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What is an Afro?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 23, 2024
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An Afro is a hairstyle that is often most easy to achieve in people of African descent. It is a natural way of wearing the hair that allows for short tight curls to surround the head like a cloud of hair. An Afro can be relatively small or very large depending upon the length of the hair. The look was a reactionary response in the 1960s and 1970s for black women and men rejecting the need to look “white” and apply hair straightener to achieve Caucasian-like hair.

Anyone who has tightly curled hair will better be able to achieve an Afro better than a person with straight hair. Some people can achieve enough curl with a permanent to achieve the style.

After the hair is tightly braided, it is fluffed out using a special wide-toothed comb or pick. This eliminates some of the curl, causing the hair to stand nearly straight out from the head. Overall the effect means the hair is fluffed out all over. Some have compared the Afro look to a natural helmet, since there seems to be little space between each hair.

As the hair gets longer, it needs to be very curly to achieve the look. A few people have sported notably huge Afros by growing their hair quite long. Jimi Hendrix, deceased guitarist, was known for this look. Diana Ross also had an impressive Afro during the 1970s.

The Afro became even more popular with the advent of disco. Like any other fashion style, the look grew larger due to the demands of fashion. Then it became lampooned, with comedians wearing extremely large ones. Jokes about fitting through doorways and getting into cars while sporting an Afro abounded.

In the main, these jokes were not a fling at blacks or meant to be racially motivated. In fact many of the comedians making fun of the style have been black. In 2005, fashion returned to the 1970s for inspiration in clothing and hairstyles, and people once again sported somewhat modest Afros. As well, the Farrah Fawcett hairstyle revisited the fashion world, and bell-bottom jeans were once again “in.”

Though most people no longer wear the Afro, even after recent fashion trends, it is sure to return again from time to time as fashion recreates the “look” of various eras.

Language & Humanities is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a Language & Humanities contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By anon81286 — On Apr 30, 2010

I am a white student and I have an afro. You need to have really tight curls in your hair or you will have next to no chance of getting a 'fro. Basically, if your hair is naturally curly, you could get an afro.

By anon67894 — On Feb 27, 2010

i'm also white, and i really want an afro. can someone please help me on how to get one?

By anon6898 — On Jan 11, 2008

great definition and how to create an afro. Good Stuff!

By anon6569 — On Jan 02, 2008

How did white people get afro's in the 60's-70's?

I want to have a small afro how can i get it?

I heard they used to use beer or alcohol to make there hair ruff and curly.

plzpleasehelp me get an afro!!!!

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a Language & Humanities contributor,...
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