Over the years, I've noticed that depending on the nature of the hairstyle I chose, I received varying treatment and even drew different types of male attention. Many people still consider seeing a lady of colour with her natural hair to be a daring act, and males who are against the monarchy are usually politically savvy enough to want to show their tolerance and acceptance. Longer hair, according to a study, may have unlocked these biases by triggering a "primal, instinctual response within men" that caused more guys to be attracted to me - even though I didn't grow the hair myself. As a black woman, I have had the opportunity to experiment with many different hairstyles, varying in length and texture. I've chemically relaxed my natural hair and worn it straight; I've done "the big chop" and worn it short and coily, grown it out and rocked my afro, and in between, I played with different kinds of wigs and endless variations of braids. What I noticed over the years was that depending on the nature of the hairstyle I had chosen, I received different treatment and even attracted different kinds of male attention. So, I did some research and found that in 2016, the Perception Institute conducted a "Good Hair Study" to understand if women who embraced their natural hair faced any bias and they found that different hairstyles do, in fact, influence specific perceptions. READ MORE |'I didn't comb my afro for more than a year. This is what happened' The men of Bantu Braids and Freedom 'Fros For the longest time, I jumped between wearing my hair in an afro, adding braided extensions, and rocking twist-outs until I cut my hair and wore my T.W.A. (teeny weeny afro). What I noticed most obviously during this period was that I was approached by a lot of men of colour, save for the odd white male who was the only one in his group of black friends, and many of these men felt the need to reassure me that they approved of my hair before I had asked. Some men tried to reassure me by complimenting me on my African-ness, or they called me "African princess" while shaming wig-wearers in the process, and the explanation for this is mainly historic. For centuries, black hair and ethnic hairstyles have been viewed as "unprofessional" and "unclean". These negative perceptions still exist today, evidenced by the fact that activists like Zulaikha Patel who have had to convince school leadership structures that black hair is school-appropriate. As a result of the politics of black hair, in South Africa especially, embracing one's natural hair is viewed as a "rebellious" act - a political statement. As a result, many still associate seeing a woman of colour's natural hair as an act of bravery, and the men who are down with the crown are usually politically aware enough to want to demonstrate their understanding and acceptance. The wavy, wildering world of wigs When I had just entered my 20s, I began experimenting with all the hairstyle options available to me. I started with a bone-straight back-length brunette wig, and the positive change in treatment was unmistakable - from everyone. I was approached a lot more and this time by a more diverse group, including men my age, older men, seemingly successful men, foreign men and men of other races. At first, I attributed this to the fact that wigs may come across as "high maintenance" to some and therefore attract "high-maintenance" men, or that perhaps Caucasian men felt straight or wavy hair was familiar territory. However, science has shown that longer hair is usually associated with youth, femininity, elegance, fertility and intelligence. According to this study, the aesthetic of longer hair may have unlocked these biases by triggering a "primal, instinctive response within men" that caused more men to feel a sense of attraction - even if I didn't grow the hair myself. While I found these observations intriguing, they also reassured me of one thing: Your hair and your different hairstyles are yours to explore, enjoy and express yourself, no matter what men may or may not think.