When you think of the ’70s, images of bell bottoms, peace signs, tie-dye, groovy platform shoes and of course afros are bound to come to mind. Some may think afros died with disco, but a whole new generation is emerging on campus at Northern Kentucky University.
“People know me walking to class just because I have an afro,” sophomore Dominic Lewis said. “I like it for the most part because I know I don’t blend in.”
Though their styles and reasons for growing afros vary, those who partake are sure to stand out when surrounded by haircuts typical of 2006.
“Everyone calls me Napoleon Dynamite,” freshman Paul O’Moore said. “That’s my instant nickname wherever I go. People quote the movie. I don’t really bear any resemblance to him except my hair.”
O’Moore wears traditional retro clothes that go with the ‘fro, like black-rimmed glasses, fitted T-shirts and Goodwill jackets that he describes as “straight-up old school.”
The graphic design major said he listens to a lot of new rock and indie music, including fellow afro-growers Ace Enders, Omar Rodriguez of Mars Volta and Claudio Sanchez of Coheed and Cambria.
Despite the unique look his hairstyle creates, O’Moore wouldn’t grow an afro if he had other choices.
“My hair just does it. I can’t do anything about it. If I let it grow out, it grows into an afro.” However, he doesn’t consider chopping his locks to be an option anytime soon.
“I look even stupider with short hair, because I have kind of an alien head,” O’Moore said, describing his head as larger toward the back. “Growing an afro kind of evens it out.”
Not only does his hair provide aesthetic value, but entertainment when bored.
“One time I stuck a bunch of pencils in it and we let my friend’s pet mouse get lost in my hair once. It just kind of burrowed in, it was pretty funny.”
As for Lewis, he prefers to maintain a safe distance between mice and his hair, but said people have thrown pens at his hair to see if they would stick.
The business administrations major has been growing his hair out since the middle of last December. “I didn’t really think about growing my afro until I came to college and didn’t know who would cut my hair,” Lewis said.
Now he just tries to keep his huge hair round and under control by conditioning it and using an afro pick to “pick it out” when it’s lopsided. While friends his age joke that he should get braids, his throwback hairstyle makes his elders reminisce.
“A lot of people like my afro, you know, a lot of older blacks,” Lewis said. “Some of my black studies professors have told me, ‘I remember back in the 70s when we used to rock our afros.'”
Sophomore sports business major Brady Gibson sports a smaller, more modern ‘fro consisting of more ringlets, less frizz. He has always liked the way his hair looks when it is long, and growing hair long was “the thing” when he was a soccer player in high school. Once it reaches a certain length, his hair transforms into an afro.
“Every time I go into work my boss jokes around about getting it cut,” he said. “Girls compliment it every once in a while.”
Afros seem to be low maintenance for such an elaborate ‘do. If you have curly or textured hair and want to grow a high quality afro, O’Moore recommends always washing your hair, heavy conditioning and using a pick to create shape and volume. Yet to create his look, he only wakes up in the morning and rolls out of bed.
“Well that’s what you would have to do if you want a high quality afro,” he said. “Mine is low quality.”