The Ultimate Guide to Black Men’s Hair

The Undisputed Ranking of Black Hair Styles

32 cuts, each showcasing the infinite depth of our follicles and artistry

Tirhakah Love
LEVEL
Published in
17 min readMay 4, 2020

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Illustration: Ryan Melgar

Update 6/7/22: Level has a new home. You can read this article and other new articles by visiting LEVELMAN.com.

Black hair is love. Black hair is power. Black hair is sacrifice. The seemingly simple choice to shape it as we choose is a daily decision that, in effect, activates and extends Black pride, mystique, and flair — not just for us, but to the outside world as well. Wearing our hair exactly how it grows out of our heads is much more than radical; it’s a conversation piece, a common language, ritual, a physiological understanding.

So in the spirit of celebrating the singularity, fabulousity, and unfuckwittability of Black hair, we dove deep into the barbershop poster, and chose the most timeless 32 — then ranked them all based on longevity, versatility, and flyness. These are the looks we rocked throughout our lives, the styles that loom over indelible memories: that year way back when your boy finally got those waves on swim; the deep laughter the crew let out when homie stepped into the cipher with a wild-ass perm; shitting on someone’s ill-advised ducktail, or secretly coveting your man’s new locs. The Undisputed Ranking of Black Hairstyles showcases the infinite depth of our follicles and artistry … not to mention the fact that Black folks ain’t ever had a style they couldn’t freak. Feast.

32. Finger Waves

Peak Era: Prohibition
Celebrity Endorsers:
Jidenna, El Debarge, Nat King Cole

Longevity: 1
Versatility:
1

Finger waves have gotten a bad rap for much of their history, and to be fair, it’s mostly earned: In a Jim Crowier time, the style was used to signify class and suavity, often in opposition to kinkier-haired folks. These days, though, it’s virtually nonexistent — even Jidenna left that shit in his “Classic Man” past. Though it’s a maintenance nightmare and a botched wave could permanently damage the scalp, it’s somehow gained a cult appreciation, and is a few brave spokesmodels from staging a comeback that would…

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Tirhakah Love
LEVEL
Writer for

African from Texas• Staff Writer at LEVEL • Black politics, Celebrity interviews, TV & Film Criticism • Previously: MTV News, San Francisco Chronicle