The Bald and the Beautiful: The rise of implausibly abundant fake hair

About Eritrea - Art & Sport

As I sat there next to her I just had to ask. Yet I didn’t know how to approach the subject. She had her hair curled and it looked gorgeous; however, I wasn’t sure whether it was actually her real hair or a weave. The matter was sensitive. Do I, a guy, ask this girl next to me if it was her real hair or she had a weave on? I was curious. It is said that it was curiosity that killed the cat. However, I was ready to die to get my answer.

When a friend of mine who was not good-looking by any stretch of the imagination was verbally attacked by another friend as repulsive, the former simply said that God can never make mistakes in His creation. I like his wise reply, but deep inside, my friend knew that he could never make it with the fair sex. God creates and culture determines what is good or bad.

If there were no women in this world, men wouldn’t have cared much about their looks. The same also applies to women. But humans are vain with or without consorts.

What won’t people do to attract the opposite sex and lead them to their love nest! In this war of looks, women seem to have gone the extra mile to drive men crazy.

To do this, they invented the perfume, the earring, bracelets, henna, kohl, extension hair and perfected their voice to lure the male.

In the animal world, however, it is the male that tries everything under the sun to ensnare the female. The lion has his mane, the peacock has his feathers and most birds sing and display their colored plumage in a bid to preserve their species by mating with fussy females.

Among some African and South American tribes the males try to imitate the lion or the jaguar to get wows from the females. It is genetically more profitable to sleep with a lion or a jaguar than with naked apes, would say the women, for men are simply glorified monkeys.

On the other hand, marriageable girls among some African tribes sharpen their teeth to imitate the leopard that perchance they might attract the unwary male. It is genetically more profitable to sleep with a tigress than with a chimpanzee, would say the men, for women are after all elevated and adorable monkeys.

Elevated and adorable monkeys, indeed! Fake hair or the rather pleasant term extensions or the weave is one of the things women use to good effect and by that I mean to look good. By which the extension is fitted into the natural hair to make it look like their real hair by birthright is nothing short of witchcraft.

Like many successful consumer products, hair weave is addictive. My friend, her name I’ll not divulge for reasons quite obvious, remembers her first hit. She had a very important occasion coming up and had to have extensions, for which she asked her dear relative abroad to send her the perfect ones, apparently called 23 inch human extension hair.

“How much did they cost?” I asked, as she waved her now long hair left and right.

“100 dollars?” she replied nonchalantly.

“You have got hair worth 100 US dollars in that head of yours?” I asked thinking what I would do had I had a 100 dollars at my disposal. For your information extension hair will not be one of them.

“Actually 300 dollars worth of long and beautiful hair!” and went on to explain at length how it worked.

“I bet you feel like 300 bucks!” I replied mockingly.

That was five years ago and it was love at first sight for her. It was long black and soft, swishing with every step as she walked away. To this day she can’t leave the house without a weave to the extent that her larger-than-life confections seemed to have its own personality.

You see, hair is malleable; we can change it so easily in ways that we can’t change any other part of our body. It becomes a reflection of who a person is and a sign of our identity.

Eritrean hairstyles are as diverse and colorful as the many ethnic groups that inhabit the nation. They characterize and distinguish each ethnicity and play an important role in traditional societies. Depending on the gender, certain hairstyles can even provide information about a person’s beliefs, marital status and which ceremonial occasions they are attending.

Among women from the Tigrinya ethnic group, there are five hairstyles that are commonly found: albaso, gamme, segem, rubbo and gilbich. Albaso usually consists of seven large braids that flow back till the end extends out like a fur coat. Segem, rubbo and gilbich are similar hairstyles that have smaller braids going directly back with varying patterns. Traditionally, gamme hairstyle is intended for adolescent girls who haven’t married. This hairstyle usually features braids being braided to the sides and backward.

The most common hairstyles found among Tigre women are called fegiret and qedamit. These hairstyles consist of small micro-braids that run sideways and straight back to the nape of the neck. Fegiret also features seven strands of braids grouped together into two separate areas that cover the forehead slightly.

Among traditional Hidarab (Beja), Beni- Amer and some Tigre men, they style their hair in a fluffy crown-like shape that have long ringlets hanging down on the sides. This type of hairstyle is known as the tiffa in the Hidareb language.

It is said most African-American braids and cornrow styles are influenced by East African countries, most notably Eritrea and Ethiopia. Fifteen times Grammy award winner Alicia Keys has been seen sporting different kinds of braids and cornrow over the years inspired  by styles from these two countries alone.

These days, the younger generations adhere to trends; the men head to the barber, while the women head to the hair salon to sport the latest trends of hair styles. That is where the weave comes into play. I don’t really know when exactly extensions became a ‘thing’ in this country but I can say with confidence there isn’t one girl in the city that hasn’t dappled with extensions. Lace-front wigs, full wigs and weaves are part of our world now, and apparently they’re not going anywhere anytime soon. Let’s just get over it.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not complaining. I always applaud any kind of stylish extremism, especially when there is so much hilariously historical background is involved. However, the new, massive, free-thinking, fake hairdos do not always seem to have their wearers’ best interests at heart. This process is clinically proven to cause permanent hair loss, something to consider of course. Moreover it should be noted that this nouveau wigginess has become something of a distraction. There is the elegantly tress and there is the verging on balding. No gal feels she has currency unless she has ramparts of fakery adorning her scalp. In fairness to hair, it should be pointed out that hair is merely trying to keep pace with the other features of madam’s appearance.

As for men, back in the 1600’s British men were every bit as wiggy and powdered as the women, if not more. In Eritrea, during the armed struggle, the men used to sport short twisted curls, called Jeb-Jeb. Today, we see the old go for the rather simplified tonsorial approach, and the young go the medium height twist curls/high fade haircut and side faded short edge-ups, far from the meshugeneh coiffures women chose to have. Of course, there are guys who seem to have a mid-life crisis and chose to go for borderline mop like Rasta’s.

In parting, what I’m trying to say is, and bear in mind that this is just my opinion, I do understand it is a woman’s choice whether to glue pound and pounds of extensions but the Eritrean woman is naturally so beautiful it renders any male object a drooling glorified monkey.

The Turks must have been the first foreigners in recent history of this region to fall in love with the Eritrean women. A Swiss adventurer once married a Bilin beauty in the 19th Century, the Egyptians intermarried with the inhabitants of Massawa and Hirgigo, the Italians in 1890s left their signoras and signorinas behind in Calabria and Sicily and sang Asmarina, Asmara, you are the most beautiful and the gringos fell head over heels for the Eritrean woman. History tells us that the Eritrean woman doesn’t need a weave to look beautiful.