The Afro was, and is, a mainly African-American hairstyle in which the hair is teased into a neat circle about the wearer's head. It helps
if the hair is coarse and/or curly to begin with. Afros first gained acceptance as a response to the traditional hair-straightening that
American blacks had often endured before the mid-1960's - hair care products and even methods such as ironing were used to conform more
to white society's fashion sense. The black power movement made such a conformity undesirable; why should blacks have to adopt a hairstyle
that was unnatural in the first place? An early proponent of the style was Jimi Hendrix, who wanted to emulate his hero Bob Dylan, who at
that time was wearing his naturally curly hair grown out into a proto-Afro.
The style grew in popularity through the late 1960's until it was nearly ubiquitous throughout the next decade. Blaxploitation films -
a briefly-flowering movie genre of exploitation films made specifically for black audiences - made the 'do even more of a political
statement. By the time disco came around, people of practically every race could be seen sporting a perfectly-rounded Afro, often with an
afro pick - a squarish comb featuring long, spaced teeth - in the back pocket or even sticking out of the 'do itself.
In later decades, the hairstyle has become practically a cliche of the 1970's, along with bell-bottom pants and the waka-chicka sound of
a guitar played through a wah-wah pedal. The hairstyle shows up often in movies meant to parody the time frame; Foxy Cleopatra from the
third Austin Powers film had one, of course; even Undercover Brother sported a perfect 'fro. Pam Grier, the quintessential
Blaxploitation actress, hid weapons in her Afro in two films - a gun in Foxy Brown and razor blades in Coffy (to stop another woman from
grabbing her by the hair, with bloody results).