Black Crowns

19 July 2021

Blurred out silhouettes drift aimlessly, detached from original identities. The loss of traditions eroded connections with cultural roots and knowledge. Owners of proud customs forcefully censored could do nothing but conform, stripped and whitewashed, with no choice in the matter. Ancestral dignity was wounded because Eurocentric beauty standards deemed textured manes undesirable and unprofessional. Though the coils held tight, time chipped away at them, displacing crowns for shaved heads.

Photographer Michelle Marshall focuses her lens on the faded beings, sharpening the silhouettes. Opaque corners become chiselled angles belonging to boys adorned by Black, beautiful crowns. Consisting of angle-like helix-shaped strands in differing sizes, each crown is unique. The individuality of afro textured hair, previously generalised, is made apparent. Groomer Jennie Roberts chooses to build upon their flourishing characters, creating edgy, sculpted hairstyles that pay homage to the boys’ cultural identities. They can choose whether to wear their crowns or not, and that’s significant.

Black people face discrimination based on their textured hair at work, at school, on the street, and even at the hair salon. Cutting and styling afro textured hair is often an optional course for hairdressers in training, so many never learn. Jennie, who also works as an Afro Textured Hair Educator, says she hopes the industry will start to work with textured hair instead of against it. Black models are frequently made to feel like the problem when they encounter inexperienced hair stylists during shoots.

With this editorial, Michelle and Jennie set out to honour the backgrounds of the models. Jennie notes, "I wanted to do something that was relevant to the boys rather than stripping them of their identity which is what so often happens when they have a shaved head. Something edgy but that represents their culture as well, without getting too political. I’m fed up with preaching to people, I just want it to be the norm. This was just me, as a mixed-race woman and hairdresser, looking at their textured hair thinking ‘how can I make this edgier?’. It would never occur to me to Europeanise Black people, ever. It makes me really cross when I see that happening. Afro textured hair can do so many great things. People just need to learn".

Afro Hair Michelle Marshall 1
Afro Hair Michelle Marshall 2

Above Left: Emanuel wears Shirt by Wales Bonner from Matches Fashion
Above Right: Dion wears Top by Labrum London, Jacket by Post Imperial from Matches Fashion, Trousers by Aissata Ibrahima and Shoes by Sebago. Emanuel wears Top, Waistband Top and Trousers by Aissata Ibrahima, Jacket by Labrum London and Shoes by Lanvin

Afro Hair Michelle Marshall 3
Afro Hair Michelle Marshall 4

Above Left: Emanuel wears Top, Waistband Top and Trousers by Aissata Ibrahima, Jacket by Labrum London and Shoes by Lanvin

Above Right: Dion wears Jacket by Bianca Saunders and Underjacket by Iyanu
Afro Hair Michelle Marshall 5
Afro Hair Michelle Marshall 6

Above: Emanuel wears Shirt by Wales Bonner from Matches Fashion, Trousers by Olubiyi Thomas and Shoes by Sebago

Afro Hair Michelle Marshall 7

Above: Emanuel wears Top and Waistband Top by Aissata Ibrahima

Afro Hair Michelle Marshall 8
Afro Hair Michelle Marshall 9

Above Left: Emanuel wears Shirt and Jacket by Olubiyi Thomas
Above Right: Outfits as Before

Afro Hair Michelle Marshall 10
Afro Hair Michelle Marshall 11

Above Left: Outfits as Before
Above Right: Emanuel wears Shirt and Jacket by Olubiyi Thomas, Shorts by Bianca Saunders and Shoes by Sebago

Afro Hair Michelle Marshall 12
Afro Hair Michelle Marshall 13
Afro Hair Michelle Marshall 14
Afro Hair Michelle Marshall 15
Afro Hair Michelle Marshall 16
Afro Hair Michelle Marshall 17
Afro Hair Michelle Marshall 18

Above Left: Dion wears Jacket by Bianca Saunders, Underjacket by Iyanu, Jeans by

Bianca Saunders,
from Matches Fashion and Shoes by Sebago
Above Right: Dion wears Shirt by Ahluwalia from Matches Fashion and Waistcoat by Olubiyi Thomas

Afro Hair Michelle Marshall 19
Afro Hair Michelle Marshall 20
Afro Hair Michelle Marshall 21
Afro Hair Michelle Marshall 22

Above Left: Outfit as Before
Above Right: Dion wears Shirt by Ahluwalia from Matches Fashion and Waistcoat by Olubiyi Thomas and Trousers by Labrum London

Follow us on Instagram @boysbygirls