For centuries, our hair has been a way to express our creativity, culture, and admirable features. The history, or hairstory, can date back to the times when the “Press and Curl Style” was just as popular as a modern-day “Wash and Go.” From the sew-ins to the product elevation and innovative tools, Black women continue to break glass ceilings for both the haircare industry and the community. In honor of Black History Month, we are celebrating notable Black Women who changed the game for all things haircare. It is because of these incredible individuals that brands like Kazmaleje have the opportunity to be in Target stores nationwide!
The expression of beauty through hair has been a long-standing signature of Black culture, and we have so many people to thank for what we have available to us today. Each woman has her own story or hair journey that sparked a routine and gave her flourishing strands of bouncing waves. We owe so much to the Black Woman who came before us and paved the way for the community and black entrepreneurship. From self-made millionaires like Madam C.J Walker to inventor Lyda Newman and the Queen of Weave Christina Jenkins, these are just some of the many women we have to thank for what the hair industry has become.
Madam C.J Walker
Born Sarah Breedlove in 1967, Madam C.J. Walker was like many African American women at the time and was in constant search for quality hair solutions that met the needs of curls and coils alike. With limited options available for Black women, it was difficult to treat hair that had texture. When she became fed up with the lack of products made for Black hair, she took matters into her own hands and formulated products from scratch. After selling door to door with the help of her husband and daughter, Madam C.J. Walker expanded her clientele, and it grew into the birth of the Madam C.J. Walker Manufacturing Company. This was the first company to introduce a haircare system that contained everything a woman needed to manage her crown accordingly.
The “Walker System” included a scalp preparation of shampoo, a pomade for moisture, and hot iron for styling. While this wasn’t your typical l.o.c routine, it was a method that provided Black women with beautiful, strong hair that they adored. A true wizard in the business realm, Madam C.J. Walker’s brand was excelling in all areas and even formed partnerships with local drug stores. At the height of her career in 1919, she was considered the wealthiest self-made woman in the country. Even after her death, products continued to succeed around the country and even in neighboring countries such as Cuba, Jamaica, Panama, and Costa Rica. While her daughter A’lelia continued running the business, her mother, C.J. Walker, was undoubtedly an inspiration for people to start their own businesses and create solutions for Black women in haircare.
We all know how strenuous wash day can be, especially when it comes to styling. Now imagine if we didn't have brushes with bristles. Way before the Kazmaleje KurlsPlus Set, Lyna Newman invented a way for Black women to detangle their hair with ease and efficiency. As a hairdresser living in New York City, Lyna knew a lot about hair. Being a Black woman in the hair industry presented unique challenges for Black women and the accessibility for various styles and techniques. The hairbrushes that were available in the 1800s were made with animal hairs, and we know how poorly that material can hold defense against textured thick curls. With a drive for change for not only herself but the entire community, Newman invented a hairbrush that would alter the hair industry forever.
Instead of making hairbrushes from soft material, Newman's brush was made using synthetic fibers. These fiber brushes feature unique characteristics such as bend recovery, chemical resistance, and high moisture resistance. Designed with evenly spaced rows of synthetic bristles, these brushes contained open slots to clear shedding and build-up seamlessly. By creating a hair tool that was more efficient, durable, and hygienic, Black women were able to treat their strands without hassle. Newman's invention was incredibly successful, and in November of 1898, she received a patent for her innovative idea. This one idea was powerful enough to revolutionize hair care for centuries to come and has continued to inspire Kazmaleje on our hair tool journey.
Fast forward to a bit to the 20th century, the hair industry was evolving to new heights but still not quite what we see today. While Black women took to the streets to mobilize against discrimination, hairstyles that could be manipulated into various looks were very popular. With additions such as curls and wigs being incorporated, there still wasn't a technique that included both natural hair and synthetic tracks. An avid experimentalist when it came to hair, Christina Jenkins landed on something truly unique when she developed a way to attach both synthetic hair and natural hair together for a transformational style.
This outstanding technique allowed women, especially Black women, to manipulate their hair freely and enjoy multiple looks. The concept of interweaving different hair together for one hairstyle was the ultimate game-changing in hair history, and in May of 1951, the 'Hair-Weeve' filed for her intention to be patented. After her initial success, Jenkins began teaching her methods to stylists and even opened her own store, the HairWeeve Penthouse Salon. Jenkins's hair weaving technique swept the hair world and continues to be a prominent demand, even becoming its own hair extension industry. As a significant contributor to Black hair, Christina Jenkins helped to catapult the trajectory for the Black community when it comes to hair trends for generations to come.
The hairstory of Black hair has come a long way, and it's undeniable the paths that were paved for stores to be stocked with Black hair products and inventions. With intentional discoveries that help to revive, strengthen, manipulate, and style Black curls and coils, the momentum hasn't stopped. For the industry to evolve in such a profound way, it gives brands like Kazmaleje the motivation to keep inventing and bringing our visions to life.