Straight black men, we need to talk about Yung Joc’s hair.
Unless you’ve been on another planet beneath a rock with your hands over your eyes, you’ve likely seen the former Bad Boy rapper’s increasing love for colorful, daring haircuts.
Beginning with a (fairly bad) perm in 2016, Joc’s hair journey has taken nearly as many twists and turns as one might expect from a newly divorced auntie—or an especially daring pastor’s wife. But beyond Joc’s penchant for upping the ante with each subsequent haircut, as Hype Hair now features Joc’s brightly dyed and flowing locks on its latest digital cover, what’s been more striking has been the uniformity of the responses to each iteration of the man’s mane.
Social media is hardly the place for nuanced discussion. From NBA trade rumors to opinions on bona fide national tragedies, the nature of social media entices users (and reporters who cover it) to flatten the topography of response to any and every trending topic. Racist teens get shoutouts from sycophants-in-chief and apologies from white media figures while the world disregards evidence; discussions of masculinity devolve into madness after an also-ran comic-cum-jiggy youth pastor pops fly, and so on.
Naturally, then, it would stand to reason that most chatter over Joc’s tresses has come in the form of jokes. Some of them are genuinely hilarious. Some of them aren’t. But all jokes, funny or otherwise, reveal something about the joke-teller and the audience. And the nature of jokes surrounding Joc’s hair—those in favor and those opposed—reveal something about many of us.
As it turns out, it’s making some of us uncomfortable.
You don’t need a verbose online writer to tell you that black folk are serious about their hair. You don’t need some hyperlink to a statistic about the billions of dollars spent annually on black hair in the United States. Still, now that you’ve got both of those things, it shouldn’t take more than a cursory glance at your barbershop wall, Instagram feed, family photo albums and Twitter feeds to reveal that straight black men are generally fine adhering to the tried-and-true cuts that we’ve come to rely on.
Now, before you tag this article in a tweet to your favorite Hotep daddy, hear me out (also, get a fucking hobby). There’s nothing wrong with your affinity for skin fades in the summer and caesars in the winter. No one is imploring you to do away with your beeswax. S-curl enthusiasts will be hard-pressed to find a disparaging word written here. Even those among us who’ve decided to resist fashion, style and the pleas of crying children to hold defiantly onto their straightback cornrows will find little in the way of hate beyond the end of this sentence. (Seriously though? Stop it. Get some help.)
But while our sistren have long since broken free from the conformity of yesteryear, many among us would count that one time we were too smacked to contest the barber’s placement of our half-moon as the most adventurous of our hair choices.
That said, I’m of the opinion that Yung Joc’s hair is fucking rad. The question is, why is he the only male celebrity worthy of a post on @TheCutLife?
As an ugly, lazy American, my ability to dress in the dark most days is a point of pride. I own eight pairs of black jeans. I buy plain black tees to match said jeans every other month. While I love color, I also love extracting as much sleep out of my weeknights as humanly possible. Streamlining my workday wardrobe, beyond affording an extra few minutes of precious sleep, has allowed me to take much of the guesswork out of how I present to the world while also managing the expectations and reactions of those around me. While I might splurge every now and again on an especially pricy pair of black jeans to wear to work, I haven’t broken away from convention inasmuch as I’ve resolved to work within it. Hugo Boss may make ‘em nicer, but they ain’t breaking new ground.
Plenty straight black men will never desire more than a bald fade. Again, that’s fine. Kudos to Joc and his Cassie cut for throwing expectation and convention to the wind. But why should he be the only one out here turnin’ heads? You—yes, you with the fitted collection that would make a rainbow call its therapist—can do it too! Why match those Nike React Element 87s t0 a 59FIFTY when you could get your shit laid? Why settle for a Keith Haring work on your head in simple black-and-white? Have you seen a Haring gallery show? That dude liked color, jack. Make him proud!
Black men’s creativity in expression is eclipsed only by that of black women. Whole fashion houses have wrestled their legacies from the jaws of irrelevance with a dash of whitewashing here and a pinch of appropriation there. White men who dress too well are often believed to have black friends, family, or significant others (we see you, Bruce Arians). Ralph Lauren was borin’ before we wore him (no MAGA), and runways keep more rappers on them than Grammy award winner lists. Still, atop the heads of straight black men who’ve blazed a trail in fashion, sports, entertainment, business, or academia? Braids and fades, by and large.
Why? Because habit, race, and toxic masculinity.
Habit is innocuous enough. Few of us try to fix what ain’t been broke. Hair has been tangled up in race since 100 years before Malcolm and Shorty used their #SelfCareSaturdays to get their conks right. I won’t tell you America is post-follicle as it pertains to black folk—which leaves us our own brand of toxic masculinity with which to reconcile. For instance: if you’ve ever stopped yourself from stepping outside of the box with your hair, there’s a chance toxic masculinity kept you from trading your caesar for an asymmetrical bob.
For all the lies told by toxic masculinity, perhaps its greatest is that anything identified with the fairer sex ought to be viewed as weak, deviant, or of diminished value. It carries with it the need to #SayHerName after police kill Sandra, while whole communities march in the wake of Mike, Trayvon and Eric. It makes men leery of voting for qualified, albeit imperfect, presidential candidates. It dissects Cardi B while welcoming Kodak Black at face value. We won’t solve any of these problems with finger waves. Still, the time’s come for straight black men to recognize the breadth and depth of masculinity free from toxicity. It’s also time to start rocking those Concords with the meanest black and white cut you can get. You deserve.
Free your hairline, black men, and the rest might follow.
(Editor’s note: We can likely look forward to more thought-provoking moments from Hype Hair, as the industry-leading magazine for African-American women and hairstylists, has a new editor-in-chief at its helm. Award-winning journalist Jessica De Vault Hale is overseeing a rebranding of the 27-year-old semi-monthly magazine, with the help of new Art Director Hannah Aryee. Their inaugural issue together is the Jan-Feb issue, featuring Yung Joc on its digital cover—the first man to ever grace a cover of Hype Hair! Marsha Ambrosius is featured on newsstands.)