With the evident explosion of beard culture, an expansive lineup of emergent grooming brands and the growing allure surrounding Men’s Fashion Week as witnessed with Virgil Abloh’s historic Louis Vuitton debut the masses are finally catching up to a truth we’ve known all along—men care about style just as much as women do.
In an era of independence, a new generation of disruptive tastemakers are challenging traditional ideas of masculinity through the lens of contemporary style, with hair more specifically serving as an effective medium for expressing these progressive beliefs. Beyond the broad spectrum of clothes men are choosing to place in their closets – fly cuts, bold colors and experimental textures are just a few of the ways we’re seeing this movement manifest. Hair not only stands as a liberating symbol, but a core component of individual identity; one that men of color are asserting more confidently than ever.
Throughout the month of September, CASSIUS will explore the changing culture of hair by highlighting different men of color and their unique journeys through grooming. We asked 9 select guys with standout looks to share their personal stories of growth, identity and self-discovery through the evolution of their hair.
Watch their exclusive video interviews above and learn more about these men below.
YAHROCK “YAH YAH” BATES
Signature Look: ’90s Precision Cuts
I’m really big into the ’90s; my dad was an extra in the movie Juice. Back then, he used to rock the gumby, so once he showed me those throwback pictures it inspired me and I started doing the same thing. There are a lot of stereotypes surrounding how Black men should wear their hair, but we should be able to wear our hair however we want to. We should be able to braid it, dye it, perm it or rock it however we’d like.
Black hair is beautiful. Everyone loves the culture of our hair. People want to touch my hair, but as a Black model there aren’t many stylists who actually know what to do with my hair. On certain jobs, they say that my hair is too ‘urban’ or too distracting. Meanwhile, white models can try different kinds of styles and no one says anything. Often times, when Black men try to do something different with their look and step outside the box, there’s automatically a label placed on them. Don’t listen to what people say, just be yourself.
“Black hair is beautiful. Everyone loves the culture of our hair.”-Yah Yah
Signature Look: Bold Locs
What do I love about my hair? You can’t break this off; it’s my power. My hair says that I’m strong, don’t fuck with me, and if you don’t know me, you probably should know me. The moment I decided to lock my hair was a transitional moment for me because I was tired of having braids and feeling like Little Bow Wow. I wanted to grow up. People who have dreads are stereotypically categorized as Rastas, or straight and strong. Most people perceive it as ‘I’m about to go chop down this tree.’ But, I approach it as ‘I’m going to wear this tree.’
“My hair says that I’m strong, don’t fuck with me, and if you don’t know me, you probably should know me.”-Gitoo
Signature Look: Silky Smooth
People have taken it upon themselves to touch my hair; I’m not sure what it is that causes some to take it as an invitation to do so, but it makes me feel like an animal or a pet. I’ve heard great things about my hair and I’ve also heard things like it’s too wild or tangled. The craziest thing someone has told me about my hair is that ‘it’s a challenge.’
When it comes to describing one’s hair, people really need to be careful with the words they choose. After all, it is a form of expression for some, so the words spoken about it can have a powerful impact. Over time, I’ve learned that hair is art, and like any art form, it can evoke so many emotions in people. As a result, you need to love yourself enough to be able to take on anyone’s perceptions of it.
“I’ve learned that hair is art, and like any art form, it can evoke so many emotions in people.”-Jordun
Signature Look: Pop Art
My hair is like a canvas that I use to show my creativity. It gives me the freedom to express my style. It’s my identity and a part of who I am. I love that through my hair, I have something that takes me stand out.
My first time bleaching my hair was a painful experience. Not all of my friends in Thailand can dye their hair like me and have their parents be accepting of it. But, my parents accept it, even though they hate it. People have said my hair channels Keith Haring’s designs, which is a cool compliment.
“My hair is like a canvas that I use to show my creativity.”-Thunder
Signature Look: Box Braids
I started growing out my hair when I was 13 or 14 years-old. Over time, it became more of a spiritual thing for me and is more than just hair now. I love how it makes others feel –some people care more about my hair than I do. It’s like the Sampson effect; my hair has strength in it and is about so much more than just style.
As a Filipino-American, usually what you see in men’s hair is more of a boxy, clean-cut look. My hairstyle sometimes throws people off. Seeing its length and the braids, there’s always a box people try to put me in. But, I feel like the new generation of guys are shattering those perceptions.
“My hair has strength in it and is about so much more than just style.”-Jeff
Signature Look: Wild Curls
For guys with big hair, some of the stereotypes you hear are that he’s either trying to be a girl, he’s gay, or he’s trying to show-off. I realized I wanted my hair to be different and unique when I was a little kid. I would always say ‘what’s my limit?’
How would I describe my hair? I describe it as 80s, retro funky and bubbly. My hair reflects my multiracial background. My grandmother is Haitian, Cherokee Indian and English. My Grandfather is Puerto Rican and Portuguese, so that carried over into my mother. My dad is Puerto Rican and Italian with jet black, wavy hair. I guess that mixture, combined with my mom’s background, formed this strawberry, adapt-to-survive kind of hair.
“How would I describe my hair? 80’s, retro funky, bubbly.”-AJ
Signature Look: Jumbo ‘Fro
My hair means a lot to me because it’s bold, strong and powerful – and I feel like it describes me as a person. I’m a strong young man, I’m a bold young man, and I’m a powerful human being. I get a lot of love for my hair. People ask to touch my hair and some just take pictures without my permission. I get looked at a lot by tourists.
My message to men would be to express yourself. Some people express themselves though art, some people express themselves through fashion. I express myself in one way through my hair.
“My hair is bold, strong and powerful; it describes me as a person.”-Kawan
Signature Look: Shag
My parents hated it when I started growing my hair. But, when I was looking for initial inspiration to make the move, it was ancient Korean culture that really influenced me. Way back in the day, Korean men would never cut their hair as it was viewed as a gift from your parents that was valued a lot; cutting it was unheard of. So, it’s ironic that now having longer hair is frowned upon in present-day Korean households.
“When I was looking for initial inspiration, it was ancient Korean culture that really influenced me.”-Hunter
Signature Look: Colorful Dreads
I love the color and vibrancy of my hair — it makes me feel alive. When people see me, the first thing they think of is a Soundcloud rapper like Lil Uzi Vert, Famous Dex, or any ‘Lil’ I can get compared to. What inspired me to grow my hair was my father. He used to have locs when he was younger and I just always loved seeing him shake is hair. Now, when I shake my hair, I feel like a rock star in my true element.
When I started growing my hair out I became more confident, so people started treating me differently. I’m from St. Albans, Queens [New York] and a lot of people rock fitted-hats and Air Force 1’s. When I first came through with the colored dreads, I would always get made fun of, but at the same time, people showed respect because people understood I was being myself to the fullest.
“I love the color and vibrancy of my hair–it makes me feel alive.”-Johnny
Credits: Photographs: Keith Major; Videos: Jaquan Williams; Executive Director, Style & Creative Partnerships: Marielle Bobo; Senior Lifestyle Producer: Tia Brown; Production Coordinator: Kasey Daniels; Yah Yah, Jordun, Jeff, AJ, Kawan, Hunter and Johnny Hair: Monae Everett; Jorge Hair: Latisha Chong; Grooming: William Marshall