Friday, February 05, 2010

#3 Blacks and Combs

Just a few days ago an older Black person asked me, “What is up with Black people walking around with combs in their hair?” They had just watched a musician performing on television for Haiti earthquake relief; wearing a comb-head they thought was unattractive. It’s easy to say this is just a style, but maybe it goes further than this. I said I’d look into it.

The first thing to note is that you must have kinky hair to wear a comb. In other words, Whites, Asians, Latinos, do not pass go, do not collect $200 style dollars. Black folks love to come up with something cool that White folks can’t copy. No Elvis interlopers, or M&M’s, pimp-walking in the back door. Okay, some Jews (aka He-bros) can pull it off, but they were slaves too, so they’s coo’.

Back in the day, the more practical reason for sticking combs in your hair was to keep a brother from going to jail. The black-jack-looking afro and cake-cutter combs of the sixties and seventies could be purposefully mistaken for concealed weapons by the local or school authorities. If the comb was in a dude’s hair, this was proof that it was indeed a comb and not a weapon. Of course, everyone knew that a legit comb that puffed-out the ‘fro one moment could be whacking a cat the next, but hey…don’t profile me bro!

The other reason for keeping the comb in your hair was that putting it in a pocket was either painful or costly, due to poking holes in your clothes (aka threads) and ruining them. In the back pocket, the combs could be accidentally sat upon, either breaking it or sending the owner to the emergency room for stitches (aka thug tattoos). Also, the combs were not cheap, costing between $3-10, rather than the $.25 that Arthur ‘The Fonz’ Fonzarelli paid for that wimpy thing he pushed through his greasy hair on Happy Days.

Finally, wearing a comb in your head is one way of telling the world that no matter how jacked-up your head looks, you meant for it to look this way – saying, in effect, the world can kiss-MBA. Remember what Sinatra said, attitude baby. Frankly, I would not mind my fourteen year old wearing a comb, since this might increase the chance that he would accidentally use it on himself, or maybe I’m just being wishful – as uncombed is also a style, I have been told.

James C. Collier


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Ms. Negro said...

And not only can non-black not pass the comb test neither can blacks with processed hair. I would love to see more comb worthy hair on my people (blacks).

Joyce said...

Comb in the hair? Pure rubbish. It is uncouth and not proper to walk around with a comb in one's hair.
Just because no one else can walk around with a comb in their hair does not make it acceptable.

What else is next after sagging pants and comb in the hair?
Oh I guess maybe walking with no clothes on.

Ms. Negro said...

Who says what's acceptable and what's not? Being unique is always a good thing unless it's something unique about a black person. Uncouth...that's the same as savage right? The only thing better than seeing a comb sticking out of a fro is a comb with a fist on the end of it.

atldude said...

ms. Negro,

You might want to consult a dictionary:


1 a archaic : not known or not familiar to one : seldom experienced : uncommon, rare b obsolete : mysterious, uncanny

2 a : strange or clumsy in shape or appearance : outlandish b : lacking in polish and grace : rugged c : awkward and uncultivated in appearance, manner, or behavior : rude

#2c fits it: "uncultivated in appearance", isn't that the point?

Where do you get the idea that being unique is good unless it's a unique black person?

For the record just about every culture feels threatened by what they don't understand,even intheir own culture - uniqueness is looked down upon by the majority, generally. Individuals in all communities are usually dissed by the "normals"

Ms. Negro said...

lol altdude. I don't need to consult a dictionary. I find it telling just like the use of the word "uncouth" that you left out uncivilized as one of the definitions for uncouth.

Oh and your use of word "dissed" was very funny. Thanks for the laugh.

atldude said...

thanks! (I think) ;)

Allie said...

You know, women of many different races use decorative hair combs and have been for centuries--I've seen very old ones in museums that are Victorian, French, Japanese, Sumerian, and more, so it's not like they can't figure out how to get combs to stay in if they wanted to. Well, I can't be certain the really ancient ones are for women. Also, I'd say that very curly-haired White, Asian, and Latino people could wear a comb just as pictured pretty easily. Seriously, I know two Asian men from two different countries with naturally curly hair that have worn bigger "Asian fros" than those two men in your pictures. As for Latino people, I've seen them with hair of all textures, and many do have some or a lot of African ancestry, so I'm kind of surprised that you'd list them. Nevertheless, it's true that I can only recall witnessing non-Latino Black people wear combs in their hair in this particular way. Statement, fashion, or convenience? I didn't ask them for their personal reasons....

Anonymous said...

Jews could wear combs in their hair too--don't forget people that Moses wife and father were black-most Jews I know HAVE curly or a little close to kinky hair anyway-(Look and Art Garfunkel if you dont believe me)

Eddie said...

Thanks! That answers my wonder when I see some black man with a comb in their heads.