To me, the funniest moments in the movie Coming to America with Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall include the scene where Daryl’s parents leave oil stains on the sofa from their Jheri Curl! This was the reality for many people who rocked the Jheri Curl and suffered the consequences of “Jheri Curl Juice”; ruined sofas and stained clothes, all to achieve the slicked and curly look of the Jheri Curl. I’ll never forget the Soul Glo commercial!
The Jheri Curl became popular in the 80’s after Willie Lee Morrow, developed a process that changed kinky hair to a curly “wet” look. He was a Black hair expert who also created the first mass-produced plastic Afro pick. In 1977, Morrow began traveling across the U.S. selling what he called The California Curl to hair stylists. Eventually it became the Jheri Curl, named after Jheri Redding, a White man who created a similar process initially only for straight hair. Once the Jheri Curl became popular among the African American community, manufactures began developing their own versions of it. Soft Sheen created the Care Free Curl relaxer, Pro-Line developed the Curly Kit, and Sta-Sof-Fro create Jheri Curl moisturizers and scalp sprays.
The Jheri Curl required a ton of maintenance including salon visits and various curl activator products that maintained the “wet” look. During that time, it could cost $80-$100 for the process and additional costs for conditioning products. It was so profitable in the 80’s that the hair care industry experienced unprecedented profits and salons were booming with customers.
My mother wore a Jheri Curl for over 20 years! According to her, the Jheri Curl was so popular because it was an easy style to maintain because all she had to do was spray her hair with Sta-Sof-Fro’s Hair and Scalp Spray (which she still uses today), comb it through, part her hair on the side and go. She also revealed how difficult it was because the curl activator would drip off her hair and onto everything! She had to constantly buy plastic caps to sleep in at night! Not surprisingly, the style lost its popularity during the 90’s and was replaced by natural styles, hair weaves, and extensions that didn’t have the messy consequences of “Jheri Curl Juice.”
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