten it more than once every few months (I admire your tenacity and will power for sticking with the straighteners but my upper body strength fails after half an hour or so).

    These days, when I do decide to let the hair down from it’s jail of braids, I flaunt my curls in the face of Cosmo. Screw you and your silken haired, body of alabaster, models. I too, decided for myself, that frankly I couldn’t give a tiny rats ass as to what anybody says my hair should or shouldn’t look like. FREE THE CURLS! #freethecurls

  4. I am one of those who wish for curly hair. My hair is a frizzy, lumpy (lumpy!) tangled mess. I wouldn’t mind straight hair either. I just wish it would be one or the other. Since this will never happen, I, too, will take my GHD’s to the grave.

  5. I agree with the vast majority of this blog post, and it’s no secret that the various societies of the world are interested in sexualizing women into one homogenous “ideal” standard, and yes that means in their artwork. However, I feel like attacking Botticelli’s Venus as representative of this is a bit..rash. Maybe if you were to synthesize the art of the time period and look at the trends regarding the depiction of women, you would be onto something. It has also been suspected by art historians that Botticelli’s Venus was modeled after Simonetta Vespucci, who had several admirers in the family by which the painting was commissioned. So, that would be the reasoning behind the way Venus looks in the piece. Not trying to hate on the article, I just thought that going to one example of a popular work of art and explaining away everything about it as predominantly sexist was sort of a cop out for your topic.

  6. I’m basically Rebekah Brooks’s hair twin, and this article has rung incredibly true in so many ways (I also once got a wasp stuck in my hair, while at work, and I had to protect my face with a notepad while two colleagues attempted to swat it away with plastic cups).
    I straightened my hair every day for about 6 years, before I got sick of it and gave up. It was genuinely hard to do at the time, but it was worth it. I was helped a lot by a fantastic hairdresser who showed me how to properly look after and manage curly hair (microfibre hair towels FTW) – before that my natural hair state was just a ball of ginger frizz, which was not fun to go through school with.
    I’ve also spent a lot of interview preparation time wondering whether or not to straighten my hair to look more “professional”. The time I decided not to, I got complimented on it at the interview and got the job, so it’s not all bad. I’ve definitely found that other people tend to like the big curliness more than I do, and even if it is a bit of a hassle sometimes, it’s worth it.
    Thanks for the great article!

  7. Have to step in here to point out that it’s a jokey article about curls, and therefore shouldn’t be held to meticulous historical standards!! Although actually I studied art history and don’t necessarily disagree with anything the author said about depictions of women at that time. It does make me sad though that women writing humour are all too frequently met with nitpicking such as this rather than viewing it in the spirit in which it was intended (i.e. as something that shouldn’t be taken too seriously)

  8. You always want what you don’t have. Coming from a curlylocks family, we always used to straighten the hell out of it before we started to be ok with the curls, frizzy and all

  9. I can so relate to this article! I had those Babyliss straighteners, I sported the two strands of hair stuck to my face look and I also realised I had a monobrow and moustache aged 11 (I went down the Joleen bleaching cream and over-plucked eyebrows route though). I was called ‘pube-head’ at school and, to be honest, the description is somewhat accurate, and kind of hilarious now I am 30.
    It took me until my early 20′s to finally accept (and sometimes, appreciate) my curly hair. In fact, if I straighten it, it makes me look cold and mean, the curls soften my features.
    I have 4 month old daughter now and she is already showing signs of having my exact same hair (not helped by the fact her father also sports a black curly mop) so I am glad I have been through these hair horror experiences. Hopefully I will help her realise curly hair is part of who she is and she doesn’t need to try to change it.. and also that brushes, towels and harsh shampoo are our enemy. Maybe by the time she is a teen perms will be back!

  10. hah! i once got a wasp stuck in my hair as a child too. i haven’t seen a pic of your hair so can’t quite compare, but i think you’d be hard pressed to find someone with curlier hair than me- i too have shared the annoyance of looking up ‘curly hairstyles’ to take to the hairdresser, only to find this:

    i used to straighten my hair with an iron as a teenager (balk), but in the last few years i’ve learned to embrace the curls and now become something of a complete curl advocate. i mean, to the point where i boycott tres emme products as their adverts implying the only way to make curly hair better is to straighten it PISS ME OFF. if you do ever want to try going curly again, here are my tips that i have fine tuned over the last 10 years-

    1) get a good hair cut that works for your curls… this is kinda essential
    2) use hair products without silicones in them- best ones i find are stuff from Lush, or the Naked range from Boots. silicones are those things they put in ‘anti frizz’ products that makes your hair shiny for the first few go’s, but then ‘stop working’ and leave your hair looking crap again. they build up in your hair and you have to shampoo the hell out of your hair to get them out- which is annoying if you have curly hair cos you only wanna shampoo every once in a while.
    3) once you’re out the shower, put a bit more conditioner back in your damp hair and comb through. leave-in conditioners are basically this but watered down, so there’s no point buying anything extra. not too much though, the conditioner shouldn’t be dripping out your hair or anything. this makes your hair really soft once it’s dried, and shouldn’t feel too ‘pube’-y.
    4) if your hair is super frizzy, try a curl-taming cream on the ends of your damp hair (you can also use again once it’s dry). again, Naked do a really good one.
    5) use a cotton cloth/old t-shirt (not a towel, as the fibres makes your hair even frizzier) to scrunch your hair to get any excess water out of it. best to let it dry naturally, but you can always use a hairdryer with a diffuser to help speed it up.

    it’s now after 2am and i realise i’ve ended up on yet another pro-curl rant so i guess i should wrap it up… i hope you or somebody find this useful anyway!

  11. also, i missed the bit where you said the hairdresser messed up with the diffuser… that’s because mostly they don’t know what they’re doing, i had the same thing happen. don’t use it on your hair till it’s completely dry, just use it for a few mins max!

  12. As a Portuguese student with unruly, frizzy and curly hair… I sympathise. I get made fun of for my frizzy hair. I try straightening it but it curls up again within 2 hours. Nothing really works on it so I’ve just decided to accept that my hair is a horrendous mess of long pubes. Honestly, I’ve been called ‘pube-head’ by an unbelievably large amount of people. Whilst I’m slowly growing to love my natural hair, sometimes I feel like shaving it all off. Are those moments when your comb is stuck in your hair worth it? Are those knots that you have to cut off worth it? Is your hair worth the 1/4 of a bottle of conditioner per wash? My answer is no but yet I still grow it in the hopes that it will get heavier and straighten out a little. Until then, I’ll walk around with my glorious mane of hair whilst showing my middle finger to the boys who think this mane defines me and should be cut to their needs.