Jheri Curl

jules winnfield

soul glo

The Jheri [jer-eecurl is a hairstyle that was common and popular in the African American community especially during the 1970s and 1980s. Invented by and named for Jheri Redding, the Jheri curl gave the wearer a glossy, loosely curled look. It was touted as a ‘wash and wear’ style that was easier to care for than the other popular chemical treatment of the day, the relaxer. A Jheri curl was a two-part application that consisted of a softener (often called a ‘rearranging cream’) to loosen the hair and a solution to set the curls. The rearranging cream used pungent chemicals, causing the naturally tight curls to loosen and hang. The loose hair was then set and a chemical solution was then added to the hair to permanently curl it.

Perming the hair was time and labor-intensive and expensive to maintain. The harsh mix of chemicals required for the process caused the wearer’s natural hair to become extremely brittle and dry. To maintain the look of the Jheri curl, users were required to apply a curl activator spray and heavy moisturizers daily and to sleep with a plastic cap on their heads to keep the hairstyle from drying out. The activator in particular had the undesirable side effect of being very greasy; this would often stain clothing and furniture. The hairstyle went out of fashion by the late 1980s and was replaced in part with the hi-top fade haircut.

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