Real men go to hair salons

Edward Tsumele

Edward Tsumele

When I and a group of my friends started growing dreadlocks a couple of years ago, we were motivated by a complex set of reasons.

Firstly, it was Rastafarian inspired and influenced by Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, the music of Culture and Burning Spear and later, a coterie of reggae artists such as Shaba Ranks, Sizzler, Mutabaruka and others.

In fact, a lot of us found pride in the rebellious streak that ran through all this music and the often pseudo-pan Africanism evident in the sounds.

We just let our hair grow and grow and grow. Visits to hair salons were considered uncool and akin to being a sissy.

This attitude prevailed particularly in Yeoville, our hangout. Ironically, we never noticed Jabu Stone's hair salon, which is tucked away just below our favourite hangout - Tandoor's.

Girls were crazy about our hairstyles. Everybody was talking about our hair. The girls were very impressed by brothers wearing rough dreads. We were the real thing.

Then somehow in the mid 1990s, a new style of dreadlocks took the country by storm when TV and radio presenters joined the bandwagon.

With their celebrity status, they needed to look smart and yet keep their African hairstyles.

Pressure was inevitably piled on us, the rough type that still clung to the wild look. Dates became hard to come by as many girls started to frown on our wild dreadlocks.

Slowly, we started to want to conform to the clean and sleek hairstyle that had now become the flavour of the moment. And with new freedom, our lifestyles changed as they became merged into the lifestyles of the new suburban and culturally integrated South Africa.

It became uncool to have "dirty" and uncared for hairstyles in the name of Rastafarianism and the wish of wanting to keep it "rough, raw and authentic".

I, like several of my comrades, still resisted the temptation to go to the salon. However, it was not long before I too succumbed and embraced hair salon dreadlocks.

In the process, I started sharing brushes, chairs and dryers with often gossiping women in the hair salons.

Don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with the women who patronise these hair salons. If anything, they are beautiful and cool.

It is just that initially, it was strange to go to a hair salon. If you think there is nothing to worry about, just imagine this scenario.

You are sitting comfortably and relaxing in Knox's Hair Salon in Braamfontein on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

And as you are enjoying that lovely sensation as the stylist washes your hair, a friend phones to enquire where you are. You are quite conscious of the sound of water running down your head. But how do you confess that you are in a hair salon.

This happened to me about two years ago. A friend phoned and I was honest and told him that I was in a hair salon. The guy laughed his head off. I demanded that he share the joke. He answered: "What the hell is a man doing in a hair salon? Are you a sissy or what?"

I was angry at first because I am not a sissy. But where else do I get my hair styled if not at a hair salon?

The point is, I have done away with the wild look and have embraced, lock and key, the impressive hairstyles one can get at the salon.

I can walk straight into a boardroom with my hairstyle, wearing a neck tie and a jacket and I turn heads. And this time, for the right reason.

I also do not remember struggling to clinch a date, even with a beauty queen.

In fact, several people I know now seem to be more impressed by my hair salon dreads - compared to the wild style of previous years.

And as for the guy who laughed at me, I saw him wearing a hair salon style recently.