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Diba Jedo

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Hairstyles are a key part of self-expression, in the same way that makeup and clothing are. The way that we style our hair can be a manifestation of our personalities, even if this is done unconsciously. However, for those of us with curly and coily hair, it’s not as easy to express ourselves as it may seem.

The Burden of Societal Pressures

It should be no surprise that women with curls feel an external and societal pressure to straighten or relax their hair.  To some people, for whatever reason, curly hair automatically represents a lack of seriousness, with it often being classed as ‘messy’ and ‘unruly’. 

Dr. Marianne LaFrance, a professor of psychology, women’s and gender studies at Yale University has previously shared how:

From early on, women are given the message that appearance is massively important, and it can become a marker for their success in life.  

The desire to meet society’s Eurocentric beauty standards creates a barrier in many women’s self-expression, and this is evident across many different countries. In particular, many women in Egypt can be forced at a very early age to straighten their hair, all to align with European standards of beauty. Moreover, the beauty standards for Dominican women can be highly criticizing too. The term “pelo malo” (bad hair) is used towards women with curly and kinky hair.

Targeting Black Women

Black women in particular face a much larger stigma when wearing their hair naturally. More so for Black women, rocking natural curls seems to be a lot more political than it is aesthetic. Not only is natural hair a barrier in self-expression for Black women, but it can also be a barrier in scoring careers or even going to school. The UK school system specifically seems to have a problem with afro-textured hair, as Emma Dabiri (author of ‘Don’t Touch My Hair’) emphasises. Pupils have previously been excluded for fades, locks, braids, natural afros and more. 

Fashion is Psychology’s very own founder and editor-in-chief, Shakaila Forbes-Bell, also offers her own perspective. 

I avoided being natural due to an ingrained belief that my hair wasn’t beautiful and being teased for the tightness of my coils.

Underlying messages and racial stereotypes presented by society can have a deep impact on self-esteem. Black women are consistently told that they have “nappy” or “bad hair” and begin to internalise self-hatred. In order to reduce these social pressures of adopting a more Eurocentric look, we must target the beliefs adopted at an early age through socialisation. 

Forbes-Bell agrees, emphasising how

There is a lot of unlearning we have to do when it comes to how we maintain our curls and coils and how we feel about them. For decades Eurocentric beauty norms have been instilled in women worldwide so it’s understandable why straight or relaxed styles have their appeal.

The Curly Hair Movement

The curly hair movement has represented a crucial shift in attitudes towards embracing curly and natural hair. Although natural hair has been gaining momentum over the last couple of years, the curly hair movement has been supercharged by recent lockdown restrictions. Not only was most of our time spent inside, but professional treatments have not been possible for many months.

According to recent research from L’Oréal, Google searches for “how to make your hair curly” have increased by 50%. Not only are more people with naturally curly and coily hair embracing their style, but there seems to be an overall increased interest in having curly hairstyles. 

Editorial director of naturallycurly.com, Alexandra Wilson, states:

The natural hair movement really ignited in the 70s when black women were wearing their afros.  

The acceptance of natural seems to have been a long time in the making, with many factors playing a crucial in its rise.

The Social Media Boom

One of the most important factors to consider is social media. Social media has created an accessible community in which people can learn from each other in a way that wasn’t previously possible. A quick search into YouTube can tell you what products and techniques are best for your curl type and texture. Social media is especially impactful for those who are not used to seeing people with similar hair types and textures to them. Being able to witness other women embrace their curls has inspired others to follow suit.

According to one study, Instagram online communities have contributed to making hair types mainstream, and have educated people with a new perception that black women’s hair types are actually beautiful.

Positive Psychological Shifts

Importantly, this new acceptance and appreciation for curly hair has led to a psychological shift in those who are embracing their curls. The curly hair movement can perhaps go hand in hand with the culture of body positivity and acceptance we are experiencing as a society. 

For example, one woman has previously shared:

Discovering my curls and embracing exactly who I am has granted me many incredible opportunities to share my individuality and promote self-love.

However, it’s crucial that we keep this positive momentum going, as there is still a long way in how we approach and perceive natural hairstyles. 

Forbes-Bell offers an interesting insight regarding the perception of Black women in particular: 

Instead of being seen as the gold standard, straight hair needs to be viewed as one of many styles that Black women can rock with confidence. There needs to be increased texture representation in all forms of media and there also needs to be more education on the various ways that curls and natural hair can be taken care of – ones that don’t break the bank!

We must continue to embrace our curly and natural hair, while also reversing problematic Eurocentric beauty norms.

Fashion is a reflection of society and current events, and therefore fashion trends can reflect much of what is going on at the time. Our purchasing decisions can also be influenced by popular figures such as celebrities and other high-profile individuals. However, with today’s society being surrounded by social media, there is a new factor to consider when looking at what impacts fashion trends – influencers. 

The Rise of Influencer Marketing 

Research into consumer behaviour has highlighted how over the last few years, influencer marketing has become increasingly popular, and now represents a specific type of social media marketing. In one study, 92% of consumers stated that they trusted influencers more than advertisements and celebrity endorsements. Considering that the term ‘influencer marketing’ only came to exist in the last decade, it has seen quite a substantial boom. Just one reason for this is that consumers view influencers as more relatable than celebrities. When looking at the key demographic of teens, 60% said that they follow advice from influencers over celebrities, and 70% said that they also trust influencers more. Through social media, we are able to gain a glimpse into their everyday lives, and for those that consistently interact with their followers, there seems to be less of a social divide between influencer and follower.  

 

The Psychology of the Influencer Effect

This increased trust in influencers has been the subject of much psychological research. When focusing specifically on fashion influencers, Chetioui and colleagues (2020) found that the perceived credibility of an influencer was the strongest factor that affected an individual’s attitude towards them, closely followed by expertise and trust. Interestingly, this research also not only suggests that fashion influencers affect our attitudes toward a brand, but that they also create purchase intentions. Research from the visual content firm, Olapic, even found that 31% of consumers purchased a product or service based on an influencer’s post. 

So, how can we connect the prediction of the latest fashion trends with this boom in influencer marketing? Simply put, if influencers have the power to create purchase intentions, they can create the latest trend. For example, everyday leather was an unexpected 2020 fashion trend driven by influencers and was quickly made to be a part of our wardrobes. Fashion trend forecasting can be defined as the prediction of the mood, behaviour and buying habits of consumers during a particular season, and ultimately, influencers play a substantial role in all of these factors. We cannot understand trends without looking at the impact of influencers. As a result of social media, consumers are also contributors; we get to create and define our own styles, and if we have a large enough following, perhaps even define the latest trend.

The Rise of Fast Fashion

Unfortunately, one of the consequences of this position of power is its impact on fast fashion. Research conducted by the Fashion Retail Academy revealed that more than half of shoppers believe that social media influencers are the cause of the rise in fast fashion. Given that sites such as Instagram are now one of the top sources of fashion inspiration, with nearly a fifth of people using it to find the latest trends, this should not be a surprise. Influencers are rarely seen sporting the same outfit and with the ease of buying through affiliate links and swiping up on stories, the fashion industry has become more fast-paced than ever.

Positive Influencer Impact 

Yet still, we shouldn’t allow our perception of influencers to be skewed. It’s not rare to see negative portrayals of influencers in the press, but research has demonstrated that they can actually have a positive impact on purchasing decisions. For example, Lim and colleagues (2017) found that compelling social media influencers have a positive impact on consumers’ purchase intentions. Although this positive impact is dependent on the influencer themselves, ultimately, they have the potential to advocate positive buying behaviour (such as sustainable fashion consumption for example). 

Overall, it is clear that social media influencers have a unique and personal connection with their audiences and that this has an impact on purchasing decisions. We can also see their role in predicting the latest fashion trends, and despite the possible negative connotations around the word ‘influencer’, there is the potential for a positive impact. It’s always important to do your due diligence and place your trust in the right people. 

The coronavirus pandemic has seen many industries continue to struggle financially, the beauty industry, in particular, seeing a significant change. Given that the majority of the world is still having to deal with the realities of social distancing, mask-wearing, and working from home, it’s not surprising that makeup has become less of a concern to those who usually wear it. NPD, a market research company, reported that in the first quarter of 2020, makeup sales were down 22% compared to the year before. Not only is it awkward to struggle with wearing makeup under a mask, but buying makeup online is a much more different, and difficult, experience.

A new reason to get all dolled up

However, it’s not only important to consider how the practicalities of wearing makeup have changed, but also the reasons that we wear it. For many, makeup is used as part of a regular morning routine to start the day ahead, but there now seems to be a shift in these aims. The president of L’Oréal USA’s consumer products division, Nathalie Gerschtein, has said how people are instead “dressing up and doing their makeup for virtual happy hours and dinner parties”, demonstrating that wearing makeup has now become a way for us to celebrate the things that bring a sense of normalcy to our lives, despite the circumstances. 

Skincare is the new makeup

While we may be seeing a decrease in makeup sales, the global beauty industry is not seeing a decrease in all of its sectors; skincare has become an increasing part of people’s lockdown routines. This shift in the beauty industry can easily be seen through much of what we see on social media. For example, if you happened to be scrolling through apps such as TikTok in the first few months of the pandemic, the surge in videos concerning people’s skincare routines and their product recommendations was hard to ignore. Products from brands such as The Ordinary and CeraVe were consistently sold out both online and instore, as consumers took a renewed focus towards their self-care routines. 

This shift towards self-care is not surprising, given that taking the time to focus on a skincare routine can be of extra comfort when experiencing stress. In a situation such as a global pandemic, many people feel that they can do little, besides staying at home, to control it. Therefore, it’s understandable that we place more attention on aspects of our lives that we do have some control over. The rise of the wellbeing industry has also been made evident, given a spike in purchases of bath and body products. The fragrance company Diptyque has reported that candle sales increased 536% in the weeks after lockdown. 

Lessons from Beauty Psychology 

So not only has skincare seen a boom in sales, but the whole self-care and wellbeing industry has seen a sharp rise in interest. Nonetheless, it’s also important to consider the behavioural and psychological responses to the shutdown of the makeup industry, as not everyone will have the same reaction towards more time spent at home. Since people with lower self-esteem are generally more likely to wear makeup, does this rising interest in skincare apply to those who wear makeup to feel more confident? Interestingly, a recent study by Pikoos and colleagues (2020) found that during the pandemic, those with low dysmorphic concerns (i.e. “a preoccupation with a perceived defect in physical appearance”) invested less time in their physical appearance, but that restrictions caused by the pandemic presented risks for individuals with high dysmorphic concern.

Therefore, despite a general decrease in makeup sales, this change does not necessarily mean that people are more comfortable with the way that they look. Although having to face less people than in a pre-pandemic society, people still find themselves concerned about the way that they look and a boom in the skincare industry does not necessarily mean an increase in self-esteem. Rather, it seems to be more the impracticality of having to wear makeup that has had a factor in this change. 

Jewellery is used as much more than just a fashion accessory. Ogden (1992) emphasises its rare power to communicate the feelings and beliefs of the people who wear it, and even suggests that as an object surviving the ancient world, it is another piece in the “jigsaw puzzle of history”. Why is it that jewellery has been around for so long, and what does it say about the person wearing it?

As one of the oldest of the decorative arts, jewellery reinforces the power that an individual has (Evans, 1989); it is much more than just a financial investment, but an emotional one too. Jewellery is used as a means to show an individual’s wealth and social status to others (Jaggi & Bahl, 2019). We live in a society where we are obsessed with the brands around us and the need to belong to a certain social status can even lead to addictive relationships with particular luxury brands (Mrad, Majdalani & El Khansa, 2020). The jewellery we wear can speak volumes about our social status, only if we let it.

As well as a statement of wealth, jewellery can also be a statement of personality and for many, a boost of self-esteem. Jewellery is made to make the wearer feel more elegant and attractive as it adds an element to the body for people to admire (Swigelaar, 2016), this is especially the case if the piece of jewellery you’re wearing is personal to you. Jewellery that holds personal value significantly boosts confidence, in comparison to jewellery that has no emotional value. People’s decision to wear this accessory is not just about portraying wealth, but also about expressing one’s self.

Women, in particular, are suggested to buy items that are concerned with appearance and emotional aspects of themselves. Dittmar, Beattle and Friese (1995) explain how products are impulsively bought to reflect self-identity – if a piece of jewellery is symbolic and self-expressive, it is more likely to be bought by the consumer. Following this logic, brands should be creating a more personal experience when it comes to buying jewellery as customers look for items that are suited to them specifically. 

Nevertheless, it’s also important to consider the role that culture plays in our decision to wear jewellery. An obvious example of this would be that within Western culture, a band on the left ring finger is a clear sign of availability. However, in comparison to this, the Zulu people (the largest ethnic group in South Africa) use a much more colourful method of revealing a woman’s marital status. Beadwork is used as a means of communication between the sexes, but it can also refer to a woman’s home and family. Although both cultures have a similar purpose, they utilise jewellery in many different ways.

In other cultures, jewellery can be worn as a means of cultural identity. Using the women of the Padaung tribe as an example, they are known for their particularly long necks, caused by wearing gold rings around their necks. Beginning at the age of five, the number of neck rings is increased as the child grows older. This is an important demonstration of the impact of culture as this would not be the norm in many of today’s societies.

There are many different reasons why we choose to buy and wear the jewellery that we do, and it does not necessarily serve the same purpose for everyone. However, the more we can understand about the psychology behind it, the better the decisions we can make in the future. 

Recommendations of some interesting jewellery brands:

  1. Wolf & Moon (@wolfandmoonshop)
  • A handcrafted jewellery label inspired by nature, architecture, art and design
  • Original statement jewellery for the curious and independent – unique, wearable jewellery, from eye-catching statement pieces to everyday essentials

    2.  Chalk Jewellery (@chalkjewellery)

  • A London based design studio run by architect Malaika – creates unusual, geometric, wearable forms
  • Collections are influenced by architectural elements, everyday objects and bold colourful cultural patterns
  • All pieces are handmade

    3.  Lines & Current (@linesandcurrent)

  • The theme of the jewellery collection dances between two poles: clean lines and unpredictable flow
  • A minimalist approach informs the designs