Double Standard? Why is It Considered “Hood” When Black Women Experiment with Color?

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I’ve had a thing for colored hair for as long as I can remember. In middle school, all the skater chicks and alternative girls dyed their hair every color of the rainbow after seeing celebs change their hair color on a weekly basis. We frequently dyed our hair with Kool-Aid and Manic Panic to our parents’ dismay, hoping the rain never came or we’d end up with a t-shirt soaked with orange, purple, or green streaks. At the time, most of these celebrity influences were white, but I never thought anything of it. When Lil’ Kim showed up to the VMAs with a purple wig and her sparkly dress, I thought she looked like a mermaid. When Charli Baltimore blew up on the hip hop scene with neon red hair, I was jealous because I didn’t want to bleach my relaxed hair and have it all fall out. I opted for a more subtle red tint to appease myself.

It wasn’t until I became older and witnessed internet sites like No Way Girl and World Star Hip Hop frequently posting pictures insulting black women with colored hair  and categorizing them as “hood.” Recently, I added purple/lilac highlights to my hair and when I was showing my friend inspiration pictures from Tumblr, he responded that they reminded him of the hair color of “hood chicks in Baltimore.”

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What? I had never thought such a thing about creatively colored hair in my life. And no, I’m not talking about hair that emulates the infamous pack of Skittles hair picture or hair that is green because a woman has a weave made of money.

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I’m simply referring to hair that is dyed an unnatural color. But the funny thing is, the current pastel hair trend and creatively colored hair look is donned by non-black women all the time (Nicole Richie and Kelly Osbourne are two of my favorites), and I’ve never seen them referred to as “hood” or “ghetto.” More often than not, people find the look creative and cute – more of a homage to My Little Pony rather than an around the way girl. For white women, the look is considered fun, but for black women, it can be considered cheap and classless. Is this fair? I think not.

When I asked my friend to elaborate on his opinion, he expounded on the fact that the hair adds to an overall look – the weave, fake nails, huge hoop earrings, and any other style stereotypically considered to be “hood.” If you couldn’t tell, I keep putting “hood” in parentheses because I don’t see styles as hood and find that word to be way overused. But is that it? Is the hair itself not classless, but an overall look displayed by some black women? Well, that’s not really fair either. I guess you could say that on the flip side, white women with colored hair and an ill sense of fashion may be considered trashy (Sorry, Courtney Love), so perhaps it could be a look that reminds people of the negative, outlandish stereotypical view of you as a person, regardless of color. Either way, I would say that the smartest thing is to not judge someone off of the color of their hair, because you never know where the inspiration came from, whether it be My Little Pony or Fantasia (the Disney movie, not the singer), or simply a pack of tropical Skittles. And if it were a pack of Skittles, is that so wrong?

Do you consider unconventionally colored hair to be “hood” or “ghetto”? Do you think there is a double standard between white and black women with colored hair?

This post also appears on Black Girl with Long Hair.

10 comments

  1. Hey, I know this is completely off topic, but I’ve been a huge fan of the bask tapioca cream since I read your review but they’re sold out everywhere! Do you know of any sites that might carry it? I’m so heartbroken 😦

  2. For me the hood comment was always in reference to the styles along with the color… The girls that you have at the top of this blog have GEORGOUS color…. I am loving the dark deep purple!!!! OMG. If I were younger. IJS

    1. Yep, her mom is black and her father is Mexican, I think. I’ve actually read a few different things about her ethnicity.

  3. I have heard the “ghetto” comment made about black women with alternative colored hair, & I never really got it. It might be because I’m not black. But if I may make a gross generalization, for all cultures, I feel my more conservative friends express their dislike for unnatural hair coloring like they’re identifying some subculture marker.
    I am multicultural, my mom is white & has bone straight hair & my dad is brown & has an afro. When I had fuchsia, later green, & after that purple patches & streaks, a surprising number of my friends witnessed this as a LGBT pride statement. My friends aren’t homophobic & they don’t all share the same cultural backgrounds, but so many of them individually approached me & asked me if I was trying to express my pride more boldly. But I never colored my hair with premeditated cultural motivations, it was purely out of my individual (& a bit selfish **sorry mom) desires.
    When I do read “white” beauty mags/media (Allure/Glamour/Elle/Marie Claire), I still sense the same tone in their commentary on Katie Perry’s/Nicole Richie’s/etc coloring… They may try to phrase it delicately like ‘is this coloring trend just a fad or for keeps, whatever they’re rockin it’… But it still sounds to me like ‘no tea no shade, but that’s obviously from a bottle & you’re not a trail blazer’.
    It’s misfortunate, but I kind if think that these types of commenters don’t recognize their microaggressions, like, they say ‘that looks ghetto/gay’ but they hear ‘that looks different’.

  4. I personally don’t like any haircolor that doesn’t look natural. Pinks, purples, greens, etc….bleh. Not my type. Didn’t shades of brown, earthy reds that don’t stick out, I think are cool. Doesn’t matter the race though…I just think all the “wilder” colors are a no-go. But that’s my personal opinion. And you know what’s funny…..I get all the crazy looks from black women with my natural hair. All my latina, asian, white, etc friends love it! The only other black women that compliment my hair are other naturals. But the stare downs come from other black women….sad.

    1. I don’t really think it’s sad in a sense as if they are throwing shade, but sad in that we don’t appreciate our hair. When I was younger I thought that women with natural hair didn’t care about their appearance or didn’t know how to do their hair – I didn’t hate natural hair, I was just ignorant b/c I thought that we all HAD to have relaxers.

  5. I agree with you completely!! I find that black women are stereotyped all the time. We always have to be considered or referred to as “ghetto,ugly or ratchett” when we wear our curls its nappy and ugly they wear them its trendy and cute. We want to marry a successful well paid man we are gold diggers!!! Elle I could go on

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