TikTokkers Are Unabashedly Showing Themselves Wearing Bonnets—And Bonnet Brands Are Benefitting

The bonnet is a ubiquitous part of my experience as a Black woman. I wear one nightly. My two older sisters do, too, and so does my mom. It’s crucial to my curly, coily hair retaining moisture and fending off breakage.

But bonnets have been a source of confusion. When I grew up in Irvine, Calif., where maybe 5% of my high school wasn’t white, there weren’t a lot of people around me who understood the value of covering textured hair. Wearing a bonnet was frowned upon. Like many aspects of Black life, it was demonized as ghetto, dirty and weird.

The Black women I know have had to explain their use of bonnets. The constant explaining underscores that the system we exist in, beauty or otherwise, isn’t made for us. The fact is most Black women don’t have the luxury of not wearing a bonnet. Fortunately, the world is changing to recognize that.

Brands such as Grace Eleyae have benefitted from the exposure generated by content creators on TikTok and Instagram wearing bonnets and other head coverings in posts.

TikTok and Instagram content creators are driving the change. They’re integrating bonnets into their content as they give audiences front-seat views of their beauty routines. Rachael O’Neil, a broadcast journalist with over 490,000 followers on TikTok, has a post in which she extols “the power of a bonnet” that shows her sporting a bonnet in an airport before going live on air. “I’m protecting my hair at all costs,” she declares.

Audio by Heather Chelan, a content creator with around 106,000 followers on TikTok, goes, “If you date a Black person, they will wear a hat to bed or maybe a scarf or maybe even a bonnet. Please don’t look at them and say, ‘Ewwww, what’s on your head?’ We wear it for our hair to keep it nice and soft, to make our curls pop. You don’t have to tell me, I know I look hot still.” The audio has been incorporated into more than 500 TikTok videos. On the social media network, the hashtag #bonnet has received 63.2 million views.

“We wear it for our hair to keep it nice and soft, to make our curls pop.”

TikTokkers’ and Instagrammers’ acknowledgement and celebration of bonnets are normalizing the beauty routines of Black women. They’re helping bridge the gap between white and Black by letting everyone in on our journey. And they’re lifting the awareness of bonnets and triggering greater sales for bonnet brands.

“Sales have doubled from the same time period last year, and we’ve experienced heightened website traffic, online magazine features and collaborations with blue-chip companies,” says Uchenna Ngwudo Ngwudo, founder of Cee Cee’s Closet. Established at the end of 2015, the brand has sold in excess of 30,000 head wraps.

Cee Cee’s Closet’s sales have doubled in the past year. Established at the end of 2015, the brand has sold in excess of 30,000 head wraps.

Ranay Orton has seen her business, Glow by Daye, change for the better recently as well. Highlighted last year in articles on Black-owned brands that ran in Allure, Elle, Cosmopolitan and other publications, its year-over-year website sales soared 700%, and the site gained 14,000-plus customers. The increased exposure also led to deals with the subscription box company FabFitFun and retailers enlarging textured hair offerings, one being T.J. Maxx.

Stay on Satin, a bonnet brand sold in Walmart, Walgreens and independent beauty supply stores nationwide, reports sales have jumped exponentially over the past year. “Last month, [we] were picked up by a new national chain, which will give us even more exposure than we were predicting,” says Elyse Kantrowitz, VP at parent company Spartan Brands.

“Now that there is more of an interest in the Black story and more people are becoming aware of the benefits of satin, I see people of all races interested in and wearing our products.”

After entering Ulta Beauty and J.C. Penney, the brand Grace Eleyae, known for satin- and silk-lined products, is heading to Sephora. Its namesake founder says the focus on Black-owned brands last year with the spread of the Black Lives Matter movement in the wake of the killing of George Floyd was significant in sparking partnerships with big businesses and celebrities for Grace Eleyae.

When brands and influencers shared Grace Eleyae’s products with their followers, it gave them “access to a conversation they [hadn’t] had access to in the past—leading to exposure to new outlets furthering [their] sales and collaborations,” says Eleyae. Launched in 2014, Grace Eleyae has surpassed $20 million in sales during the course of its business.

ID Noble has created head-wrap tutorials that it posts on Pinterest. The tutorials have been integral to clicks on the brand’s website increasing 53%.

Eleyae hopes representation on and off social media will result in a better grasp of Black culture, including the long-standing tradition of turning to bonnets, turbans and scarves to protect hair. She says, “Now that there is more of an interest in the Black story and more people are becoming aware of the benefits of satin, I see people of all races interested in and wearing our products.”

The Black Lives Matter movement has been pivotal in pushing authentic Black experiences into the spotlight and broadening receptivity to them. For people not familiar with products like bonnets, the spotlight has been a catalyst for teaching moments—and it’s a way to get products into more hands and promote Black hair culture.

ID Noble’s head-wrap tutorials on Pinterest and its site have been important in elevating the brand and attracting shoppers. Founder Saudat Almaroof tells Beauty Independent, “Since the digital exposure, we have received more customers that subscribe to our mailing list, causing the clicks and opens to increase by 53% from prior to the exposure.”

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • TikTok and Instagram influencers are helping to normalize bonnet wearing and erase the stigma associated with bonnets.
  • On TikTok, the hashtag #bonnet has received 63.2 million views.
  • Brands that sell bonnets and similar products are experiencing sales spikes as a result of the attention paid to bonnets on social media and the spotlight placed on Black-owned brands in the wake of the killing of George Floyd last year.
  • In the past year, head-wrap brand Cee Cee's Closet's sales have doubled.
  • Glow by Daye's year-over-year website sales have soared 700%, and its site has gained 14,000-plus customers.
  • Grace Eleyae, a brand known for silk- and satin-lined products, is expanding its retail distribution network from J.C. Penney and Ulta Beauty to Sephora. Last year, it surpassed $20 million in sales since its start in 2014.