The moment I saw the afro pick, I knew it was love. Black love.
During my childhood in Chicago, it was impossible to ignore hometown haircare brand Johnson Products’ hero product, Afro Sheen, which was ubiquitous in black households across America from the ‘60s through the ‘80s. And while its popularity may have waned in recent decades, nostalgia for the brand has remained—it’s part of black history, y’all!
So, when I heard the brand was staging a comeback, I was understandably excited. With the black haircare space booming, what would one of its pioneers bring to the table in the new millennium? Opening the box they sent me to preview, I saw an Afro Sheen-branded, black-fisted afro pick lying atop the collection, and was absolutely hyped.
And so was my dude. In fact, the first words out of his mouth were, “Yes! I’ve been needing a pick! Fantastic!” Ahem, Sir.
My response (after a serious side-eye)? “Sorry, my brother; you’ve got to get your own.” Did he not see this thick halo of 3C curls atop my head?
As it turns out, this is a line we can enjoy together. You won’t find the original petroleum-based product in AfroSheen’s new nine-product array formulated for all types of afro-textured hair—it’s now based on friendlier ingredients like keratin and coconut, flaxseed, and castor oil (and can be found in Walgreens and Amazon). But like the original, the assortment is entirely unisex, meaning the dude and I can share the love of this relaunched legacy brand. (He’s still getting his own black fist pick, though; it’ll adorn his Valentine’s Day gift.)
But Afro Sheen inspired me to rethink my approach to the
cheesiest most romantic holiday of the year; one typically marked by cupids, candy hearts, champagne, overpriced meals and chocolate-covered extravagance. But if love is the message we’re trying to give on Valentine’s Day, shouldn’t we be focusing on togetherness we can share long after February 14th? Movie theaters will no doubt be packed on Friday night, as 20- and 30-somethings presumably get their generation’s Love Jones with the premiere of The Photograph (black love, y’all!); likewise, Chicago will undoubtedly be booming with both “love & basketball” for NBA All-Star Weekend. What gifts will last after the credits roll and the last layup has been sunk? How can we keep this same energy all year?
It’s no secret that I am not only a fan but an ardent user of men’s grooming brand Scotch Porter; and as Valentine’s Day approaches, they’re finally honoring the ladies, too! The brand just launched the Scotch Porter Hair Collection; a line of non-toxic hair care products based on kale protein and biotin with a focus on coily, curly, kinky and wavy hair types. “Now women don’t have to worry about sharing their hair products with the men in their life!” the brand tells us. But frankly, we think sharing is caring...and this is what we call “hair love.”
Bevel’s best known for its revolutionary shaving products, which changed the game for black men. But when the brand sent me a box of their nine new bath, body and hair products, I knew there was no way I was handing this one over to the fella. With scents like Dark Cassis and Black Bergamot, these dermatologist-tested formulas have a gender-fluid appeal and have quickly become a fixture in my shower. The best part (aside from lathering up together)? The entire product line is now available in Target stores. How’s that for a last-minute gift option?
They say the couple that plays together stays together; does that mean those that cook together have extra sizzle? I’ve certainly found that to be true, so why not spice things up by creating some succulent meals together? Since it’s also Black History Month, I’m loving the legacy of our food, as captured in the acclaimed cookbook Jubilee: Recipes From Two Centuries of African American Cooking (named one of the best cookbooks of 2019 by the New York Times, the Atlantic, and NPR, among others). In addition to paying tribute to our culture, cooking together is a delicious way to spend some quality time. (After all, good food is good foreplay, no?)
Over 40 years since its initial release, “Strawberry Letter #23" is still a bona fide bop—and so is the dwindling art of the love letter. While e-mail and text may corner the market on speed, a handwritten missive is still the hallmark of intimacy; I watch my fella’s face light up every time he opens a card I’ve hidden for him to find. And there are other methods: Have you considered sharing a journal with your significant other, so you have an evolving keepsake that declares your love for each other? I’m personally a fan of the black female-owned Greer Stationery, which has everything you need—cards, paper, pens, and journals—to send your lover a valentine they’ll never forget.
One of the best most loving things I’ve heard from my partner? “You are enough.” (*swoon* This is why he’s bae.) Brooklyn, N.Y.-based statement-makers Rayo & Honey give you the opportunity to remind each other every day with their mirror of the same name ($150), inspired by the words of Maya Angelou. A valentine made to last, every time you or your love look into it, it’ll be a reflection of how you feel for each other.
Do you and your love have a taste for the finer things (or love the occasional buzz)? Joining—or gifting—a wine club membership is a fantastic way to remind yourselves to take a beat and savor the moment together. Our recommendation? The highly acclaimed (and black female-founded) Theopolis Vineyards, which offers three tiers of its wine club, meaning you can experience high-quality varietals at a variety of price points.
Feeling the love yet? Well, there’s more to come (and these are excellent gifts to give yourself, as well). Regardless (in my best Andre 3000 voice), Happy Valentine’s Day—February the 14th! (So get to shopping!)