Andre Walker became famous for being Oprah Winfrey’s hair stylist, but he is also known for something else: a system that he created back in the 1990s to market his line of hair care products. The system categorizes natural hair types, and it's often referred to simply as "the hair chart." The chart identifies four hair types and within each of those categories there are different sub-types. The chart spans straight, wavy, curly, and kinky hair.
For Walker, the chart was all about selling his products. People could use it to identify their hair type and then buy a complementary product. But the chart has gone way beyond his own hair care line and become a way some African-American people talk and think about hair. Not everyone thinks the categories are helpful, and some of the criticism has its roots far back in American history.
The Hair Chart
This episode is a collaboration with The Stoop, a podcast hosted by Leila Day and Hana Baba, which features stories from across the black diaspora.
This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
This is ninety nine percent invisible
I'm roman Mars. Oprah
freeze hair is an amazing and ever changing object of design. A quick
you go in search of her and you can see it in a dozen different styles, but there is a cost
this agency to brand familiarity I'll give you took over his face
and of all those Google images, so that I could see was a series of pictures of hair.
Still no with her, and even though
she's done weaves and braids, and all sorts of styles she's also
actual meaning, she doesn't use
chemical, relax, her is to try to straighten her hair and that's actually, some
being open- and I have in common
producer Lila Day from the stoop broadcast, which is about
stories from across the black diaspora and since
white guy with very little hare, I'm
we're gonna hand this one entirely over to her now outbreak. As most of the credit for
Amazing, natural hair to one person
Very long are used on my hair for eighteen years, and I've been through some really good styles.
And a couple of bad years.
Right now and for they ve been really early, because you ve done amazing jogs, that's a very difficult thing to do, and will you be the same person
I have done it all it. I was doing your walker first,
Brown on her talk show em Chicago back in the eighties. I thought she was fantastic
and I was watching her so every morning, and I thought you know
I want to get to know her ass. I sent her some flowers. One day say:
dying to get my hands in your hair. Please give me a call, he didn't
to do much convincing to get the job. She called me the next day.
And they say. Oh, my god, I was easy. Andre travelled the globe, Oprah,
ass. She became one of the most important media figures in the world. Then he gave her basically
We hairstyle imaginable chin length about very layered and spiky. That was one of my favorites Filippi. We did
cover with in Africa on her magazine with huge afro wig. That was very popular gotta. I can go on and on and on
for his hair Andres. No for something else, a system that he cried
it back in the nineties to market his line of hair care products? The system
categorizes, natural hair types and its come to be known.
The Hare Chart Andrea
welcome here, takes your match weights and never bound for the hair typing charred consists of four here types within each of those categories. There are different sub types types one is for straight: hair tapes to is for wavy,
Maritime three is for curly, hair and type for sport. Kinky here go for the gold by Angela walk along revel in TAT, Andres Hair churches, each type of hair drawn out and labelled from bigger, Lupi curls to super tight corkscrews.
And actually cut off a small piece of your hair and compare it to the drawing on the chart to figure out
which, when you are I'm what's considered afore, be so I'm on the king year end of the cruel spectrum
and for Andrea it was all about selling his products. If your hair is like
see by this product of its like that. You buy this other one, your hair, with bill, so waste untouchable. You won't know what to do with your sound. Obviously I found Andreas
chart after I decided to go natural like a lot of black women
I spent years pudding- chemical, relax, hers and my hair to straighten it actually,
even occur to me not to relax my hair until I was living in Cuba where relax hers were hard to come by
and so one day in Cuba. I just decided to do the big chop to cut my hair and let it grow back natural and it felt like a bit
deal for a while. I don't even know how to manage it. Sometimes I felt frumpy with mission.
Tight hair than I can even come through. I'd put on bright red, lipstick,
big earrings. Anything to get through that some people call the ugly face.
All of this was a big change, not just the hair, but how people reacted to me.
Cuba. I went from being held Mulatter, which is more of a mixed girls to Nega, which is black girl
I, u look negative out, but some
negative didn't feel like a compliment. I felt pretty last
I turn to you tube to find a community of other natural's and there
was Andrey system being referenced all over the place. Why is your hair type? There have to be like most frequently ice question
forcing here is a beautiful creation, and you found me and is most beautiful when you take care of her diffrent portion of my hair is three c
I'm going to show you Andres Chart has gone way beyond his own line of hair care products. It's become the goat,
way for many of us understand and talk about the texture of our hair, but not everyone.
Thanks. Andres categories are a good thing. In fact, I'm not sure they're good thing, but his chart has definitely got me. Thinking about the complicated relationship african Americans have with
hair, it's a complicated relationship that goes way back the king
Hair was considered a sign of health than wealth and parts of Africa, but it
a car skin tone and hair texture
used to divide enslaved african people. Light scheme
and then Strader hair could mean more privileges like working in the house and not in the field. This idea of good hair and bad hair all developed during slavery,
this idea that the straighter your hair was the closer was to white textured hair, the better it was on a bird is the
author of hair story,
tackling the roots of black hair in america- and she said
The common belief back then, was if you had
her hair, you probably had more white blood. Then someone
Didn't have strayed her hair,
slavery, ended these racist,
you d standards hung on in the early
nineteen hundreds? Some people tried to straighten their hair by putting oil on it and then wrapping it with heated flannel. Mothers were
wrapping their children's hair, often causing burns and a lot of hair damage. There are even black churches.
Certain cities that would hang a calm on the front door and if your hair, she couldn't calm your hair with that, then you couldn't worship at that church in the nineteen twenties hot combs were used to strain.
Hair and then came a hairstyle known as the cock. You can see
don't famous jazz musicians like cab, Callaway and Duke Ellington, the conquest
the style, but it was also
name of the relax, her itself, which was made with a harsh chemical
of sodium hydroxide or lie and essentially just sign it.
Eight await your hair and your Skype and cost a lot of serious burns and they were not save some people made their own Cox.
Times with two white potatoes. An egg and red Devil brand lie a combo that left
many scalps bleeding. The Conky venture.
They went out of style, but
boxers made with sodium hydroxide continued on and became
more and more popular the washing set
under the dry with a magazine, became a very common aims,
in black salons, but then in the nineteen. Sixty is something different started, rising above
I realise that this is a national issue, its motto Selma issue at MILAN, Alabama issue. This is a national issue whenever the civil rights
brought on the beginning of a new shift. That was all about embracing blackness.
This meant embracing your natural hair. My mom aunties
all did the big chop cutting out there
boxers and wearing their arrows loud and proud of it here,
All of us were born without here, like this.
Is where lighted with this is
interview from nineteen sixty eight with former black Panther Kathleen Cleaver, though many many years ago, but only white people beautiful only straight line light and beautiful and black women were try everything I could speak
their hair lightening skin. To look as much like white women has changed because black people are where and why people aware of it too, because white people now want they want wings like this. Isn't a beautiful natural, hair and afros were everywhere from the fluffy froze of the Jackson. Five to white celebrities like Barbra Streisand copying from
the relax or industry the chemical relax reassures really taking I hit financially and not, as many people were chemically straightening, their hair,
instead of straight nurse. For the first time, people were seen products that were meant to complement their natural hair like afro sheen,
which gave the afro a bit more shine and made it glisten
like a halo in the sunlight
in our neighbour. All the even in contain
to be an important style in the nineteen eighties anew.
Chemical hairdo was on the right sexy
the jury curl created a bigger, looser curl pattern. It was a turn away from the political statement of Africa. It Jerry Crow
was all about fighting so
The ads really shifted away from having anything to do with black culture
earn community building in black identity and more suggests you
neon colors. Then
partying and, like all of the advertising for Jerry Curls more about this, like embracing this fund, easy to go style, although nothing about the Jerry Curl was easy.
I pick any people have ever know on black people why people doesn't matter like to have a Jericho. You had to have all that activate or in itself
black people. Why people doesn't matter like to have a jury call? You had to have all that activate or in its sole much stuff, and you had to use it every single day.
The Jerry Curl was a very waste stream
activate or that you had to put in your hair every day was drippy and greasy, and your pillow would be stained with it. Wearing a shower cap.
Public was quite normal,
I know all of this because when I was a kid I had one,
when the Jericho faded out
regular old relax errors were still an option, and I went back to her
relax or two
in two thousand and nine comedian, Chris Rock produced a documentary called good hair after
his daughter asked him daddy
I dont have good hair.
Fuck your memory. He refers to chemical, relax reasons, creamy crack because their applied in a white paste and even though their toxic, some people can't seem to quit them
in one scene. He shows just how harsh the chemicals found in many relaxes can be. He meets with this chemist.
It demonstrates how sodium hydroxide can eat through just
about anything so hard drugs? I will burn through your scan. The chicken is your skin. Welcome, saw it'll, go from my brown skin down to the White meat right while not realise this goes in people's heads. Turning hydroxide yet people black people, black women, some men,
worse day, Prince put sodium hydroxide in their here to straighten out. Why do they do that? To look why
about you see how
is some hair come in tighter than it is. If I can maybe like a three slash, four
Do you mind? I should like to thank you for that
that I Dingle Smith
with her and her salon in Boston, which
using rate, is called girlfriend hooked me up salon. Everybody will see a girlfriend, you hurt me. So that's how I came up with me.
Psmith tells me that, even though the Chris Rock movie brought up some deep rooted staff that we need to talk about, it also did actually affect her business.
People used to come in every six to eight weeks to get relaxes some women with.
Then well over a thousand dollars a year on regular treatments and salons Smith thinks the Chris Rock Movie had an effect on all that
for a minute. Mad occurs. Why, together,
the fact that my money, every body started, calling a natural you're me so bad did ticket impact on me with me here.
Chemical clients could not everybody wanted more here; they don't want their creamy crack
a black consumer spending on relaxes, is down thirty percent since two thousand and eleven- and this brings us back to
they walkers hair chart.
All of these newly natural people are getting on
Youtube for advice and
discovering the chart. Unbeknown,
To me, I was on the internet. One day hand was hence list
some bloggers and they were referring to
the Andrey Walker here typing system like did. I do that
that one, I wrote about in my book these
is all over. You tube their people, referencing Andres Chart which remember categories
hair from one to four one
a being looser curls and foresee being the tightest curls
be braiding, my hair. So I can get my after all to be like rounded, into
so there videos, on the best creams for four b twist out or how
at times a week. You shall washer three be hair or lists of protective star,
As for your foresee hair and at first I found this all
really helpful and positive. I mean it's great that more people are going natural and it
rate that there's a system to help them to do it, but then
people started noticing that, even in this new online community of Natural's, a lot of the videos were just reinforcing old bias about
strader hair being better. The video
often instruct women about how to go from very kinky hair to less kinky straighter here so like from a foresee to it.
Be without using chemicals, but still in
The stranger is better,
you see here like this,
continued her campaigns, but you do see. For
security, have in
all the heck her hands are. People like myself
He had that literally cannot get my hand through. So our problem is not the same. We should be given
room to speak. That's opposed from slum flower,
a popular blogger who makes a lot of straight talk self care types of video
people like ourselves, do not
I've had it grows downwards. Are hackers up? What's even if my hair,
the slum flower and others like online
but your hair talk is mostly about how to
its form what we have into something else,
I think, a little looser. That's not what our heritage
naturally dies and there
using Audrey's chart to do it. There has been a lot of criticism again
the lad of natural hair websites that they focused too much on quote three, be hair as opposed to foresee hair and that the tighter
your crawl pattern is, and the kinky or your hair is the less represent it. You are on this site.
A woman, I talk to said the chart feels to her like a modern day, pencil test, which was attests to use an apartheid South Africa.
To figure out, if someone was white or black, if you
but a pencil in someone's hair and the pencil fell out the person past
and was considered white, but on
Walker says he just wanted to make a variety of products for different kinds of hair. It was
all his intention to create a hierarchy. People about
Why did I label straight hair
as number one in Kinky Harris number four. I also asked him, but my answer to that is its going from zero texture too highly textured, so going from one being straight to for being the king, he is, and I've had people that have been there,
sensitive about that, because they thought that I was giving kinky hair less important
by putting it in number four and giving
straight hair, more importance by being number one, but that just goes to show you how sensitive you know. Hair is here and texture is, you know, for a lot of people?
it's true it so so sensitive and even though,
A lot more women are going natural,
we're still so many who just don't want to. Maybe they
like the way, their hair look straightened or find it easier to manage, or just
I want to deal with other peoples reactions to their natural hair ethic. Girlfriend put me up here, salon
Yvette voice. Moister. Some guy says she isn't the least bit concerned with Andrews here.
Because she doesn't want to go natural
I dont know that. Look, I feel is not for me now. There's just this shy say fear
or it is come for you know, I'm not gonna show obtain av with braids on, or fraud
or anything like that, it's my hair is going to be as strict as it possibly can be because as much as I like it or don't like it, we still
in a society where our hair is not accepted.
For what it is and you have to
play the game. The women.
There is so much racism and color resume and years a painful history tangled up in all of this, its deeply personal and for those of us who have decided to go natural.
Would be nice to see the Hare conversation shift away from how to change our hair and more towards had a man
the natural texture we were born with
because my hair is still a crown,
no matter where, on the chart I land,
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So one of these we love to do on our show is decode little symbols that you see out in the design world and you
tell us about the prow lady symbol. What is the proud? Lady, simple set? The proud, lady symbol is the symbol of this.
Black woman with these long locks behind her and her head is held proud and you can.
The symbol on the back of some hair care products, so cool and- and I actually grew up seeing symbol everywhere. I just thought was part of you know all the brains, but it's actually not. It has a very specific point which the
There is an organization called them. Can health and Beauty AIDS Institute and
they were founded in the eighties after a lot of black hair care, products were kind of getting lost in the consumer market and there were big corporations like Revlon and Johnson and Johnson, and they were sort
taking over the black hair care business, so they created the proud lady symbol to let people now that it's a black
business. Ok. So what are you? What are you haven't him there? So I'm wholly some lustres pink therapeutic conditioning hairdresser. I haven't used it yeah. I used to use lesters when I was a kid, but there is the problem.
It is simple right on the bag near the bar code and yeah. It says, and really
tiny little writing what use? If I can see it says the proud, lady, a hundred percent black owned la LA screwed,
So to this day, do you look for that and make your choices
based on that. I never have you know, and it was just doing this peace that has like that simple. I grew up seeing that symbol, so I went to the hair.
Restoring I looked for it over and over and over and over again, and I
he sought on a couple of products. You know. So I don't know if it's
on sand and they were sort of taking over the black hair care business. So they created the proud lady symbol to let people now that it's a black on business. Oh you so would you would you haven't, even though I am wholly from lustres pink.
percent of visible, was produced this week by Lila Day from the stoop mix intact, production by Sharif Youssef with help from senior editor too lenient music by Sean Rio. Our senior producer is Katy. Mingle, Kirkwall step is the digital director there s a team include
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Transcript generated on 2020-02-14.