The five essential rules for growing a Kaepernick-level afro.
By Lamar Dawson via GQ
If you haven't noticed, the afro is having a style moment. It's hard to pin down exactly what's behind the resurgence of a classic haircut. Between Colin Kaepernick's courageous protest, the throwback sounds of Bruno Mars, and Odell Beckham Jr. doing basically whatever he wants, the afro—once relegated to grainy YouTube footage of Dr. J—has re-awakened.
When you think about it, the afro came back right on time. It fits into today’s social, political and cultural space which is revisiting themes from the era when the afro was ubiquitous. It’s also the kind of natural look that suits well a generation known for boycotting Styrofoam and buying sustainable everything.
Or maybe you don’t care about any of that and you just want to try a new style while you still have the follicles. We asked celebrity barber John Cotton (the man behind Empire’s Jussie Smollett's grow out for tips on how to grow an afro, and take it from Donald Glover in Community to Donald Glover in Atlanta.
H2O'll Help You Grow
Remember those Chia Pets from the ‘80s where you could water a terracotta pig and grass would grow out of its backside? That could be you. You’ve been hearing about the importance of drinking water since you could walk, but if vanity is your only incentive, we’d like to inform you that drinking water is good for your hair. “Drinking lots of water keeps your body and hair hydrated,” says Cotton. “This lessens frizz and heightens elasticity which helps keep your hair from breaking.” You probably don’t need as much as Tom Brady, but make sure you’re getting the recommended 8 glasses a day.
Use Conditioner—Depending on How Your Hair Feels
When you touch your hair, does it feel like you’re petting a basket of kittens, or a box of Brillo pads? “One of the keys to maintaining a healthy head of hair is knowing your hair’s texture and what products best suit them,” says Cotton. “When you know these two things, you’ll be better able to form a hair regimen.” If your hair is on the dry, Brillo pad side, make friends with a leave-in conditioner. Use it after washing your hair and prior to styling to combat dryness on a regular basis. If your hair is brittle and breaking, run to a hairdresser for some deep conditioning love.
Update Your Styling Tools and Tactics
If you’ve already started growing your hair out, you probably realize some of your usual grooming tools and approaches are no longer useful. The brush you used for a smooth, clean finish now flattens your now full, puffy hair. The fine tooth comb that used to glide through your hair a few inches ago now feels like you’re racking weeds. The longer your hair grows, the more likely it is to get tangled. So, all this to simply say you need a comb or pick with wide teeth. Get one.
Give Your Hair A Night Cap
You need to protect your hair at night. While you’re tossing and turning, dreaming of all the junk food you gave up to achieve your summer body, your hair is being terrorized by your pillow. “You have to protect your hair at night to keep in moisture and prevent snags and breakage,” says Cotton. “DuRags are great when your hair is still on the shorter side, but silk or satin scarves are best when its longer.”
Know If You Can Pull It Off
You may have Colin Kap dreams, but Childish Gambino might be a better fit for you – and that’s perfectly okay. Consult your barber and figure out what style suits your face best. Screenshot some photos to show him what you’re aiming for. Yes, even if you’re growing your hair out, you shouldn’t say goodbye to your barber. “If you don’t consistently get haircuts, you’re going to combat split ends and long term damage, and that’s no fun,” says Cotton.