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Aevin Dugas of Louisiana was a Guinness World Record holder for the largest natural   afro – measuring 4 feet 4 inches around and 7 inches tall.

Back in late 1960s, New Yorker Anu Prestonia was not yet a teen and far from well-known, but she had the same crowning glory as some of the most influential black personalities of the era – an Afro.

“In the ’60s, the Afro represented an awakening to an untruth that we had bought into,” said Prestonia.

“The untruth was that our hair was not beautiful and so we made every attempt to make it be something it naturally was not to emulate the popular culture.”

For many African-Americans in the late 1960s and the 1970s, wearing an Afro – hair in its tightly coiled natural state, “picked” (with a wide-toothed comb called an Afro pick) into a rounded or “dome” shape – became a symbol of cultural identity.

The style – worn by social activists and entertainers such as Angela Davis, Stokely Carmichael, Jim Kelly, Pam Grier, Sly Stone and many others – influenced America’s civil rights era and the black power movement, and is still a cultural statement decades later.

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Dante de Blasio’s Afro played a role in his dad’s election as mayor.

There are many who proudly sport Afros simply for the look. Today, jazz musician Esperanza Spaulding, the multitalented musician Ahmir (Questlove) Thompson, and even Mayor de Blasio’s son, Dante, wear the Afro, or “natural.” The style’s fan base is growing.

“There is an awakening. Many of the young girls who come to see us who are looking to go natural have never known anything else but wearing their hair relaxed,” said Prestonia, whose Brooklyn-based Khamit Kinks hair salon is one of the pioneering natural hair shops in the nation.

“People have been saying for years that natural hair is a fad. This is the longest running fad I’ve ever seen!”

Prestonia got her Afro in 1968, a year after she moved to New York from Virginia. But her first ’fro wasn’t planned.

“It wasn’t intentional. I got my hair permed, my hair fell out and I got sores in my head. My mother cut off all my hair and that’s what I had — an Afro,” recalled Prestonia.

“Among my friends and peers, I was the first person they knew that had an Afro. I was 10 or 11; it left an indelible impression upon me.”

Decades ago, when GudHair International natural hair salon owner Adémola Mandella wore his first Afro, it was all about being stylish and defiant.

“The influence was political, plus identity, rebelliousness — all of those things,” said Mandella, whose salon is in Harlem.

“I was young and wanting to make a statement and wanting to be part of the political scene, and also wanting to rebel against those who thought it was radical.”

His first salon – Kinapps African Groomers in Brooklyn – was also among the first that catered to natural hair in the U.S. Mandella, a 30-year veteran of the natural hair care industry, was inspired to enter the business when he could not find a place to care for his natural hair while on a European trip, and by a belief there just wasn’t enough progress in Afro hair care.

Over the years, the rise of the Afro has had naysayers, and some folks, yearning to sport their natural hair, did not get positive responses.

“I was like other teenagers in the late 1960s; I too was very interested in having an Afro and getting rid of the perm that was in my hair,” said A’Lelia Bundles, the great-great-granddaughter of the famous early 20th-century hair care industry pioneer Madame C.J. Walker.

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JIM MOONEY

Twentieth-century hair care industry pioneer Madame C.J. Walker drives car in circa 1916 photo.  When her great-great-granddaughter, A’Lelia Bundles, wanted an Afro, she was sharply reminded that her father worked for a company which made products to straighten naturally, kinky hair.

“In my household, it was a slightly different conversation than in other households.” Walker, known as America’s first self-made female millionaire, built her fortune through her hair care products empire and improving hot combs to straighten naturally kinky black hair.

Bundles, who later became a hair historian and Walker biographer, found herself in a unique position when she sought to try the style as a teen.

Her mother worked for the Walker family company, and her father was president of Summit Laboratories, which made chemical hair straighteners that became popular in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

Bundles said her mother was supportive of her decision. Her father, however, was not.

“My dad was the one who was opposed because Summit Laboratories made chemical hair straighteners,” she said. “He said, ‘If everybody started wearing Afros, who was going to use it and how are you going to pay for your college tuition?’

So we had the kind of battles that fathers and daughters have all the time, but (ours) was just sort of fraught with an additional layer.”

In the end, her mother took her to the family firm’s Walker Beauty School, and students there rolled her hair on permanent wave rods to give her a “huge halo” of an Afro until her perm grew out and she eventually had a ’fro of her own.

New York-based actress Rokia L. Shearin embraced her Afro as a style and cultural symbol.

She stopped using straightening chemicals on her hair while she was attending a predominately white high school, and began receiving acknowledgment for her “natural” hair at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, the predominately black college she attended.

Shearin entered her Afro era about 18 months ago, while her hair was recovering from an unpleasant experience with a “scissor-happy” stylist.

For New York-based actress Rokia L. Shearin, her ’Fro was about style –  and culture!

NANCY LALANNE PHOTOGRAPHY

For New York-based actress Rokia L. Shearin, her ’Fro was about style –  and culture!

“One night, I literally just picked it out to see what would happen and I fell in love,” she said. “I was like, ‘This is me.’ ”

Catering to a new, younger crop people wearing Afros, James Paul (aka Dub the Barber), at the Howe It’s Done hair shop near Rochdale Village in Queens, sees the hairdo as a unique symbol of black culture.

“No other culture can really re-create the black man’s Afro. Other cultures have tried, but it’s not the same,” he said.

Many of his clients are younger men who wear their Afros in a number of ways – symmetrical, “nappy” (tightly coiled) or tapered. Whatever the style, Afros are not maintenance-free, said Paul, who warns his customer to take caring for their Afros very seriously.

“[For] kids who wear it now, it’s kind of like ‘wake up and go.’ Wearing an Afro should be like a rite of passage when they are responsible enough to take care of their own hair because washing and grooming is essential to the look,” said Paul of some younger customers who have not had their hair combed since their previous visit to the shop — often a month’s time.

Today’s trend in maintenance is to use specialized hair products for natural hair to achieve texturized Afros and other styles. They include Miss Jessie’s and Kinky Curly and are available in health and beauty stores all over the world.

Many hairstylists now have their own hair care product lines. Mandella’s Naturthentic Hair Care System and Prestonia’s Anu’s Essentials are sold at their salons.

In fashion and social matters, change is constant, and Afro wearers – on their heads and in their minds – have evolved. Prestonia, whose Khamit Kinks clients have included Solange Knowles and Lenny Kravitz, said the difference between the Afro of today and yesteryear is that everyone wanted the big, perfectly round “Jackson 5” Afro in decades past.

Like many other styles, the Afro can be a statement. For some, that sentiment remains.

“Today, the Afro comes in many different guises,” said Prestonia. “It has not gone away because many people — especially people who are involved in African culture — kept their Afros or their natural hair.”

But for some, the reasons for choosing the hairstyle have changed. “This style now is out of love, because we absolutely love it,” said Mandella.

“We really don’t care about other people’s opinions about it. It’s about doing your thing, your cultural thing, you know – your black thing.”

“Wearing your hair natural is a positive statement about who you are. It’s not a protest to somebody else. It’s affirming you,” said Bundles, reflecting on changing attitudes about the hairstyle and noting that hairdos don’t define a person.

“If you wear your hair straight or natural, it’s all fine with me,” she said. “It doesn’t mean that you aren’t politically conscious or that you don’t have good thoughts about progress. Natural hair is just my personal preference.”