Beyond the Locks with Maurice Cherry

In Advocate, Educate by El Pelo Suelto6 Comments

A Diverse and Transcendent Community

The Longhairs have created a community, a place where men with long hair can go for advice, support and connection. This community allows men to fully embrace what it means to have long hair and seek information on how to maintain it.

On many occasions we have illustrated how long hair transcends the different layers of race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and history. We’ve highlighted professional athletes, world-changing scientists, CEOs and business professionals, courageous warriors, entrepreneurs, fashion experts, coffee roasters and many others.

Because long hair is transcendent, and because it spans so many different cultures, we wanted to dive deeper into the diversity of this community, and share the unique perspectives which make it so rich.

Going Beyond The Locks

In our new series, Beyond The Locks, we highlight men with long hair from different cultures, backgrounds, races and ethnicities, learning about their experiences and perspectives and revealing how long hair contributes to each man’s identity.

Through a series of interview questions we’ll hear these men’s stories and better understand what long hair means to them and their culture. Offering a different lens through which to view our community, these new insights will provide us with a chance to learn and reshape the concept of what it means to be a longhair.

From these interviews we hope The Longhairs becomes stronger as a community, and that that these stories help inspire others to share their own stories.

Maurice Cherry’s Long Hair Identity

For our very first featured guest on Beyond The Locks, we bring you Maurice Cherry, a pioneering digital creator who is most well-known for the Black Weblog Awards, the Web's longest running event celebrating Black bloggers, video bloggers, and podcasters. Other projects of Maurice's include the award-winning podcast Revision Path, 28 Days of the Web, and The Year of Tea.

Maurice is also the principal and creative director at Lunch, a multidisciplinary studio in Atlanta, GA that helps creative brands craft messages and tell stories and foster relationships with underrepresented communities.

His unique perspective hits home for a perfect introduction to our new series.

When did you first decide to grow out your hair?

I've been growing out my hair in various stages since high school. I cut it in college. I went to a very conservative, all-male college, and having long hair was largely discouraged. I kept it short for a few years after I graduated, then I started growing it back out again around 2006 or 2007. It's been long ever since.

Did you have a purpose behind growing out your hair?

My hair grows really fast, and it's very thick. When I had it short, I would need to get it cut at least every week, which was both time-consuming and expensive. Longer hair frames my face better, and it's more recognizable (for me, at least).

How long did your hair get?

I do a trim from time to time, but I've never really measured it at its longest. Aside from my hair being really thick, it's super curly, so it's a lot longer than it looks. On average, I'd guess it's about four to five inches long.

What do you do professionally?

I own and operate Lunch, a multidisciplinary creative studio. I also host the award-winning design podcast Revision Path.

What did you learn during your long hair journey?

I suppose I'm pretty lucky because my hair has no problem growing! Well, at least the hair on my head is. I'm in my mid-30s and I still can't grow a mustache. I've always felt more authentically myself when I had longer hair.

Do you find that men in your family treat you differently for having long hair?

They don't, but the women do. I'm always getting some type of comment about how I need to cut or trim it. Or they'll start pawing at it and say "you need to let me do something to that head", which usually means they want to braid it.

Does the general public treat you differently because of your long hair?

Absolutely. Like I mentioned earlier, I went to a very conservative college, and having short cut hair meant falling into certain standards of respectability. But it's not just about the hair being short—you also have to have a fresh line and you've got to have waves or a good looking fade. You can't look like you just woke up and rolled out of bed and brushed your hair with a brick. Even having long hair in the workplace can present challenges. I've seen stories where people have been fired for having dreadlocks or an afro, even when your hair is well-kept and presentable. There's a lot of stigma wrapped up in Black hair. Black women can tell you this for sure.

Were you ever denied work because of your long hair and were you ever asked to cut your hair for the work environment?

Yes. Sometimes prospective clients find my hair unprofessional, and I've definitely gotten comments about it. I also have been asked to cut my hair. I didn't do it, and I got reprimanded for it. I eventually quit that job a few months later.

Have you been mistaken for someone else for your long hair?

There's not a week that goes by where I don't get some comparison to Questlove, even though we look nothing alike.

How often do people tell you to cut your hair?

When I do get those comments, it's usually from my mother or grandmother -- I think they would prefer it to be short. (Or at least shorter.) When prospective clients have a negative comment about my hair, I usually set them straight on the spot.

What does your hair mean to you?

I love my hair. It's an extension of my personality and it expresses my Blackness.

Did you have a team or supporters when growing your hair out?

I didn't, but there is a wealth of information out there online thanks to the vibrant natural hair movement. Blogs, YouTube videos, forums—take what you can use and discard the rest. It definitely took me a lot of trial and error to find the right products and methods to use to keep my hair healthy and happy, but once you find what works for you, it's magic.

Do you have a favorite memory revolving around your hair?

There's a funny story behind why I started growing out my hair again (around 2006 or 2007). For years, I had been going to the same barbershop to get a cut and an edge up. The shop was convenient to get to on public transit, it was affordable, and it was exactly the distance between my job and my apartment. One day after work, I went down to the shop to get a haircut, and the shop was gone. All the chairs and everything were cleared out. I was heartbroken! Listen -- any Black man will tell you that finding a new barber is stressful. Breaking up with a barber is bad enough, but when you get ghosted right when you need a haircut the most? It's an existential crisis. You've gotta find a new shop, trust a new barber to learn to cut your head correctly, hope that the shop is actually decent...I just said fuck it and told myself I'd grow my hair out again. And now here I am ten years later, still afroed out. I wouldn't change a thing.

That's a Wrap

Maurice’s perspective challenges the idea of what having long hair actually means. Traditionally, when we think of long hair we probably envision hair that is loose, straight or wavy, and hair that can be tied up. Within the black community having tight and super curly hair changes the meaning of being a longhair.

Although there are differences in what it means to be a longhair in the black community, we can still see commonalities. No matter how curly, long hair continues to contribute to one's identity and bring about social challenges that we equally share as a community.

Get to Know Maurice a Little Better

Do you know someone else we should interview for this series? Let us know in the comments, amigo.


Steven “El Pelo Suelto” Jimenez is a latino software engineer from Long Island, NY, relocated to the California Bay Area for a job opportunity in the Silicon Valley. You can find him either nose-deep in a book or lost listening to hip-hop, funk, or salsa. Read his longhair story, Road to Long Hair.