popular in the 1980's among urban black
americans. A jheri curl was a two-part application that consisted of a texturizer
and an activator
. The texturizer used awful-smelling chemicals to turn interesting kinky
hair into lank, lifeless
stringy curls that hung down, while the activator
kept the subsequently damaged
hair from breaking and falling off while providing an oily
, slimy sheen reminiscent of kelp
that had just washed up on the beach
Besides the fact that it was generally unattractive, the jheri curl's decline in popularity probably occured because of its problematic upkeep. To ensure that the hair remained slimy and lank instead of dried out and crackly, jheri curl users were required to apply activator (usually in a spray bottle) at least once per day. In addition to its unpleasant smell, this activator had the unfortunate side effect of being very greasy; those with jheri curls had to remain cautious when sitting on upholstered furniture as their activator-laden hair causes unattractive discolorations and dark spots to appear on fabric in a mottled pattern (for this same reason, laundry was problematic). Also, application of water to the jheri curl caused the activator to rinse out and subsequently left the hair a frizzy, damaged mess, so people with jheri curls by necessity avoided the swimming pool; the need to keep the hair from water probably gave rise to the urban trend of wearing shower caps over one's hair outside.
A few famous people who have sported jheri curls include: Michael Jackson, New Edition, Rick James and Eriq La Salle (in Coming to America).