What's Hair Got to Do with It?: An Analysis of Ebony Magazine Hair Advertisements from 2011 to 2015

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Williams, Ashney
Johnson, Courtney
Edmond, Archana
Sanders, Eulanda
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International Textile and Apparel Association (ITAA) Annual Conference Proceedings
Iowa State University Conferences and Symposia

The first national meeting of textile and clothing professors took place in Madison, Wisconsin in June 1959. With a mission to advance excellence in education, scholarship and innovation, and their global applications, the International Textile and Apparel Association (ITAA) is a professional and educational association of scholars, educators, and students in the textile, apparel, and merchandising disciplines in higher education.

This site provides free, public access to the ITAA annual conference proceedings beginning in 2015. Previous proceedings can be found by following the "Additional ITAA Proceedings" link on the left sidebar of this page.


Black hair product advertisements communicate both overt and covert messages to consumers through their phenotypic traits, facial expressions, and body language. The problem with the ads is that the messages communicated sometimes appear stereotypical of Black women. There is no study that inquired: What are the trends and messages communicated by Black hair product advertisements between the years of 2011 to 2015 in Ebony magazine, a time when the natural hair movement gained momentum? Ebony magazine was used, as it is the longest printed Black magazine with the widest distribution. The team of 4 researchers analyzed 474 Black hair advertisements in Ebony magazine between the years of 2011 to 2015 or 15% of the total 3104 ads in this set of magazines. After dividing the advertisements by product type, the researchers discovered that advertisements for chemical, hair-straightening relaxers (n=43) and natural hair products (n=191) differed greatly in number and messaging. Regardless of ad product type, words such as anti-breakage, smooth, moisturizing, strength, and rejuvenate were prevalent. Many messages found in previous studies were still prevalent in the trends found of this study. The research team a taxonomy of themes that emerged along with representative visual examples.