The advertising and beauty industries have been target marketing to African-American consumers for nearly 100 years. Each ad serves as a microcosm of ever-evolving cultural attitudes towards haircare and hair styling. Certain styles and products have always stood as markers of pride, prestige, and politics.
As cultural values shift, and trends change, looking back on these ads can be both illuminating and amusing. With that, here are some of my favorite vintage black hair and beauty ads — ranked.
10. S-Curl Will Get You Laid — A Lot.
S-Curl is apparently so powerful that women will no longer have names, they’ll just become days of the week. On a side note, there are a lot of older dudes who won’t cop to having had an S-Curl. But these things were flying off the shelves. Some of y’all were buying them.
09. The Woman in this Ad is Absolutely Stunning. That is all.
All jokes aside, the era of black pride resulted in the creation of some beautiful visuals.
08. Zap That Cap.
Leisure Curl changes the game with addition of special effects.
07. Great Body is Really Important.
This ad artfully combines two things that were really important in the 80’s — spandex and voluminous hair.
06. Just Let Your Soul Glo.
No, this isn’t a real ad, but I had to include it. It’s a classic.
05. Sulfur 8 Commercial or Sitcom Opener?
Sulfur 8 is basically a haircare classic, but the song and montage in this commercial reminds me of the beginning of a quirky buddy cop comedy.
04. This Woman is Very Busy.
Images of working women were pretty common in 80’s media and advertising. But don’t worry, there’s also spandex.
03. Oh Hey, Didn’t See You There. Me, Debbie Allen? Oh I’m Just Perming My Hair At Work.
There’s something hilariously disturbing about the sight of a cultural icon casually perming her hair at work. Where’s the nearest sink? What if she spills on the carpet?
02. This Jingle is Now Stuck In Your Head.
90’s kids know all about this joint. Bonus: Former Destiny’s Child Member LaTavia Roberson features prominently.
01. Frederick Douglass Makes a Cameo.
I try not to live my life by too many hard and fast rules, but if Frederick Douglass tells me to use a particular hair product, I’m using it.