What Makes A Hairstyle Ghetto?

I’ve seen it countless times; people bashing hairstyles they would not wear, hairstyles regarded as outlandish. Just check social media and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

Why can’t some of these hairstyles just be regarded as creative? Why does someone have to be regarded as a hoodrat when they dare to think outside of the box? I’ve never quite understood it. Sure we all have different tastes and are bound to have preferences, but do we really need to cut down someone else because their taste doesn’t mirror ours?

I have no clue what authority sets us up to dub things “ghetto”. What does that even mean anyway and where was it derived from? As far as I know a ghetto by definition is:

1. (n.) an impoverished, neglected, or otherwise disadvantaged residential area of a city, usually troubled by a disproportionately large amount of crime

2. (adj.) urban; of or relating to (inner) city life.” [Urban Dictionary]

Another definition states that “A ghetto is a part of a city in which members of a minority group live, especially because of social, legal, or economic pressure.”[Wikipedia] The term was first used in Italy to describe segregated Jewish settlements. It is believed that the term was derived from the Italian word “ghet” which refers to slag or waste. There are also theories that suggest that it comes from the Hebrew word “get” which means separation document.

So then, as it is with so many other words- blackie and nigger immediately come to mind- we’ve taken this label intended to perpetuate prejudice, classicism, marginalization and slapped it on to ourselves, owning it. Whatever happened to celebrating the beauty of diversity and the uniqueness of our culture? I get that people think the allusion is somewhat clever but it’s not so cool when it’s intended to be an insult.

Let us look at some of the hairstyle related characteristics that people claim to render a style certifiably ghetto.

  • Extreme lengths on weave or braid installs
  • Vivid colors
  • Glitzy elaborate updos
  • Unusual haircuts
  • Incorporating the use of products considered to be cheap
  • Styles that are attention grabbing

Well I dare say that this tacit agreement to label these things ratchet or ghetto is a bit hypocritical given the history of our ancestors. Before our ancestors were ripped from the land of their origin to populate the western world and build its empires, our people had elaborate styles that depicted who they were and where they were from.


  1. Erica Ransom

    Idk about “ghetto”, but there is a time and place for certain colorful hair styles, particularly when working at someone else’s company.

  2. Althea Patterson

    What makes a hairstyle ghetto? Trustafarians young WASPs working at Elle/Vogue/Vanity Fair who dictate when black hair can look acceptable on young white girls.

  3. Aaliyah Ingram-Jones

    Hair is art. A style might not be for everybody but why label it as ghetto? Labeling is the issue. Let people just express themselves. Who does it hurt?

    1. Jamila Kelly

      That being said why is there a #teamnatural ?
      In fact why is hair such a thing in the black community that it actually segregates us within us?
      These are the important questions !

  4. Vedejah Scroggins

    I think it’s the person who makes something Ghetto like having colored hair isn’t ghetto but when you as a person behave in a ghetto fashion lol then your hair represents ghetto I mean you can have a regular cut and style dress nice and pretty but if you behave ghetto some women are put together but their attitudes and nonsensical actions make them ghetto ghetto to me is an attitude and actions

  5. Aimee Kiener

    I don’t know where your from but here you dont see anybody with bright crazy colored hair sitting in a corporate position. Double standards I Dont think so. Idealism of professionalism and an appropriate image for the company Is what they’re looking at.
    In conclusion people should wear their hair the way they choose to judgement free I don’t believe its ghetto. Hair is art and everyone has a different way of expressing it.

  6. Artra Veal

    Hair styles aren’t ghetto, unprofessional or not for a particular workplace because a particular workplace may not want certain colors or certain hairstyles and they have to let it be made known when you apply for the job. If you work in a creative environment, your hair isn’t a factor. Ghetto is a person’s wrong actions. Their hair has nothing to do with it.

  7. Cb Sampson


  8. June Wilson-Moore

    Ignorance makes a hairstyle ghetto, hairstyles should be your own…no matter where you come from or where you live.

  9. Phoebe Cofield

    Ghetto is the WRONG word here! Ghetto simply means a group confined to a geographical area, usually lower median income.

  10. Anna Ogonji Smith

    Hair can not be ghetto! You can try to label someone as acting like they’re from the ghetto, but hair is just hair period.

  11. Wendy Jean-Louis

    From my observations, anything that white people font understand and worn by black people. But yet again, we see it decides classified as cool on the runway.

  12. Pamela Smith

    I think what makes it ghetto is the attitude you have while wearing that certain style. All that flipping of the bangs or braids, getting it out of your eyes and face when you purposely styled the hair to be in your face is stupid. We have a tendency to listen and believe what everyone says about our hair when they don’t even sport the style themselves. These magazine writers haven’t a clue what is or isn’t ghetto. Their ideas or opinions don’t mean a damn thing in our world and the sooner we start believing it the better. Why do we let people that don’t know anything about our culture, assume they know so much about our style or our way of thinking and being.

  13. Rachael Kay

    Responding to the part when the definition is presented of “ghetto” and how does it compare to a hairstyle.. It’s a perfect comparison when you simply state both are just “bad” as in every word of the definition .

  14. DeeDee Wheat

    You shouldn’t be able to dictate what makes a hairstyle ghetto! Though I’ve had people comment negatively about my protective hairstyles. Different is a beautiful thing and that’s how I would like to be defined….different because I enjoy my different!

  15. Shannon Hertz

    It’s funny cause the term ghetto referred to where impoverished white families in England lived.

  16. Cheryl A. Duffy

    First it needs to be explained what the word “ghetto” means. I don’t use this word, don’t like and it’s a poor choice of words to use.

  17. Jasmine Jackson

    If a black or Hispanic person wears it. Once it hits the runway or seen on a non-black/ Hispanic woman it’s creative and new. Same as with body shape and facial features. Smh.

  18. Lace Gee

    it doesn’t matter because all it takes is for a white famous girl or women to do it and its main stream

  19. Janeen Brown

    Yes, because we say it’s ghetto, white America will turn it around, and advertise and promote it as the latest Marc Jacobs style, call it chic, cultured, and in the know …

  20. Christine Kawase

    White media until a popular white figure (superstar) wears it, then it’s Colombused, renamed & cute.

    See braids, plopping for curls which is really just wrapping your hair, etc

  21. Smile Seven

    I used to do the squiggly sideburn lines and put fake stones at the end – in the 90s tho lol

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