Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The NYT's Anti-curl Article

An article called “Taming Summer Curls” was posted on June 26, 2013 in the New York Times in the “Fashion & Style” section. It is causing a stir in the naturally curly-haired community. The title of the article is provocative. It implies curly hair must be spade rather than styled; conquered rather than enjoyed.

Two products and one styling tool are featured.

The first product is innocent: a basic styler that locks in moisture.

The second product is alleged to mimic a Brazilian keratin treatment. As many of us curlies know, keratin treatments are used to loosen curls and/or straighten them (but some people only acknowledge it as a means of “frizz control”).

The third product touted as a means to “tame curls” is a flat iron. Yes, a flat iron. That's like handing a Jheri curl kit to someone with bone straight hair and telling her it's a way to “enhance” her bone straight hair. No it's not and never was. It's a way to completely alter her look so that it's the exact opposite of what she was born with ... as are flat irons for curly hair.

Sadly, there's nothing unusually humiliating or disgusting about the NYT article. Once you look beyond your initial irritation or outrage, the truth snaps back into focus: Yes, people – especially marketers and the minion authors they sponsor - can be insensitive. But wait ...

For every one of us curl-embracing curlies I run into, there are ten more curlies who are quick to agree with straighties that their curls are horrible and all they want is straightened hair. When 60%+ of the population has non-straight hair and maybe 80% of those wavy/curly people support straightening products, The NYT is (sadly) playing up the products that most curly-haired people are interested in buying. They are catering to what most of their target audience wants.

Too many straight-haired folks have said things to me like, "Your hair is amazing, but you probably hate it, right?" … Why do they say that? Oh yeah, because too many curlies actually do respond to curly compliments by saying they hate their hair.

If more curly-haired people accepted their waves, ridges, slopes, kinks, corks and curls, the Times and other publications wouldn't feel perfectly comfortable writing articles like the aforementioned. Powerful hair care companies would go out of business overnight.

... I think we proud naturally curly folks need to own that a lot of our curly kinfolk are the reason these straightening articles exist and work. At the same time, thank goodness we're upset about it because it does need to change.


  1. You REALLY nailed it here. As much as I disagree with elements of society trying to get people to conform to a certain way, I think the natural curlies (even wavies) that choose to straighten their hair are also enablers for stories like the NYT and let's face it, NYT has a lot of influence. Well said. Look forward to more blog entries.

  2. Thanks for the feedback! You're totally right: NYT has a lot of influence. Hopefully some of the "enablers", as you correctly refer to them as, will consider a little non-conformity and acceptance of the hair they were born with ;)