Here's something from Francis in Brazil:
We Black people always want a hairstyle that is attractive, easily, economically and quickly maintained, that involves no chemical treatments or heating, and that allows us to participate in water sports without turning into a pumpkin. We discussed this earlier in an article entitled, "Free Your African Hair."
Now, a compliment from teenage Black blogger Phil Pierre-Paul on my new "braids" has prompted me to explain how you, too, can get these Brazilian cornrow braids in just thirty minutes, for as little as five dollars.
My hair is not really "braided." Until two weeks ago, I wore my head completely shaved clean. Then, after it had grown to the level you see here, instead of shaving it again I asked the barber to shave some cornrows into my head with a flat razor, to make it look like my hair is braided. (I took this idea from a Brazilian magazine called RacaBrasil.Com.BR, which offers many other haircare, style and cultural and political ideas from Brasil.)
They stop me on the street to compliment me.
The barber cut my hair with the "Number 1" (smallest) gate; used a straight-razor to design these rows, and voilá! I dabbed my head with the barber's alcohol to avoid irritation and my "braids" were ready for showing, in less than thirty minutes.
For me, the advantages over "braided braids" are tremendous. Although I've tried, I have never had the patience to wait for my hair to grow long enough to be braided. That much hair is hot in summer and hard to maintain, and I'm used to the free-headed feeling of shaving my head completely. And I don't like combing, cutting and shampooing an Afro all the time while waiting for my hair to become long enough for braids. I simply haven't the patience for that.
If you get this haircut here in Bahia, Brazil, you'll pay as little as five dollars USD (compared to fifty dollars for "braided braids". In the United States, you can get a haircut like this for probably twenty dollars, compared an estimated eighty dollars or more for "braided" cornrow braids.
If your head is sensitive at the lower back and subject to irritation, this is a style you can use without shaving that area entirely, resulting in far less risk of irritation and bumps.
The above hairstyle is one that I can obtain in two weeks, starting from being completely clean-shaven and going to the look you see above.
Since the hair on my head is less dense than if it were braided, I feel fresher and freer in the hot sun. I tried to let my hair grow long enough for braids, but
This new look allows me to get "braids" with only a two week wait for my hair to grow long enough, and I only have to sit in the barber's chair for twenty minutes instead of four hours.
But here are a couple of notes of caution: Go to a barber who has some experience cutting styles with a razor, e.g. a barber popular with the young set. When a barber uses a razor, always make sure that it is one with disposable Gillette blades, and that s/he has changed the blade in front of you. Always pass alcohol on your head afterward to avoid irritation.
If you're subject to dandruff and/or seborrhea, the cheapest and most effective solution is Therapeutic T + Plus Gel Shampoo with Solubilized Coal Tar Extract, available at Walgreens for 7.99 for 16ounce bottle, or at CVS, for $7.13 for a 16-ounce bottle. The key ingredient is the coal tar. Use it all the time instead of those expensive brand name shampoos, and your dandruff will be gone for good.
Here in Brazil, this shampoo is much more expensive, for some reason. A good alternative is coco soap, made from coconuts. It costs less than a dollar for a large bar. This and hot water washes away seborrhea, leaving behind a pleasant cocoa butter smell and sheen.
If you try these braidless braids above, I hope you'll be just as happy and free with them as I am!
Author's Note: Also read "Free Your African Hair!"