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Published: Thursday, 3/21/2002

Low-maintenance styles appeal to many African-Americans

FROM BLADE STAFF AND WIRE REPORTS

From close-cropped cuts to Afros that stand at attention, low-maintenance styles that require little or no chemical treatment are the rage among African-Americans.

Check the runways, workout areas, and boardrooms - nationally, and in the Toledo area - and one can't help but notice rows of braids, cascades of riotous natural locks and curls, as well as head-turning twists.

Toledo stylist Terri Hamilton says one of the pleasures of nonprocessed hair is its low-key nature. "It's convenient. It's easy. You can just get up and go," says Ms. Hamilton, whose three sons sport Afros.

The look is high fashion without the fuss, says master barber Tyrone A. Bean of California Concept Salon in Knoxville, Tenn. He says more women are asking to have their hair shorn short.

"The popularity stems from it filtering down to smaller cities because when women visit other cities, they see other women wearing their hair this way, and they say, 'Oh. I can do that, too. It's acceptable.' And they come home and want to try it."

Patricia Williams, owner of At Great Lengths salon in Knoxville, says versatility and comfort are prominent in the minds of men and women who opt for nonchemical treatments.

"Women like choices and realize that many styles - whether they are created using [chemical] relaxers, weaving, or cutting the hair - are all complementary to women," Ms. Williams says. "You may see women wear shorts just as easily as watching women who are slinging braids so long chiropractors may have to be alerted."

Attica Scott, executive director of the Knoxville-based regional office of the National Conference of Community and Justice, went to At Great Lengths when she decided to grow her hair out of a chemically relaxed style.

She opted for a comb twist style as part of her transition to growing dreadlocks.

Ms. Hamilton and Toledo natural hair specialist Shani Ayodeji say twists are becoming popular among women locally.

As singer Alicia Keys climbs the music charts and wins awards, she also sets hair trends. Her trademark style of mini cornrows at the front and an explosion of beads at the back is being sought by many women, professional stylists say.

"What is still popular in braids is the micros and cornrows," says Matou Sady, a Knoxville braider. "In other cities, they are asking for the twisted style that resembles dreadlocks."

Knoxville resident and businessman Marcus Hall, 31, wears dreadlocks. The former stylist knows how to take care of coifs, but two years ago he decided to let his former close-cropped haircut grow. Alcoa, Tenn.-based master barber Charles Robinson of Hair Force has guided Mr. Hall through the process.

Braids are also the rage, similar to styles worn by singer Stevie Wonder circa the 1970s and the cornrows worn by NBA superstars Allen Iverson and Latrell Sprewell.

Ms. Ayodeji of Toledo says, "Allen Iverson - they want to look like him. I hear that a lot. Especially the younger guys want to duplicate the styles they see basketball stars wearing."

At Klippers barber shop on Dorr Street, barber Tim Brown says clients often ask for braids.

"The braids are really popular right now, and accenting braids with facial hair," he says. "The regular Afro and tapered fade are popular styles right now, too."

Mr. Brown notes that most of the styles aren't really new, although they have been updated.

"The taper has just come back over the last year or so, maybe. It's just a style that was popular in the late '60s and early '70s," Mr. Brown says. "Braids were a '70s style that has come back. They're all just hairstyles that came around again."



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