Date of Award

Spring 2018

Document Type

Thesis Restricted

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Communication Studies

Committee Chairperson

Michael P. Boyle, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Mark Hickman

Committee Member

Anita Foeman, Ph.D.


Historically, Black diasporic people have been subjected to high social scrutiny causing every hairstyle decision to be significant since it could impact every aspect of life. Usually, Black women are the victims of such scrutiny; however, with the current Natural Hair Movement, Black men are beginning to be subjected similarly as more become interested in their hair. Early literature generally tended to standardize all Black women’s experiences and completely disregard the role of their ethnic diversity. Black men, on the other hand, are eradicated from the beauty standard conversation all together which ultimately divides Black culture into subcategories: Black hair as a metaphor for Black culture through the lens of women, and Black hair as a metaphor for Black culture through the lens of men. This thesis not only integrates the two subcategories, but also explores whether one’s perception of their hair is an extension of how one feels about oneself; the rhetorical messages associated with one’s hairstyle; and how their hair choices impact life experiences by means of a three-month ethnographic study in New York City and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Analysis of the data yielded several key themes. Overall, young women developed a more substantial relationship with their hair because they have “known it” longer opposed to men. Subjects from New York City expressed greater significance in hair than Philadelphia subjects; and generally, there were messages being sent with every hair choices (consciously and subconsciously).