Ten Best African-American hairstyles

by Meredith Veto

Doobie wrap

This is the first style that came to mind for Dudley Beauty Center’s hairdressers. The doobie wrap, also known as the roller wrap set or body wrap, is a multi-step process that leaves hair with curl and body, explains stylist Briannica Daye. First rolled and dried under a hooded dryer, the hair is then combed out and set in a wrap. After waiting in the wrap for a while, the hair is brushed down once more, exposing big, loose waves.


Natural is in, reports Dudley’s top stylist Jennifer Foster. For many African-American women the decision to go natural is a big step, ditching hours relaxing and ironing hair in the beauty shop for an easier do. Popularized by Rastafaris, dreads create themselves and involve no maintenance. Locks, on the other hand, are stylist-created to look neat and uniform. Kinky twists are also popular.


Up-dos, popular for weddings and proms, allow the stylist full creative license. When asked about particularly elaborate styles she’s designed for special occasions, Foster replied, ‘“If you can achieve it, we can weave it.’” Curls, braiding, extensions and hairpieces are swept back in any arrangement depending on the customer’s tastes, going wild or conservative, artistically stacked on the crown of the head.


Dubbed the Fauxhawk when not shaven to the skin, this look is short on the sides of the head and longer on the top, spiked into a crest. Daye first recalls seeing the style on women at a hair show in 2004, and when she came back everybody was doing it. The look is cute and edgy, doable with short or medium-length hair. Also trendy is the less rebellious variation, a short cut kept long on the top without being gelled to a peak. Fantasia Barrino masters this look.


Although it’s not a hairstyle itself, color justifies its own category because of its recent popularity. ‘“We’re not normally so into color,’” said Foster. But it’s a hot trend right now, highlighting hairdos with fun, red-toned tints. Pinks, oranges and crimsons are in. Some celebrities have particularly embraced the flamboyant hues ‘— Eve, with a super short pixie cut, has gone from bright pink to platinum blond.


The Afro emerged in the late ’60s when African Americans began to embrace their heritage, rejecting beauty treatments that conformed their hair to straight, white standards. Eldridge Cleaver and Jimi Hendrix were some of the first public figures to rock the ‘fro, turning the style into a political statement. In the early 2000s the Afro experienced a comeback, although these days the style has been downsized. Women today continue to embrace their hair’s natural beauty, keeping the look trim, bouncy and multi-layered.


Spiked hair is a trendy style for short to medium cuts. Pieces of hair are straightened and flipped up and out in any configuration with the help of gels and sprays. The spiked ‘do can look messy, jagged or manicured. But less popular these days is hair that’s hard as a helmet ‘— women say they want their hair to move. ‘“Now it’s back to flowy, bouncy hair,’” says Foster. ‘“Back in the day everybody wanted something hard.’”


Like the Afro, cornrows also sprang into popularity in the ’60s and ’70s along with the black pride movement. The tight braids, often with extensions added, can take hours of painful styling depending on the length of hair. But the tradeoff is beautiful, long-lasting braids that can be formed in straight lines or geometric designs and can be adorned with colorful beads. ‘“They’re nice in the summertime,’” Foster’s client Tiffany Dean commented, as her own hair was being separated into strands and extended.

Finger waves

A throwback to the Roaring Twenties, finger waves remain stylish in the 21st century. The retro look can be styled with either a comb and fingers, forming soft, bouncy waves, or with banana clips set in lotion shaped closer to the head. Finger waves give short hair a classic form, add shape to the medium bob, and even accompany longer looks with a few waves in the front or side.


A roll-up is a simple, classic hair concept. It’s achieved by setting the hair in curlers then unleashing the locks, giving the hair body and a fun, easy-going look. Rolled curls have been a staple for African American women throughout fashion history. Think Dorothy Dandridge ‘—pretty, loose shoulder-length tresses that frame the face.