Finding the Haircut that Flatters your Face
Ever been tired of the same standard look you get visiting your barber at one of Nairobi‘s Shopping Malls, CBD streets, or in the inner alleys of the Eastlands, Langata or Kasarani neighbourhood estate? Ever envisioned yourself looking absolutely magazine-cover suave, with a faded mane that’s trendy, but not too common? I know I have!
I recently struggled with my own quest for reinvention; a thirst to switch things up and take it to the next level. Sitting on the barber chair of Baberia Cuts, I wondered to myself why I’m accustomed to the same look I’ve had for the past 5-odd years of my life. Don’t get me wrong, Boniface, my faithful barber of years on end (they say your barber is like your image consultant and you should pay close attention and never wander too far) has always fulfilled his duty, spic and span, and I have no qualms with him.
This was about me, and my thirst. Nay hunger. For something more. Something appealing and jaw-dropping, and different. A haircut that would grab attention inasmuch as it would create a statement. You could liken it to a crossbreed of the calm yet frighteningly precise James’ ‘Ghost’ St. Patrick’s cut, and Preston Terry’s razor sharp, but fluid wavy formula.
What to do about my dilemma?
First, it’s advisable to take cognizance of your face shape and the structure of your hair. Let’s face it, we all come in different shapes and sizes, and fortunately or unfortunately, one size (or rather cut in this case) does NOT fit all. Barbers will often tell you that the best cut for you will be the one that either takes a few years off your face, or creates the illusion that you appear more angular or oval, depending on your desire. That’s if you’re the more conscientious type. If your goal is to economize, then a low cut, otherwise referred to as the buzz cut, is perfect.
There are generally six face shapes to pay close attention to in your quest for the perfect haircut: oval, long, square, round, diamond, and heart-shaped. The ingredient here is to self-discover, and satisfactorily attune your taste to the type of hair that you possess – darker skinned Africans (yes, that’s [mostly] you and I) generally have curly to kinky hair, ranging from a childish soft to Chalbi-desert hard.
A Quick and Brief History
While recorded history often traces back men’s grooming fairly to the millennia-and-a-half Roman Empire era from 27 BC, where the modern conservatively short haircut was then considered a preserve for the civilised and the aristocratic who could afford to shave their hair, it’s fascinating to see the reverse-twist that half a millenium has created.
Vintage photos from the 60s and 70s Kenyan context, of the likes of Tom Mboya, and even Mzee Jomo Kenyatta attest to the fact that the buzz cut hairstyle was much favoured then, as it still somewhat is now. Asian-Kenyans perceptibly preferred the Ceasar cut, while British-Kenyan aristocrats favoured the military precision of the side-part haircut. Perhaps it goes to show that there’s only so much one can do with their hair, or rather to accentuate a similar facial structure that’s failing to evolve like other things are claimed to have.
One thing I’ve come to notice is how popular the crew cut and fade has become across East Africa. The style, made popular by its energy-laden aura and youthful nature, is a favourite among younger millennial celebrities, or those that choose to appeal to the 15-35 age bracket. While you will notice that younger Tanzanians, Ugandans, Nigerians and Kenyans embrace the close-to-bald lower side edges of their hairline, the length, texture and design quality of the upper echelons of the hair differ drastically, from a modest crown, to wild and curly edges, extending even in some cases, to Rastafarian dreadlocks.
Politicians and middle to upper class elite, remain more functional in their approach to a haircut and their general appearance. The poise and maturity that comes with a simple low-cut, from attention-seeking waves, to a self-assured 2-inch uniform cut, is perhaps its greatest attractive measure.
While I’m still oscillating between the crew-cut and fade, as well as the buzz-cut, I hope you, like me, will be able to find the confidence to stumble upon a style that both suits, and flatters, your face and your audience.