Rock’s Greatest Afros
In celebration of World Afro Day on Sept. 15, we're taking a look at some of the rock stars who have sported the look over the years.
The Afro first became popular in the late '60s and '70s, when African Americans began growing out their hair, rather than straightening it or keeping it short, as part of the "Black Is Beautiful" movement that challenged conventional standards of beauty. The look was picked up by many of the biggest African-American musicians, activists, celebrities and athletes of the day, and it became both a fashion statement and a powerful expression of black pride.
As Chad Dion Lassiter of the University of Pennsylvania School of Social Policy and Practice told Ebony, “The Afro was black beauty personified without white validation, and it did not care about critics. For many black men, it was about cool pose and hyper-masculinity in the face of police brutality and constant oppression.”
But for all its association with the black community, plenty of white musicians with deep connections to blues or jazz sported their own versions of the Afro, notably Eric Clapton during his time in Cream and Jimi Hendrix's bandmates Mitch Mitchell and Noel Redding. For Rob Tyner of the MC5, it was a way of showing solidarity with their friends in the Black Panthers.
As soul and funk gave way to disco, and later hip-hop, the Afro gave way to other hairstyles. But it's had occasional revivals -- Prince had one late in his life -- and these days can be seen being sported by two members of At the Drive-In, Cedric Bixler-Zavala and Omar Rodriguez-Lopez, as well as longtime Lenny Kravitz guitarist Craig Ross.
Check them all out below.