This summer, the Jheri Curl made a come back alongside fantasy sports in US.
Retired two-time NBA all-star point guard Baron Davis appeared on ESPN’s First Take sporting a high-and-tight take on the activator swirl. Then, in August, Straight Outta Compton featured actors portraying Eazy-E and Ice Cube’s drip-drop dreads. Let's take a moment and look at Baron's hair wizardry.
Seeing these contemporary examples of the hairstyle invented by Irish-American hair entrepreneur Jheri Redding got me thinking. After Comer Cottrell found an affordable way to bring this style into black homes with his Pro-Line’s Curly Kit, this style exploded in the black community — and athletes were no exception. This made me ask the question: who had the best Jheri Curl in sports history?
Three names come to mind.
The Los Angeles Rams great is notable for the loose composition of his curl. A consistent problem with this hairstyle is its tendency to be too tight. When this happens, it comes off looking like a wet plastic helmet. Dickerson found a way to make his hair flow comfortably while wearing goggles or sweatbands. Also, the way the sun hit his hair when he took off his helmet was a sight to behold — much like a curly disco ball.
The Jheri Curl was a sign of flamboyance and success. Deion Sanders embodies this like no other athlete on this list. The baseball and football great was busy traversing two sports, but he always found time to ensure the activator on his curl was fresh. From his legendary song ‘Must Be the Money’ to the showy high step he employed as he entered the end zone, Deion was flashy in everything he did. He called himself Prime Time, and that was precisely the audience for which his curl was designed. His had a slight puffiness that betrayed a lack of polish, but the arrogance and self-assurance with which he carried himself covered this slight fault. Deion was the embodiment of all the Jheri Curl came to represent, but his Luther Vandross ‘not-quite-right’ execution perfectly matched his flashy, slightly tacky persona. Deion had the kind of curl that screamed to be recognized as highbrow, but lacked the finesse to pull it off… just like number 21.
The legendary pitcher was enshrined in the Hall of Fame this summer, but that’s not surprising. His dominance during MLB’s Steroid Era solidified his athletic prowess in the eyes of many. What I do find surprising is the fact that his Hall of Fame plaque features the curl he sported late in his career. Martinez’s Jheri Curl represents the apex of the hairstyle in sports because it became transcendent during the Boston Red Sox 2004 World Series run. The world was transfixed by the eventual breaking of the Bambino Curse, and Martinez was a significant part of that metaphysical undertaking… and he did it all while wearing a curl that was whirly, weightless, and wet. To see the sweat/juice flying off his curl as he pitched was a sight to behold, and even though I am a Yankees fan, I have to give respect to the zenith of activator manipulation in sports.
All hail Juicy P.
Lawrence Ware is a philosopher of race at his day job and a curator of dopeness when time allows. Words in The New York Times, Slate Magazine, The Root and others. Email him at email@example.com. He is the kind of Steelers fan that enjoys watching the Cowboys lose.