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Black Panther Slays Villains and Edges: Why the Natural Hair in Black Panther Matters

It’s no secret that Black Panther is a must see film. There a dozens of reasons for this: the all star cast, the epic story line, and the on point styling.  Not only is Black Panther the first major block buster to feature a majority Black cast in years, but it is also one of the first to style its all of its Black actors with natural hair.

The hair in this film is unlike anything you have ever seen. In movies set in Africa, the characters typically have short cropped hairstyles that reflect their impoverished or war stricken plight. The Afro-futurist foundations of Black Panther have allowed that trope to be flipped on its head, introducing the audience to Wakanda, the advanced African Nation that could have been. The citizens of Wakanda are powerful and regal, and their hairstyles reflect the richness of their culture. 

Camille Friend, the HSIC (head stylist in charge) of the production has done countless interviews about her process, detailing how the styling was based in intense research into ancient tribes like the Turkana, Zulu, and Himba tribes.

The movie features a wide range of styles, revealing how both banal and momentous natural hairstyles can be, as in the case of Angela Basset’s character who wore a headdress for the majority of the first half of the film, until a moment of vulnerability when her long white locks are revealed.

 

 

One of our favorite styles has been dubbed the “Wakanda Knots.” Not to be mistaken for its more well known cousin Bantu knots, this style was worn by Lupita N’yongo, and featured a shorter flatter knot. In a New York Times interview, Friend explains exactly how to achieve the look yourself:

  • Section out your hair while wet
  • In sections, twist it upon itself, twisting it down into a flat, cinnamon-roll shape
  • Let your hair air dry, then lift it slightly at the roots, so it’s off the scalp, but keeps that round shape.

And wallah! Wakanda knots for the win. This style is both functional and stunning.

 

 

A second favorite was the elegant shaven head of Okoye, played by Danai Gurira, adorned by elaborate tattoos. Apparently Danai and the other Dora Milaje warriors shaved their heads every single day of production in order to maintain this look.

 

 

Beyond the style or even the story line, what makes Black Panther such a monumental film is the simple fact of representation. Seeing dark skinned characters on film as superhuman warriors in an African Mecca is empowering to all of us— from children to adults. 

There is a reason why go fund me campaigns have raised thousands in minutes, and premiere events have popped up in every major city. This is a time for us to be ourselves, and feel empowered in our own natural bodies.

So, if it wasn’t already in your plans, we encourage you to grab your squad and all of your kids, and go watch Black Panther. Make sure to get in character by wearing your best Ankara and your favorite natural style!

*photos property of Marvel Studios 

 


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