The de Blasio family's natural hair takes center stage

The de Blasio family’s natural hairstyles have been a focus of the public’s attention from the very outset of the mayor-elect’s campaign.

When Bill de Blasio, then New York City’s public advocate, announced he was running for mayor, the official who worked in former mayor Dinkins’ administration was completely overshadowed by the coiffure of his son, Dante.

Rather than focusing on his accomplishments or plans, reactions to the press conference held outside the de Blasios’ Brooklyn home, “consisted of people swooning over his son’s hair,” stated The New York Times City Room blog.

Dante’s Afro symbolism

The symbolism of Dante de Blasio’s massive swell of an Afro took over social media. “And across the Twitterverse, Dante’s hair was the subject of considerable fascination,” the blog post continues. “Some commenters granted Mr. de Blasio a certain degree of cred-by-association.”

Credibility such as this became a linchpin of de Blasio’s campaign, as issues such as Stop-and-Frisk and the needs of a diverse New York City population became central questions during the race.

Dante de Blasio’s commercial in which he referred to the importance of ending Stop-and-Frisk was seminal. New Yorkers seemed impressed by this policy’s negative impact when hearing this message from a figure whose appearance — through his Afro — renders him so obviously open to judgement for being African-American.

Natural hair takes on Gracie Mansion

Now Bill de Blasio and his family will become the next inhabitants of Gracie Mansion when he is sworn in as the next mayor of New York City.

Naturally, their wide range of natural hairstyles — excluding the mayor-elect, who sports a traditional look for white males — has renewed interest.

“Wife Chirlane McCray’s long dreadlocks are often pulled into a smart, flowing ponytail,” observes reporters Krissah Thompson and Lonnae O’Neal Parker, writing for The Washington Post. “Son Dante’s famously large Afro stands triumphant. His daughter, Chiara, wears her loose, kinky locks framed with a band of roses.”

Indeed, the warm, fuzzy hairstyles of the de Blasio clan, mixed with the funky clothes of the kids versus Ms. McCray’s impeccably cut dresses, paint a portrait of a political family that is radically different than most. Even the Obamas.

The Obamas: Hair texture traditionalist?

Much has been made of first lady Michelle Obama’s hair choices, from her brief foray into bangs, to her most recent experimentation with honey highlights. But always for her — and her daughters Sasha and Malia for dressy occasions — the choice has remained one of bone-straight styles. Many would see this as an intelligent choice in a society which can still see the texture of natural black hair as subversive, or even aggressive.

The depiction of the Obamas as militants giving the Sarah Palin-coined “terrorist fist bump” on the infamous New Yorker cover, for instance, features Mrs. Obama in an Afro. Although natural black hairstyles are more prevalent than ever, associations with the look are still fearful.

de Blasio clan: Selling natural styles?

Yet the de Blasios’ locks and ‘fro combo seems to endear them to New Yorkers.

Image activist Michaela angela Davis told The Washington Post that theses hairstyles telegraph a message of inclusion. As an interracial family dedicated to apparent freedom of expression, the de Blasio clan “probably understands the diversity of New York in a way we haven’t seen before,” she said.

Voices online tend to agree.

“Yes, there are plenty of mixed race kids with natural hair,” stated a user on black women’s web site Clutch Magazine. “But I’m gonna assume here that there’s no mixed race kids with natural hair that are also a part of a political family.”

This commentor praised these tight-knit folks for taking a risk and refusing to abide by narrow definitions of how a political family should look.

“So I actually think di Blasio and his natural hair kids are a pretty big deal,” the user concluded.

Watching the de Blasio hair story unfold

It certainly is. It is hard to say what role the de Blasios’ natural hairstyles will take as Bill de Blasio takes office. Dante de Blasio’s Afro already seems to have a life of its own, as Michaela angela Davis has referred to the hairstyle as his dad’s “most interesting surrogate.”

Whatever happens, the hair cuts of this crew will continue to play a prominent role.

“The family’s hair story has been a line in de Blasio’s campaign and is guaranteed to be imprinted onto American consciousness during the mayor’s term,” Thompson and Parker assert.

Hopefully their hair story will shift the public discourse in a positive direction in terms of the acceptance of natural black hairstyles as neutral fashion choices without the charge of negative social meanings.

Follow Alexis Garrett Stodghill on theGrio @lexisb.