The new black

Men have always lagged behind women in the style stakes (letters to the usual address). This is just as true for black men as it is for their white counterparts. But finally, it seems, black men are catching up - well, at least in terms of hair.

Take a look around, and you can't help but notice black men, or more specifically teenagers, are growing their hair. Not since the heady days of the geri curl has there been so much hair around. But our sofas and pillows are safe from oil slicks, because this time it's different: this younger generation is keeping things natural.

Of course, the majority of black men have always worn their hair natural, but they've also kept it military regulation short. But it's more than just vanity; what's great about this trend is the confidence and self-awareness it shows on the part of these teenagers. I've always found it sad that black men feel obliged to keep their hair short. When I question friends about it, they talk about looking "professional" and "neat", but dig deeper and they start talking about not wanting to look "too black". It doesn't take a psychoanalyst to work out what's going on there.

So how did it start? A couple of years ago, hip-hop artists began wearing their hair in plaits, and what happens when you take out plaits? Bingo, a new trend is born. You don't even have to look over the pond: Craig David and Simon from Blue are just two examples of men who have gone from braids to Afro in one easy move.

And then there is the fact that Afros are easier to deal with today. "There are loads more products for Afros and natural hair," says Desmond Murray, Afro hairdresser of the year 2001. "There are better shampoos and conditioners, and much more product knowledge," says Murray, who describes his own hair as "a three- to four-inch semi-Afro-twisty type thing", highlighting the versatility of today's Afro. In fact, if you see four schoolboys sporting the style, each one is likely to look completely different. But you can guarantee they'll all look great, because, let's face it - and, yes, I do realise how smug this sounds - have you ever seen a bad Afro?

Thanks to guardian.co.uk who have provided this article. View the original here.