The part of me that cares about fashion wants Robert Griffin III's plaits to disappear, the part that craves a case study wants him to keep his hair long.
As a serious football blogger (hahahah), I should be writing about how the speed Griffin displayed over the weekend at combine is pretty much unheard of for a quarterback. I should be talking about whether or not the Redskins are really going to try to move hell and Browns to get to the Griffin. I should even be talking about whether the Rams would be or should be remotely interested. And maybe I will…later. But right now I want to focus on those flowing locs sprouting from Griff’s head.
I have always hated plaits which are basically individualized “loose” braids rather than tightly woven corn rows that were trendy in the early 2000s a la former Philadelphia 76er Allen Iverson. Plaits have always made me think West coast, Snoop Dogg-meets-4-year-old girl. And I dislike them on little girls so it’s only natural that I dislike them on grown men who clock in at 6’3 and run unofficial 4.38 40s. When it comes to long hair (on black men) I like dreadlocks and some afros. But plaits will never make it in my book.
Still, I hope Griffin keeps his long hair even if I have to suffer through looking at plaits–hey, that’s what bobby pins are for right? Even wild rapper Waka Flocka stops shaking his dreads sometimes and french braids them or pins them back for a cleaner look.
It’s hard to explain to people who aren’t black what a huge deal hair is in the black community. Whether you are a woman who has been told your natural hair is unprofessional or felt pressure to relax it with chemicals or whether you’re a man who is perceived as “threatening” when you diverge from anything other than a low cut caesar or something playful like a mohawk that tells people you’re not serious about anything much less hurting them.
In a league where it’s still a big deal for a QB to be black (maybe not to YOU, but to many of us, including me) if Griffin’s braids can be accepted without a hitch I think it says something about progress. I don’t want Griffin to keep long hair to prove a point or to be defiant. And if he doesn’t keep his braids it doesn’t mean he’s conforming. I don’t want or need Griffin to make any personal statements about blackness with his hair.
But if he keeps the long hair it will give me a chance to see what the reactions are. Will they (mainstream press, advertisers etc) see Griffin’s hair as “other” or will they see it like Tom Brady’s long hair (which I also hate)– as a personal style choice that isn’t particularly attractive but works cause he likes it. When Jerry Richardson, owner of the Carolina Panthers, told Cam Newton not to get any tattoos he really meant don’t do anything that’s not mainstream and that includes afros (as McNabb once rocked even though I couldn’t tell what was going on there), dreadlocks or Griffinesque plaits. And Newton has made it clear he doesn’t intend to let anything stand in the way of becoming a golden boy so while some balked at Richardson’s request in reality he was preaching to the choir.
I do remember when athletes having locks was a big deal, now it seems like every NFL team has at least 2 or 3 guys with beautiful strands peeking out under their helmets. Same thing with Iverson’s braids…nowadays corn rows only raise eyebrows cause they’re out of style. Even the poster boy for grand gestures of defiance Randy Moss says he won’t wear them anymore.