Are We Length Obsessed?- Natural Hair

Angela of WiseCurls writes:

*raises church finger*

Excuse me team natural. I have a question. It's real out 'chea on these natural streets, so all I ask is that you just hear me out. Cool? Cool.

As a community, have we become uber obsessed with long hair? So obsessed that long hair is all that is sought after for inspiration or the usual episode of hair envy? My inquiry stems from being inundated with photos of natural hair that is, of course, long(er) on the worldwide web. So, I was just curious and wanted to throw the question out there:

Are we more focused on being black women with long hair or are we simply focused on being women with natural, healthy hair that just may happen to grow long?


CN Says:

Imma keep it 100 (really? I hate that saying, thanks Ray J) and reveal that yes, sadly, I am length obsessed, always have been. Blame it on society. I grew up thinking that long hair was beautiful... an ideal that was pushed by both the men and women in my family. Cutting my hair, save for trims, was totally out of the question (like getting a relaxer) until I was grown enough to make my own decisions. I can say that while my folks appreciated length, health was also very important. Long, healthy hair = beauty.

Ten years later, I'd like to think that I've grown a little... when I embraced my natural texture 8 years ago, I had to learn to forgo length... even though it was still there, it was lost to the shrinkage. However, early in my journey, I'd often find myself telling or showing folks how long it 'actually' was... even when they didn't solicit for that information. Nuts. Today, when asked my length, I no longer have to say, '*this* long curly, but *THIS* long straight'. I haven't straightened since 2007, so why does it matter how long it is when straightened?!
I can say that many of my older family members still tell me things like, 'don't you want to press it, I bet it's all down your back!'

My new obsession, volume. Sadly, it's not something I can help much, but yes, I covet girls with big hair. Growing up, the flatter and finer my hair appeared, the better. Now,
all of my hair idols have BIG hair, they all don't have long hair, but it's most certainly HUGE. Volume is one of the reasons why I forgo length. Earlier this year, albeit after a minor setback from the Tangle Teaser, I chopped 2 or so inches and didn't bat an eye. My hair's volume is maximized when it sits between my chin and shoulders and I do my best to keep it there with bi-monthly trims. And although I go back and forth, I think I'll keep it this length for a while.

After all that, I don't think I answered the question... typical, right? Yes, I'm still kinda length obsessed, but I'm more volume obsessed... and I've always been concerned about the health aspect. I'm an anal person and I hate raggedy ends.

41 Weigh in!:
sarah said...

i don't think it's an obsession that belongs exclusively to the natural hair community. i think that some women (and men) in general just have an adoration for longer hair. check out Top Model and see the tears that roll when long hair get cut, or squeals of glee when they get long extensions put in. heck, peep sites like LHC and LHCF that were originally catered to straight hair.

personally, i don't give a kitty about long hair. i've always like short, sassy cuts, but was never allowed to get them. i am currently growing my hair out now, but just wait until i find a comfortable length...

CURLYNIKKI said...

I love peeping into the LHC forums... hell, LHCF too, they've got great info!

socialitedreams said...

long hair has been a feminine ideal for centuries and centuries. most modern black women haven't practiced healthy hair practices and so that waist length or whatever length hair has always been out of reach. I find it great and fine if more are learning how to CARE for their hair and they want to be a bit obsessive with gaining the length that they hadn't experienced.

I've always felt great when I achieved long pretty hair.


Vonnie of Socialitedreams.com

Anonymous said...

Im guilty as charged. When my hair was relaxed it well passed my neck and yes, I want my natural hair to do the same!

Anonymous said...

I'm not so much after longer hair as I am healthier hair. The length of my hair to me is a dead giveaway of the health of it. When my hair is unhealthy, it breaks off, won't grow, does nothing. But when it's in good shape, it shines, bounces, and grows. So basically, I'm after more length as a sign that my hair is healthy.

Anonymous said...

I think we are, but I don't think there is anything wrong with it. My hair goals are modest - healthy hair I can put in a loose ponytail. I have no desire for waist length hair or any of the other abbreviations for hair length, but I love reading about women that are pursuing that goal and enjoy seeing pictures of their progress. I have so much fun reading the comments on the latest hair growth pills or potions or methodologies on the LHCF. They crack me up. As long as it is safe (I hope they speak to their doctors before taking all those pills!), I think it is fine.

It is not a harmful obsession at all.

Carla said...

I don't think we should blame everything on "society". Different cultures have embraced long hair for thousands of years. Look at different photos of Africans and you will see LONG hair. Asian women always coveted LONG hair. Latin, Native American, Indian, etc. etc. etc.

I think with us, we've always been told that we cant grow long hair and some people want to prove those people wrong.

I personally covet long hair (guilty as charged). Not at the expense of health though. My hair is bra strap length and I won't stop until it reaches my tailbone! LOL

Anonymous said...

Length is definitely important to me.

I wore a TWA for over 10 years and I absolutely loved my look with super short hair. But in April 2010 I decided to grow it out.

The most difficult time was that funky, in-between stage, around 6 months, when my hair was no longer a TWA but still short (to me anyway). I was impatient and never totally satisfied with how my hair looked despite many compliments. Part of the problem was that I hadn't found the right products and I didn't know much about styling other than WNGs.

Fast forward to now. I've learned a few styles (thanks to CN and youtube), discovered SheaMoisture (which my hair loves), and even after a few trims along the way, I have substantial length (about 12 inches stretched). So even though my 3c/4a curls shrink up a lot, I'm happy with the current length. My hair is dense, so the length and volume give me big hair which I love.

I plan to stay on my current regimen and get a maintenance trim next month. I would say I'm eagerly anticipating, but not obsessed, about how long my hair will be at the 2 year anniversary in April.

Anonymous said...

I'm somewhat length obsessed- I want my natural curls to hit my shoulders! Waist length hair seems like it would be a bit overwhelming, but curls that fall on my shoulders is my dream! :-)

Nylse said...

i like big hair; big hair usually equals long hair; so long hair is my goal but i'm not obsessed.

Monnie said...

I do not think it is a length obsession as much it is a length fascination. Many people that decide to go natural or start a healthy hair journey were not able to achieve their hair's full potential prior to that journey. So I think people become fascinated in ] seeing what they can potentially achieve with healthy hair. With more and more people getting relaxers younger or using bad pratices, many may not realized that their hair can grow. I got my first relaxer when I was 8 and my hair has been shoulder length ever since. Now that I have been natural, my hair has reach arm pit length and growing. I grow curious everyday, as to what is my growth potential, When will it stop or does it not stop at all. When I see long hair, I think of health not length. It is bad that people love looking at pictures with length for vein purposes or looking at picture with length just continue inspiration in a straight world?!?!?

Anonymous said...

I'm not personally obsessed with lenghth. I havent had long hair since I was a child. I've always had some type of chemical in my hair so it never grew to great lengths, actually any length. During college I dyed AND relaxed my hair so I had to keep it short because of the breakage. I'm more concerned with healthy hair and I can say that since going natural and not flat ironing my hair every 2 weeks my hair is the heathlest it's been since I was about 10... (26 years ago)

Tiki_Green said...

I don't want to think that I'm particularly obsessed with long hair, I've just had about every style i could imagine and i like the way long hair frames my face. Short hair isn't cute on everyone neither is long hair.

Anonymous said...

I AM OBSESSED WITH LENGTH!!! I have very fine, thin, soft hair. Although it is arm pit length when stretched, I really want to get to bra strap length. It isn’t really about length as much as it is about thickness. I haven’t straightened my hair in almost a year but it appears that I haven’t retained much length. So I decided to braid up my hair and slap on a wig. Protective styling for me for the entire winter!

Anonymous said...

Currently at waist length hair with plans to grow it to my knees!!! So sue me!

Am I length obsessed? Well funnily, I don't really think so. I wore a fade for 3 years and loved it, so I never saw long hair as the ultimate in beauty.

So why do I now have such an outrageous hair length goal? Well you can blame the natural hair blogosphere for that with all the hysterical claims of assorted commenters that 'black hair can't grow very long' and 'black hair is hard to manage' etc that's spurred me on prove that it CAN be done.

The more of us black women showing that with love and care our hairtype can reach fairytale lengths, the sooner we'll put these crazy black hair myths to rest for good.

honeybrown1976 said...

Length is important to me. I love long hair. I always had it. It is what I know.

That being said, since I'm 17 months into my long-transition back to natural hair. I must admit that I'm obsessed with volume. I love seeing women rock full, big hair. It's so lovely to admire. As I transition, I see my own "big to be" hair.

Janel said...

CN, I agree with your answer to the question. I would love to have long hair, but if my ends are raggedy, they gots ta go! lol I got my hair straightened just chop the ends off and it was past my shoulders! I had never seen my hair that long! But I told the stylist to keep cutting. I had no feelings for losing the length because I never wear it straight and nobody would be able to tell I got it cut. I did take pics to show how long it was with my "no perm," "nappy" (according to Granny) self.

Anonymous said...

I think it's more of a fear of short hair than being obsessed with length. Before I got a relaxer, I 'thought' my hair was long. Then, it was down my back and I loved it. Never had short hair before... and now that I'm transitioning I keep wondering how long I'll have to wait before I'm comfortable enough to cut it. I'm just afraid that I won't recognize myself or that I'll really dislike it.

Anonymous said...

*Sigh* I think the a major factor being overlooked whenever this question is asked is that A LOT of us grew up with hair shorter than we would have preferred (now where we got that preference from is another story entirely). That may have been due to a relaxer or lack of knowledge in how to take care of our hair. So it makes sense that many naturals are concerned about reaching a goal length.

Personally, I fall into the category of wanting healthy hair that just happens to grow long. My hair is already longer than it's been my entire life and I have this site and a few others are to thank for that. I never had any goal in mind other than healthy hair until the past few months when I saw how fast my hair grows when I take care of it properly.

gloria said...

OMG I was been thinking the same thing.All of the natural hair that is featured online is long. And the videos focus not so much on healthy hair , but how to get your hair to grow. I had tried to get my hair to grow chin length in 2 years was was frustrated to know end. i watched every video, read every blog for tips on how to make my fine hair grow or retain growth. I BC'd again in July 2011 and love my TWA, but still felt like I had failed. To me natural hair is first and foremost about health, long or short doesn't matter. Going to continue to Rock my bronze colored TWA

Deonna said...

I love length. shoot I want length (shaking my fro gives me whiplash. lol) Am I obsessed? nope. (^-^)
I obsessed with natural healthy hair more than anything else. It can be long or short if it's healthy it's lovely. You can have long hair but it's not healthy,it definitely shows and it's not a good look.

So for now I am just focused on keep my hair healthy so that it can grow properly.

the eXclusive said...

I remember taking a class in college about anthropology and the evolution of humans and there was this thought brought up about long hair. The professor pretty much stated that men find longer-haired women more attractive, because of the pheromones in long hair. At the time, I wasn't even thinking about Africans and the fact that they traditionally didn't have longer hair because of the amount of heat it generated, but for years I've wondered if this was true or not.

K. Marie said...

I, myself, am a little length envy just by being 26 and had long hair (past shoulders) for 20+ years. I miss my long hair but I also want healthy , natural hair. Now, regarding what "the eXclusive" said........lol thats hot! (no pun intended) I always wondered why there was a difference from the amount of men that turned their head or hit on me when my hair was long & now that its above the shoulders and naturally curly. "Learn something new everyday"

Kathryn said...

I'm not pressed on having long hair.... I just want a pretty ponytail..... I have an obsession with them... my hair was a decent length when it was relaxed and I'm anxiously awaiting for this bush to grow, so I can have a fierce bushball/ponytail equivalent...

Sophie said...

I am looking forward to more length too, although I would not say I am obsessed. I think it's pretty, and as some posters have said it is kind of a novelty to me to see long (or big!) tightly curly hair and I think it is beautiful. My hair has been gaining length noticeably since I figured out a better regimen (still learning!), so I also use that as a metric for how well I'm taking care of it. I also echo your sentiment Nikki about how straightened length isn't that significant if you are never going to straighten it! However, I sometimes bust out that stat though when I want to baffle my friends with how much my hair can shrink, haha.

QuitaB said...

I'm pretty happy where I'm at. My hair shrinks like crazy and I've accepted it. I don't even stretch it, I just wash and go. But my goal is to grow it as long as I can. To me, being able to retain the length is a sign of healthy hair, not vanity. I can't wait for the versatility though, being able to wear it in it's shrunken state, or stretch it out from time to time would be nice.

foxyr said...

To a degree, I guess I'm somewhat length-obsessed, but I want my hair to be healthy, too! I always had relatively healthy, long hair, except when I did my BC last December. My hair is growing back quickly, but I still cannot put it all in one ponytail, so it isn't long enough for me, yet! LOL! Once I achieve shoulder length hair that has not been stretched, I think I will be completely comfortable. I don't moan and groan about having short hair most of the times. Also, I like that my hair does not rub against my clothes because that can dry out the ends of my hair. Therefore, I'm going to enjoy this hair phase, until it is over. Furthermore, I don't obsess over other naturals with long hair because I'm not that concern about the length of another woman's hair. I can appreciate natural hair, whether it is short or long. But, I prefer at least shoulder length hair because it flatters my facial features more.

Anonymous said...

I know this will sound weird i've had long hair and was never enthralled by it (saw it more as a burden and wrapped it up all the time) so i'm personally not length obsessed. I'm more obsessed with healthy hair...to me it's much, much more rewarding than long hair. I understand why as a collective group women are length obsessed...it's not just black women.

Angie said...

Why apologize for wanting long full hair even if you don't have it? Why do we have to feel about our hair the way someone else tells us to for the reasons they want us to? I couldn't "see" anything else in this article besides your apology for being you!

natassjha05 said...

I don't think there is anything wrong with wanting longer hair. However, it is scary to see how obsessed some people are with reaching their length goals. I think the latest idea was Monistat. Before that it was sheep placenta! Now I do want longer hair but I'm enjoying the "scenic route." It's growing and I'm taking this time to get to know my hair! Besides there are some things I will never put in my hair!

Regina said...

Being a black women with long hair nor the best option. In fact we can also better than that. And everyone also always have opinions that differ from one another. Good posting! Thanks...

Artconfident said...

I'm length obsessed, I've pretty much always had long relaxed hair, and with my twa, I'm still used to longer hair, and I wear wigs around campus, I pretty much plain to do this until it grows out to a length im confortable with. I see girls around the campus with twa's all the time. It looks good on them, but on me? I'm not really sure. I mean the really low cut twa's are neat, but once they are fully grown twa's like mine looking like mini afro's.....idk

ClassCie said...

I am obsessed with length and there is absolutely nothing wrong with it. Since I have big chopped, I don't miss having long hair but I do, however, look forward to having long hair again because there are so many styles I want to try out that I cant do until my hair grows. There are many style for short natural hair but I'm ready for the new styles to come with the long hair.

Levone said...

For my hair at the moment, the longer the better. I rarely straighten my hair (other than for trimming) and my hair shrinks quite a bit naturally. I want it to grow to a length where it hangs nicely in a twist out (full shoulder) and pulls into a nice FAT bun. Am I obsessed (not sure what makes one obsessed though), hmmm, no, but I'm interested in seeing how long my hair will grow, which for me first has to be healthy to achieve.

Maria said...

I think that some natural hair sites discourage and Shame members that want longer hair. Some other sites are scissor happy. I think that if you want to grow your hair long more power to ya. I'm almost hip length and it's taken me 4 years to get to this length. I love my hair and enjoy how long it is. I help and encourage anyone that wants longer hair.

Renise B said...

During the slavery days when the masters took their slaves with them to public gatherings, the slaves would sit in the balcony. When a slave had to go to the bathroom or wanted to be excused for any reason, they would hold their hand up and keep it up until their master acknowledged that they saw the hand and gave permission to leave they would hold up one finger and keeping their head down as they were leaving to inform anyone that saw them leave that they had been excused. So it essentially means "My master has excused me."

That is where the holding up one finger while leaving the Sanctuary carried over from. Which goes to show that you should investigate rituals before you follow them.

Moonwalker723 said...

I have to say yes, when my hair was relaxed, I was crazy about length. My grandmother has always wanted long hair, so she likes to live that dream vicariously through her granddaughters. Out of all my female cousins on both sides of my family, I was the one with the shortest hair. It always bothered me, because my hair would do silly things like curl under when I wanted it to hang straight, and curl up when I wanted the ends curled under...it was a mess.

Once I transitioned (it's been a year), I only want more volume. I could care less about length, because when I rock my fluffy fro, it stretches quite a bit, and since I have a lot of hair all over,my twist outs even give my hair a bit of height. I always say to my girlfriends "My only goal is to have hair as huge and fabulous as Esperanza Spalding!" to which I get a response of smiles and nods of agreement :)

Anonymous said...

I am length obsessed, I want to prove to girls that they can to have long hair and they don't have to be "mixed." My hair used to be mid back length as a kid until my mom took me to get a perm and it broke to my shoulders, then to "cure" the breakage, she got me a short ear length do. Plus , it's empowering for me, I wan to wake up one day and say this is all mine. Every last bit of it. I only have ten inches of hair now. Sigh, grow already and be healthy!!!!

Homegirl Quel in Austin said...

Length isn't always about how low it hangs, but how much room it takes up. I love big hair. Strong, healthy hair is beautiful. But long, strong healthy hair is powerful. I think that's what is coveted more than anything. When my mane rivals that of a lion, I'm at my highest level of confidence.

Homegirl Quel in Austin said...

And let me add that much as I love long, natural hair, when mine is at it's longest, I usually cute it back to about 3 inches long within months. It takes a lot of time and patience to tame long, natural hair. I usually opt for the chop.

Anonymous said...

If I go to a blog and all they talk about is long hair..I am OUT. I have had my hair to my backside and have cut it more times that I can remember. We are blessed to have any hair at all. I will take healthy hair over “Rapunzel hair” any day.

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