A note from LEVEL’s editor-in-chief
You were supposed to be reading this at the end of March with a fresh cut. Your hair was supposed to be unmatched like Snoop seconds after a deep conditioner. Then Covid-19 hit, and our collection of stories celebrating hair didn’t feel all that appropriate. How do you celebrate hair when the barbers and shops can’t operate for the foreseeable future?
Then an incredible thing started to happen. You started leaning into your hair journeys. Puff gave into his gray beard. Ray Allen proudly showed off his George Jefferson natural state. And DJ Khaled, a man who certainly doesn’t skimp on self-care, rocked a grizzly look with salt-and-pepper accents. He’s the best.
At this stage, we felt you were in need of — and deserved — some levity. But first a question.
Do you remember when you first started losing your hair? Not when you finally admitted it, but when you knew. You’re precise with that recollection, right? Of course, and possibly with more detail than your wedding reception. There’s a reason for that. Hair has superpowers. We’re as passionate about it as we are our sports teams. But we don’t get to talk about it loudly. It’s never been the manly thing to do. And therein lies the problem.
The hard truth is that you’ve been vain about your hair since you were in single digits. Whether it was your dad walking you to the shop with all that got damn profanity or your mom picking up a pair of scissors and improvising (scary!), you’re conditioned to place value on your follicles.
We all have hair journeys, and most would talk about it at length if the opportunity presented itself. A couple of months back, I sat with two strangers and had an unprompted two-hour conversation about what they called hair kits, which is essentially a weave for men. (To be clear, I’m not in the market to fix my own situation; after two massively painful hair procedures in my thirties, I’ve made peace with what my genes have decided.) One of the men joked that we should look into getting three of these expensive hair kits, haggle for a deal, and split the cost. I’m not convinced that was in jest.
At the time, the LEVEL staff was just in the early stages of putting our Black hair celebration together, so I purposely kept the conversation with these guys in the hair lane. What followed were Instagram photos of the two of them with flourishing heads of hair, praise for Jalen’s 360 wave magic, and shade over Jay-Z’s ability to grow thick strands at 50. Insightful chop-up.
But this package isn’t simply a conversation starter. It’s more of a monthlong hair conference without the boring panels—a place to learn about our hair history then meet up on social to laugh and talk about what we’ve learned.
The pieces will roll out on Mondays and Wednesdays over the next four weeks. We’re starting by ranking 32 of the most iconic hairstyles of the modern era. Bad news: You won’t agree with the results. Good news: There’s an NCAA-style Twitter bracket that allows you to correct us.
There’s so much more! A science-backed guide to baldness will provide answers for my thinning brethren; our cultural history of the durag is essential even if you’ve never reached the wavy promise land; our own Tirhakah Love will introduce you to the thriving men’s hair subculture on YouTube; and we’ll induct the inaugural class of the Black Hair Hall of Fame. It doesn’t stop there.
Grab a brush and savor the information while you work on those waves — and let’s create a virtual barbershop in the comments and on Twitter.
Your bald editor-in-chief,