In a time when image is indeed everything, our personal appearance has a tremendous effect on nearly every aspect of our lives on a daily basis. Our choice of hairstyle can mean the difference between acceptance and rejection by groups and individuals. The choices made by African Americans are particularly charged, often affecting the wearer and the viewer in unique and sometimes life-altering ways.
Good and Bad Hair emerges out of photographer Bill Gaskins's traveling photo exhibition of the same name. The book features 60 evocative photographs of African American men, women, and children, documenting contemporary black hairstyles and their role as a feature of African American culture.
On one level, the photographs present readers with a variety of popular and personal approaches to wearing one's hair. On another level, they isolate what amounts to a bold, assertive departure from the common definition of American beauty that excludes the physical features of many people of African descent. This narrow definition of beauty has created a race-based measurement for what is considered "good" and "bad" hair. Gaskins's pictures identify African Americans from different regions of the United States who expressively symbolize their sense of self and often their sense of an African or black identity through their hair.