The Historical past Of The Silk Press: Black Hair Momentary Straightening Method

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Welcome to Topped, our new collection all in regards to the historical past of Black hair. Hosted by senior social media editor Star Donaldson, Topped explores the historical past and traditions which have formed the Black expertise and the hairstyles born out of them. In our latest episode, we deep-dive into the silk press, a standard straightening approach with wealthy cultural significance. Be a part of us in studying extra. This collection is researched by Christine Forbes and Oluwatobi Odugunwa.

Pure hair is equally lovely and versatile and, the glory of it’s—the chances are actually limitless. Whether or not you are carrying your ‘fro in its pure state or rocking cornrows, most of the types and traits which are standard as we speak are rooted in Black historical past—together with straight types just like the silk press.

The Historical past

By definition, the silk press is a brief hair straightening approach that makes use of minimal product and flat iron to attain bone-straight hair, Donaldson explains. Not like chemical relaxers, which in its earliest days, utilized lye, a poisonous steel hydroxide, to completely straighten hair, the silk press is achieved with scorching instruments solely. ” It presses curly hair into glossy straight strands,” says Donaldson. “This fashion is only a standard as we speak because it was a long time in the past.”

In line with analysis, Black individuals have been straightening their hair because the early 1900s primarily partly to discrimination. “Traditionally straightening our hair was an act of survival,” Donaldson explains. “After slavery was abolished, newly freed black People had been just about unprotected by the federal government, which led to widespread violence by terrorist teams.” Jim Crow legal guidelines additionally made it troublesome for Black individuals to take pleasure in their full rights as residents and safe employment. “Discovering jobs and making a life meant altering our hair texture so as to match into the European magnificence requirements of the time,” Donaldson says. “Not like cornrows or Bantu knots, hair straightening was born out of the necessity to survive in a racist society.”

“It is vital to know that hair straightening is a instrument of adaption for Black individuals in a racist society.”

Earlier than the silk press, there have been different strategies for hair straightening, like pullers, which utilized two balls on the finish of a deal with, which will get pulled via the hair to loosen kinks and coils. Within the Nineteen Twenties, scorching combs had been popularized by Madam CJ Walker and, though the pioneer did not invent the instrument, it was a vital a part of her enterprise. “Once I’ve had my hair pressed, hairstylists have used a scorching comb simply earlier than my edges to make my hair as straight as doable,” Donaldson shares. “So the instrument continues to be fairly related as we speak.”

Actresses Tia and Tamera Mowry of American sitcom 'Sister Sister'
TIM RONEY/GETTY IMAGES

After the trendy pure hair motion in 2009, so many individuals gave up utilizing chemical relaxers and needed an choice to put on straight hair quickly—with out the chemical substances. That is the place we see a fair larger resurgence in silk-pressed types. “I want I knew about this fashion once I was getting relaxers as a result of it’s rather a lot safer and fewer damaging,” Donaldson explains.

You could have seen the silk press on some acquainted faces, together with Tia and Tamera Mowry again on Sister, Sister. The late singer, Aaliyah, was additionally main silk-press inspo, together with her hair usually styled side-parted bone-straight look. Former First Girl Michelle Obama additionally wore her hair silk pressed all through her time within the White Home. Extra lately, Obama’s silk pressed fashion at President Biden’s inauguration went viral, with individuals calling her look “The Michelle.”

Obama’s stylist Yene Demtew used the silk-press technique on her consumer and completed her ends with curls calmly combed out for further bounce. With the silk press, you have got the choice to put on your strands stick straight, with little or no curl, or tremendous voluminous, with curls and physique all through your hair. Whereas superstar stylists usually make the most of the approach on their purchasers, the silk press can be extensively accessible and may be finished at a salon. Some individuals have even mastered the method on their very own and at residence.

Former U.S. President Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama arrive to the inauguration of U.S. President-elect Joe Biden on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on January 20, 2021 in Washington, DC.
TASOS KATOPODIS/GETTY IMAGES

The Course of

Though the silk press is a superb technique for momentary hair straightening, it is vital to notice that exposing pure hair to excessive warmth may be probably damaging. It is why silk-press execs insist on utilizing a warmth protectant product to maintain the hair secure through the course of. “One of many main steps is to make use of a warmth protectant to attenuate the warmth injury on afro-textured hair,” Donaldson explains. “The fashion begins on twice shampooed hair that’s then deep conditioned for half-hour so as stave off breakage and tangling.”

After your deep conditioner has finished its work, hair is normally rinsed with chilly water to shut the cuticle. “Then hair Is blown out and straightened in small sections for that further silky end,” says Donaldson. Relying in your routine and way of life, a silk press can final you as much as three weeks with upkeep, which ought to primarily embrace wrapping your hair at night time with a satin scarf and minor touch-ups if mandatory. Upon ending your silk press (or in case your strands really feel uninteresting or dry days later) you possibly can easy a light-weight oil serum or mist over your strands for further shine. You may also use an edge management pomade alongside your hairline to maintain that space easy.

 

The Takeaway

Like most types and strategies tailor-made to Black individuals, the silk press is gorgeous when finished and a sensible different to these trying to fashion their hair straight with out chemical injury. Nonetheless, whereas it is a gorgeous approach, recognizing its roots makes much more particular. “It is vital to know that hair straightening is a instrument of adaption for Black individuals in a racist society,” Donaldson says. “So when Black individuals put on our hair straight, it is a image of survival and power, and it is an effective way to combine up our look. Which is an ideal instance of why Black hair is Black historical past.”

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