The Jheri curl (often spelled Jerry curl or Jeri Curl) is a permed hairstyle that was popular among African Americans during the 1980s. Invented by the hairdresser Jheri Redding, the Jheri curl gave the wearer a glossy, loosely curled look. It was touted as a "wash and wear" style that was easier to care for than the other popular chemical treatment of the day, the relaxer. The Jheri Curl was subsequently seen both seriously as well as parodied.
A Jheri curl required a two-part application that consisted of a softener (often called a "rearranging cream") to loosen the hair and a solution to set the curls. The rearranging cream used pungent chemicals, causing the naturally tight curls to loosen. The looser curls were then set and a chemical solution was then added to the hair to permanently curl it.
"Perming" was time and labor-intensive and expensive to maintain. The chemicals required for the process often caused the wearer's natural hair to become brittle and dry.
To maintain the look of the Jheri curl, users were required to apply a curl activator spray and moisturizers daily, and sleep with a plastic cap over the hair to prevent it from drying out. These products were expensive; a typical bottle of activator was small, retailed anywhere from $3 to $6, and was quickly depleted. The activator in particular had the undesirable side effect of being very greasy, and would would often stain clothing and furniture.
Washing the hair cleansed it of the styling products but also exposed the damage done to the hair by the chemical process. As the hair grew out, the wearer would be required to touch up the new hair growth, further adding to the overall expense.
To resolve the problems associated with the cost of the look, Comer Cottrell invented a cheap kit (which he called the "Curly Kit") that could be used at home, thereby enabling ordinary African-Americans to copy the style of their wealthier idols.
1988 comedy Coming to America features Eriq La Salle as Darryl Jenks, heir to the dynasty of a fictional product named "SoulGlo", which gave the wearer a style reminiscent of a Jheri curl while leaving the infamous greasy residue on soft furnishings.
In Samuel L. Jackson's opening monologue in the 1989 film Do the Right Thing, his DJ character says that there is a "Jheri Curl alert" in effect for the day: "If you have a Jheri Curl stay in the house or you'll end up with a permanent plastic helmet on your head forever."
- Milestones, Time, March 30, 1998.
- Oliver, Dana (August 14, 2015). "The Most Memorable Jheri Curl Moments In Pop Culture". The Huffington Post. Retrieved February 1, 2017.
The Jheri curl was one of the baddest trends, literally and figuratively, in hair history.
- Grigsby Bates, Karen (11 October 2014). "Comer Cottrell, Creator Of The People's Jheri Curl, Dies At 82". NPR. Retrieved 27 September 2015.
- "Music hairstyles: a brief history of 12 iconic cuts - BBC Music". 2016-10-14. Retrieved 2017-05-26.
- "Pulp Fiction (1994) - Trivia". Internet Movie Database. 2013-08-14.
- "Do the Right Thing (1/10) Movie CLIP - Today's Forecast (1989) HD". YouTube. 2011-06-27. Retrieved 2016-10-09.
- Jeff Pearlman. "Showtime: Magic, Kareem, Riley, and the Los Angeles Lakers Dynasty of the 1980s". Retrieved 2016-06-05.
- Media related to Jheri curl at Wikimedia Commons