Explaining to today’s generation the hair fad called the Jheri Curl or sometimes spelled “Jerry Curls” can be a bit difficult, especially when you tell them about the work and mess involved in creating this memorable 1980s hairstyle. There’s the chemical process of getting a Jheri Curl hairstyle, as well as the excessive upkeep, and that can be a little strange to today’s youth that are used to much lower maintenance and cleaner looks.
But if you lived during the 80s and the fads of that decade come up in a conversation, explaining the Jheri Curl is simple enough. Just say that was the name of Michael Jackson’s hairstyle circa the Thriller days, and they’ll understand why it became so popular.
Michael Jackson’s impact on US culture is quite well-known, but if you lived during the 80s, you know that the man was a fashion icon. And with that power, he ushered in the Jheri Curl hairstyle to the mainstream masses who wanted to be just like the “King of Pop”.
Michael Jackson Made The Jheri Curl Huge In The 1980s
Origin of the Jheri Curl
If you want to appear even more knowledgeable about the Jheri Curl hairstyle, then you need to know about Jheri Redding. This guy was known as the Godfather of Hair, and he was forever famous because he invented the Jheri Curl.
Ironically, this hairstyle overshadowed his other contributions to hair care in the media. Almost nobody knows that it was Jheri Redding who invented the modern hair conditioner. It was he who first created “pH-balanced” shampoos, and who first put vitamins and minerals in hair care products.
Jheri Redding, Godfather Of “The Jheri Curl”
The other important figure in the Jheri Curl history is Comer Cottrell. At the time, getting a Jheri Curl meant going to a salon and paying $300. So you could say it was only for the rich.
Cottrell made the Jheri Curl more accessible to the masses, and helped make it become a hairstyle fad among African Americans all over the country. He introduced the Curly Kit, and it sold for just $8. Suddenly people were able to do it at home, and so it became a very mainstream look.
The “Curly Kit” Brought Jheri Curls To The People!
Of course, once it became so ubiquitous that just about every black guy was wearing it, it didn’t take long for others to lampoon it. The most popular example was the Eric LaSalle character in the Eddie Murphy comedy Coming to America, which featured a similar product that gave users a shiny hairstyle and left a stain on furniture.
Eric LaSalle Rockin The Jheri Curl in “Coming To America” 1988
Famous Jheri Curls
It wasn’t just Michael Jackson who was sporting a Jheri Curl at the time. Even after the 1980s were over, the Jheri Curl seemed to remain in style for several more years often appearing in popular movies and sported by prominent African-American celebrities. There are variations, so you may as well look at some of the more famous examples:
1. Lionel Richie
One of the most iconic Jheri Curls was of course the one worn by music superstar Lionel Richie. His smooth lyrics combined with his luscious curls had the women swooning in the 80s.
2. Ice Cube
Ice Cube, the rapper who sported the hairstyle in “Boyz n the Hood”. This became an iconic look that commanded respect: the angry brows under shiny curls.
Ice Cube’s Jheri Curl In “Boyz N The Hood” 1991
3. Samuel L. Jackson
Samuel L. Jackson in “Pulp Fiction”. He played a murderous gangster quoting imaginary verses from the Bible. Who’s going to tell him that the hairstyle was no longer cool in 1994 when the film came out?
Samuel L. Jackson Rockin The Jheri Curl In “Pulp Fiction” 1994
4. A.C. Green
A. C. Green. He was an important part of the Laker dynasty back in the 1980s, and the Celtics sure hated him.
Basketball Player A. C. Green
5. Deion Sanders
Deion Sanders. The guy was all glitz and glamor as he split his time between baseball and football. But he maintained his Jheri Curls for quite a while, and it helped him swagger in the field and in interviews.
Deion Sanders And His Jheri Curl
The Jheri Curl Today
Unfortunately these days finding a good Jheri Curl isn’t that easy. As time went on, modern hairstyles moved away from their oily counterparts to more low maintenance clean cut styles. These days maintaining a Jheri Curl isn’t worth the time or effort, especially now that the hairstyle seems to be out of fashion.
These days we really only see the Jheri Curl contemporarily in TV or movies that spoof the past. For example we often saw Charlie Murphy in “Chappelle’s Show” rocking the hairstyle in one of his many throwback sketches.
Of course just like Charlie Murphy, Dave Chappelle was also seen sporting a Jheri Curl in the show as well.
We also saw the Jheri Curl again prominently displayed in Coming 2 America when Eddie Murphy reprised his role as the lead singer of “Sexual Chocolate” at the end of the movie.
Though we don’t really see Jheri Curls these days, we still fondly remember a time when they were all the rage. Couches and car seats across America were stained with oil from the popular hairstyle, but that’s the price we paid to look stylish in the 1980s.
The Jheri Curl was an iconic hairstyle along with the high top fade in the 1980s for black culture. However unfortunately it does in fact appear that the Jheri Curl is one of the hairstyles that died off and is now archived in 1980s fashion history.