Are we obsessed with length?

My hair is growing…like a weed.

And I’m certainly not complaining.

In March, I made a vague comment about wanting to be shoulder-length by fall (got to that goal in Spring 2010) and well on my way to armpit-length by spring 2011.

Well, guess what?

I’m about an inch and a half to armpit length and it’s only fall 2010!*dancing a jig!* (Forgive my lack of pictures. The Hubby was supposed to take a couple of shots, but we’ve been so busy I forgot to get him to do it. My self-portraits this morning left a lot to be desired.)

I’m thinking that I will probably hit this goal – if my hair keeps growing this way and I keep up with my protective styling challenge – by Christmas. And seeing that I’m planning to straighten my hair and get a professional trim if needed around that time, I’ll be able to do a real length check.

While perusing the blogs over the past few weeks, I’ve been hearing other bloggers talk about the natural hair community’s obsession with length. Do I think that there’s an obsession?


I think that a lot of Black women have spent a lot of years obsessing over hair in general – whether they had relaxed, jheri curled or natural hair. Hair has a very distinct meaning for Black women. For many of us, healthy, long hair was a hard goal to achieve. Personally speaking, it was hard as heck to get my hair past my shoulders and when it was shoulder-length it was far from healthy.

Now that I’m natural and have a better idea of how to take care of my hair, it’s growing and it’s healthy and I’m retaining the length. And yes, I would like the choice to not only have healthy hair, but to have hair of any length I choose.

I don’t want to be held at a certain length – if I have a goal to grow my hair down to my waist (that isn’t my ultimate goal – that’s too much dang work), I should be able to try to achieve that without feeling guilty for wanting length. Right now, my length goal is to reach armpit length – the longest that my hair would have ever been.

When I first started my hair journey, I wanted healthy hair. I did like the idea of length, but health was first and foremost. Now that I have healthier hair (I mean, it’s not perfect, but it’s a lot better than it was two years ago), I want longer hair.

My ultimate goal? When my hair is kinky, I want it to be shoulder-length. When it’s straight, I want it to be mid-back. I don’t have a time-frame – I’m thinking that by summer 2011, God willing, I’ll be well on my way to that barring any setbacks.

What about you? Do you think that the natural hair community is unusually obsessed with length? Do you have a particular length goal or hair goal?


8 Comments Add yours

  1. Grace says:

    OMG! I was just talking about this with a friend yesterday.

    Obsessed might be too mild a word. And, it’s not just the natural hair community – nor the ethnic community. Long hair obsession has been a beauty ideal since biblical times. A woman’s hair has long represented her crowning glory. And since in society, women are usually first and foremost judged by their beauty, long hair = beautiful.

    In the black community long hair takes on even more status. This also dates back historically. Blacks who were mixed race and had lighter complexions and less kinky/curly hair were more acceptable in white society. They were the “house Negros,” the ones who got the better jobs, positions etc. So, this fascination with length, for some, makes a subconscious statement that says “I can grow hair too, I must be beautiful too. I must be more like you, than them.” Them being those who “can’t” grow hair.

    This obsession with length has lead to a million dollar weave and extension industry (with all the money going to corporations who could care less about black culture or beauty) that ironically leave women with damaged, unhealthy hair that seems to be incapable of growing. It’s an unfortunate myth that black hair doesn’t grow. But if we’re (we being black women, natural or not) confident in ourselves, we don’t need to “prove” to society that we can grow hair.

    Let me be clear, not all women who want long hair hold these beliefs. Many don’t. A head of healthy, big, hair is beautiful. But so is a short, healthy natural, or a short healthy straight cut. And the woman who chooses the latter is no less beautiful or worthy than the former.

    Sorry for the incredibly long rant, but the long hair obsession gets me heated! Keep up the good work and be blessed and beautiful at whatever length you choose to wear your crown!

    1. urbansista says:

      I agree with you 100%. For me, it’s all about having choice and feeling good in your skin. Personally, I do have a length goal and the beauty ideals that you wrote about may play into my reasoning for wanting to grow my hair longer. But, I didn’t feel less beautiful with short hair. I don’t think I’ll feel more beautiful with longer hair — it’s just a goal that I have. It’s my way of showing doubters that yes, Black people who aren’t mixed race can also have long hair if we choose to. I’ve seen many women — especially Black women — hold onto unhealthy hair just to claim that it’s long because they wouldn’t feel beautiful with short hair. That’s a problem. Substituting your hair with weaves and extensions is also a problem.

      It’s similar to people who want to lose weight. Society says that people should be slim, but not all of us are built like that. Some folks will practically kill themselves to be an unnatural size. Others who want to lose weight may have just set a goal for themselves knowing that they can be healthy at a size 6 and healthy at size 14.

      I love long rants — that means we’re having good dialogue!

  2. scotia06 says:

    Hey, This is not totally related, but I have a question. Do you know of any cost-effective stylist that are good at trims and deep conditioning. I’m transitioning and I don’t want my hair to be butchered – just yet anyway. 🙂 All I do know is that I’m in desperate need of a trim. Thanks in advance….All the best!

    1. urbansista says:

      Hi scotia06 – if you’re in Toronto, I’d suggest Melinda or Stacey at DSM Salon. They are both really good with transitioning or natural hair. I visited them many times while I was transitioning. Hope this helps!

      1. scotia06 says:

        Thanks girl, I’ll hit them up soon. You’re a lifesaver!

  3. I don’t have any length goals; never have. I was more concerned with having natural low maintenance hair.

    And yes, I do believe the natural hair community is obsessed with length. But more accurately, I think this applies to all women in general, particularly black women because we’ve been led to believe that our hair doesn’t grow.

    I don’t think wanting/aiming for long hair is bad in itself. I only think it gets detrimental when it leads us to compromise the health of our hair or starts to affect our self-confidence/how we feel about ourselves.

    1. urbansista says:

      I agree with you: when you’re compromising the health of your hair and scalp or when hair affects our self-confidence, focusing on length isn’t a positive thing. But if it’s just about growing healthy hair, cool. Then again, when is hair just about hair?

  4. Mélanie says:

    I know I am obsessed with length… My hair used to be quite long and I cut it last year, and as they’re curly, it takes a loooong time to grow. So now my hair are like a bit more that shoulder length, so not that short, but I’m still complaining… which annoys my friend who has afro hair, which grow even slower (I’ll admit it, I thought for a long time that afro hair just didn’t grow). And I know I really shouldn’t complain, but when I see girls with extremely long hair, it just makes me want them long. And now that I’m in the Netherlands, where everyone has extremely long, blond AND straight hair, it’s even worse.

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