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What is a Jewfro?

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  • Written By: Michael Pollick
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 08 November 2016
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The term Jewfro is a portmanteau or invented word derived from "Jewish" and "Afro." Some people of Jewish descent, most notably the European Ashkenazim culture, prefer to wear their hair in a naturally curly style reminiscent of the traditional black Afro. A Jewfro does not generally feature the tight curls of a black Afro, but is more of a compilation of curly and wavy hair teased out from the wearer's head in a loose Afro style. Some Jewfro wearers will have their hair professionally cut and styled to produce a more balanced effect, but others prefer to wear it more unkempt. This hairdo is often styled or combed by using the same type of pick combs used on traditional Afros.

The expression Jewfro didn't become especially popular until the 1960s and 1970s. At that time, many African-Americans began to wear their hair in a more natural style, which for many was a tightly curled Afro. Younger members of the Jewish culture also decided to express themselves by wearing their naturally wavy or curly hair in a style that didn't necessarily conform with the social norms of the day. By wearing a Jewfro, many influential Jewish entertainers, athletes and other public figures could establish their own cultural identity.

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Growing a Jewfro hairstyle is not restricted to those of Ashkenazi Jewish descent, however. Many people have naturally curly or wavy hair which can grow out to a substantial length. The wearer can ask a hairstylist to trim his or her hair for length, but not as much for height or thickness. Some people may find that blow drying and the use of certain hair products which encourage curling and stiffness can also help create the Jewfro hairstyle. Pulling and teasing the hair with a traditional Afro comb will also help create a fuller Jewish Afro.

There are a number of famous celebrities and notable figures who have helped to popularize the Jewfro. Singer Art Garfunkel, for example, sports a prominent Jewish Afro, as does Nick Jonas of the Jonas Brothers band. During the 1970s and 1980s, iconic singer/songwriter Bob Dylan wore his hair in a teased Jewish Afro. Other famous Jewfro wearers include Larry Fine of the Three Stooges, fitness guru Richard Simmons, music producer Phil Spector, film critic Gene Shalit, comedian Adam Samberg and comedic actor Seth Rogen. In some pop culture circles, wearing a Jewfro successfully gives the wearer a certain cache or personal charisma.

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EricRadley
Post 8

@lonelygod - As with dreadlocks, the way you clean and condition the hair can make a huge difference as to whether it ends up looking great or ratty. If it does get to a stage where it's completely unmanageable, you could always opt to trim it or even shave it entirely!

LTimmins
Post 7

@pennywell - Well, what about if someone who has that type of hairstyle even if they're not Jewish. Don't you think it's a generalization in that case?

pennywell
Post 6

@AnnBoleyn - I don't think it's that bad, to be honest. The word has been around for a long time and I think it's a valid way of describing an Afro hairstyle on someone who is not of African-American origin.

AnnBoleyn
Post 5

Does anyone else think that the word "jewfro" sounds a bit awkard? I'm not sure if it could be construed as racist but it seems a bit politically incorrect.

Moldova
Post 4

@Sunny27 - I agree and I think that this hair style requires the use of a lot of hair spray which is not healthy for the hair. It actually makes the hair look at little stiff and artificial.

With excessive teasing you also run the risk of developing split ends because you are always pulling the hair outward. You really have to take extra care and condition your hair properly so that you don’t damage it. Doing a deep conditioning treatment once a week should also help keep the hair healthy, along with regular trims.

Sunny27
Post 3

I have curly hair and I don’t think that I would look attractive in a Jewfro because it would make my face look too round and I don’t think that it is a flattering style at all.

I think that people that have thinner hair like to tease their hair in efforts to create more volume, but it actually makes the hair look thinner. If you have thin hair whether it is curly or straight, it is better to go with an angled bob.

This style not only frames the face, but it actually makes the hair look fuller because the style is more compact. Keeping the hair closer to the face actually makes the hair look like it has more body.

lonelygod
Post 2

Looking back it is really surprising that the Jewfro didn't get popularized much sooner. Albert Einstein, Marc Chagall and Harpo Marx could have all been candidates for Jewfro fame, although in Marx's case that may have been a wig. Even if it was a wig I am pretty sure he could have been a honorary member of the Jewfro club for what it was worth.

Has anyone actually tried out the Jewfro look for themselves?

I have considered it in the past, but I am not really sure if it would be easy to maintain or not. With my curly hair I am worried it would just end up looking like a rats nest.

wander
Post 1

When I first heard the expression Jewfro I automatically thought of Art Garfunkel. He was famous for his wild and curly hair and inspired a lot of people to follow in his footsteps when it came to choosing a funky do. Whenever I picture a first generation Jewfro it has to be him.

Art was really well known for his involvement in the group Simon & Garfunkel. I've been a fan of their music for years and if you really want a good image of a Jewfro you should search for an image of their album cover from Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme. I really believe that Art's 1966 Jewfro was at its peak during that time.

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