Bonnets or Nah: The headwear debate

Makeup pro Brittany Garner  

by Megan Kirk 

Head wraps have been a sign of heritage in Black culture for generations. As hair and times evolve, head wraps have come to include additional head dressings such as scarves and bandanas. One piece of gear that has been causing a stir are bonnets. The debate on whether or not bonnets, meant for protecting and preserving hairstyles, are intended for outdoor use.  

Seen by some as “ghetto” or “inappropriate” to wear in public, bonnets have gotten a bad rap. The silk-lined hat is used in the natural hair community but extends to any Black girl or woman looking to protect the crown underneath.  

Comedian Mo’Nique recently took to Instagram to weigh in on the debate. In a five-minute video outlining an experience in Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson airport, the actress details seeing several African American women in scarves and bonnets. No stranger to making statements addressing Black communities, the self-proclaimed ‘aunty’ believes wearing bonnets and scarves is not the best representation of self.  

“The question that I’m having to you, my sweet babies: when did we lose pride in representing ourselves? When did we step away of let me make sure I’m presentable when I leave my home?” Mo’Nique says in the video.  

Despite naysayers, Black women are rallying to show their support of the freedom to wear bonnets in public free from public scrutiny and criticisms. While not every racial group is in on the debate, the garment particular to Black men and women is catching heat coming from opposing Black people who feel bonnets in public are too far.  

“Black women can’t really do anything without ridicule. We can’t look nice without being labeled vain or self-centered. We can’t relax without being sloppy. We can’t express ourselves without being angry. We can’t desire nice things without being materialistic and we can’t enjoy simplicity without having low standards,” says Brittany Garner, famed Detroit makeup artist. “Bonnets in particular, are a respectability issue and it comes from other Black folk. White people don’t know what scarves or bonnets even do for us and they don’t even care.” 

Fashion icons in their own right, Black women have been known to wear designs the mainstream public did not readily accept, but morphed into its own. Now, reclaiming space as their own, Black women are taking back what was once theirs and being unapologetic.  

“Long nails with nail art, chunky gold jewelry, jewels on teeth — everything that’s cool and on everybody’s Pinterest board today was in BAPs. Like every other huge fashion development that was once ghetto, that was primarily utilized by Black women, bonnets are sure to make an appearance at someone’s fashion week within the next couple of years. They will cost a grip. And they will sell out. like literally every other trend that black women pioneer,” says Garner. 

Often the critics, Black women who do not agree with the bonnet movement are the most vocal, but are being quieted one rapper at a time.  

“Drake said, ‘hair tied, sweats on, chillin’ with no makeup on; that’s when you’re the prettiest, I hope that you don’t take it wrong.’ So, if it’s good enough for Drake, it’s good enough for me,” says Garner.  

For those who seemingly agree with comedian Mo’Nique, some believe it is because of the standard of beauty set forth by European standards.  

“We’re ridiculed by other Black people who want to look nice and clean for the white gaze, but the interesting thing is that white people don’t even care,” says Garner.  

For this beauty professional, wearing a bonnet is a personal preference that should be free from judgement. When it comes to wearing one outside of the home, she is all for it.  

“I have, and do if I’m trying to preserve a style. Do I care what others do? No, I do not care what another woman does with her body. I do what’s comfortable for me and I expect every other woman to do what’s comfortable for them,” says Garner. 

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