“Kinky/Curly hair is part of black men’s royalty”: Black Brazilian men and barbers are finding inspiration in prominent blacks in the media

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“Kinky/Curly hair is part of black men’s royalty”: Black Brazilian men and barbers are finding inspiration in prominent blacks in the media

I gotta say that, for black Brazilians, today is a time when you can get away with damn near any hairstyle. Of course, any given hairstyle will be immediately noticeable when you see something that no one else is wearing. But just is true is when you start seeing hairstyles that become so popular that you see it everywhere.

I remember, maybe five or so years ago, the ‘Neymar cut’ was pretty common for preto/pardo (black/brown) teens. Not only were young men copying the futebol star’s cut, they were also rocking the bright blond hair dye that he was famous for. All I can say is, I was kinda happy to see that that ‘do eventually play out.

But as I said, among black folks, you’ll see almost everything nowadays. Afros are pretty common, more among Afro-Brazilian women with their huge, curly volume. I particularly love the large pick-shaped and ‘preta’ earrings that these women wear with their ‘fros. Of course, ‘preta’ means ‘black woman’ and this particular earring has been a pretty common accessory that I’ve noticed in the streets since I first saw them for sale some years ago in the annual Feira Preta expo.

Marcela Moreira dos Santos Duarte
The pick earring, a common accessory among Afro-Brazilian women

Among preto and pardo men, I actually see even more variety than among preta /parda women. Last year, would have made the 90’s American Hip Hop group Kid n’ Play proud as I would see more than a few super high-top fades among the multitudes in the subway station corridors. You still see the occasional cornrows, although they were common at the start of this decade.

As Black Panther (released as Pantera Negra in Brazil) blew up across the country, Killmonger’s short, twisties that swept towards the front of the head sprung on enough heads that it became a trend in 2018. Though nowhere near as common as it was last year, you still see this look from time to time.

On social networks, Bruno Matsolo created the 'barbeiroafricano' profile because he couldn't find any info about black barbershops when taking barber courses
On social networks, Bruno Matsolo created the ‘barbeiroafricano’ profile because he couldn’t find any info about black barbershops when taking barber courses

Barber Bruno Francisco de Rezende remembers how a customer had seen the Killmonger look and wanted to adapt the look for himself. Rezende goes by the name Bruno Matsolo, and lives in the neighborhood Campo Grande, in Rio’s West Zone. As cabelo crespo (kinky/curly hair) has been so long demonized and criticized in Brazil, Bruno is seeing in the barber shop a place where black men in Brazil are beginning to find the pride and self-esteem to proud rock the kinks, curls and waves they were long influenced to maintain in a very close crop vut.

According to Bruno, “It is no longer necessary to straighten our hair to be accepted. Today cabelo crespo (kinky/curly hair) is a luxury article, royalty. We black men are a frequent audience in barber shops. We love to cut what’s in, which inspires courage and motivation in us to live with quality.”

We all know how the media can have a tremendous influence on fashion and hair trends and in Brazil, it’s no different. Afro-Brazilians also lack representation in TV and film, so when there is any sort of regular representation, the impact can be huge. Besides Black Panther, barber Emerson Leite also cites the recent Netflix original series Sintonia, that came out back in August, as a release of which black Brazilians turn for ideas of cutting their hair, styling their beards or overall styles in general.

Sintonia
Christian Malheiros, at left, portrays Nando in the original Netflix series ‘Sintonia’

According to Leite, “Sintonia works a lot with the issue of the black public and brings several cuts, such as dreads and fades and braids. Pantera helped a lot in the barber shops. People have asked for a lot of cuts, like dreadlocks,” he notes. “These cuts already existed, but the demand increased.”

Back in Detroit, the barber shop was always the spot I’ve loved to hang out in, not just for being able to walk out with a tight cut, but just to kick it with the fellas on all sorts of topics, such as the ladies, sports, religion, social movements or what have you. I get a similar feeling in São Paulo where I can gauge how fellas are feeling about the latest topics of the day.

“In recent years, the barber shop has become the best place for homens negros (black men) to take care of their appearance. Our work helps a lot in the client’s self-esteem that comes to us in search of a cut, a different style,” says Leite.

Felipe Reginaldo and Diogo
Felipe Reginaldo and Diogo show off the versality of hairstyles for black men in Brazil today

Bruno Matsolo started cutting hair three years ago and seeing the opportunity to fill a gap in the market were there was a demand, he soon created his social networking profile ‘barbeiroafricano’ meaning African barber because, as in so many areas of Brazilian life, he didn’t see any information on barber shops that cater to specifically black customers when was attending classes to become a professional barber.

Similar to other areas of influence in which black Brazilian representation is scarce, many Afro-Brazilians turn to styles of the African-Americans that they see in films and TV series. When you go through the catalogs of many film DVD bootleggers in the streets, the Barber Shop film series had a steady presence in any vendor’s arsenal. In terms of getting ideas for his own barber shop, Matsolo grew frustrated with the lack of black presence in hair advertisements, models, etc.

“I was dissatisfied with the lack of results and decided to look for our raízes africanas (African roots). I started looking for black references in the barber shop and created the account, using posts and translating the contents,” he recalls.

Having a clear understanding of what it means to be black in an anti-black world, Matsolo sees how racism affects black people global level, but delving into this ancestry brings to the African-origin references in beauty and style industry that is often invisible in a country that insists on promoting European aesthetics.

But this scarcity has created an opportunity that Matsolo is finding empowering:

“Knowing that we have pains in common is sad, but it is invigorating to know that we have the cure, our past,” he opines. “It’s just trying to know the power of our melanin. Why we are so hated and made to be inferior.”

With info from Alma Preta

About Marques Travae 3244 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.

1 Comment

  1. Good article, at least afro- Brazilians are finding some self worth in their natural hair and not confining to the European Brazilians adaptation.

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