Saturday, July 28, 2012

American Girl Dolls: N.I.C.E.?

Recently, I visited the American Girl store in Chicago, twice.  Once with my husband and the second time with my daughter.  During each visit, as we strolled through the store, we reflected on the fact that when my daughter was very young, my mother-in-law gave her an Addy doll, with the accompanying 6-book set (one set to read and one set to save without opening). My keen interest, in visiting the American Girl Store, was to take a look at the  hair of the Black American Girl dolls, today.  So we begin with Addy.  Since my daughter's doll is an original (made in Germany by Pleasant and Company) rather than in China, where I believe the dolls are made today, she seems slightly different from the dolls in the the store now, in terms of her hair. The original Addy's hair is course, long and authentically natural which was a wonderful thing for my daughter since her hair was also long, course and natural throughout her childhood and when she received her Addy doll.  Although the picture below is not my daughter's actual doll, this is what Addy looks like in terms of her outfit, necklace, etc. and the accompanying books.
Pleasant Company Addy,...
Choose Your Doll
Although Addy and the other that were developed at the time she was created are still found in the store today, what I also found interesting was the "Choose your Doll" section.  There, I found four dolls for consideration.  One was described as "dark skin, curly dark brown hair and brown eyes" another described as "Dark skin, curly dark hair, brown eyes," the next as medium skin,short brown hair, brown eyes," and the last "medium skin, layered brown hair, brown eyes."   The thought provoking aspect of these dolls is that the latter two had very straight hair while the prior two had "curly hair." Here is total collection of  the dolls as displayed in the store:
The dolls discussed above are depicted below:
The conclusion of N.I.C.E., after looking at them very closely is that the 1st doll, of the four above, has the most naturally appearing hair and that the lighter the skin of the doll, the straighter the hair.
The second doll appears as if her hairdo is to imply, straightened and styled with "Shirley Temple Curls" and the implied style for the other two is permed and flat ironed.

Bitty Babies
The next group of dolls that I found really interesting were the Bitty Baby Dolls. These dolls are different from the above in that they are "babies."  I chose two for N.I.C.E. consideration.  The first is described as "dark skin, textured black hair and brown eyes" and the second as "medium skin, dark brown hair and brown eyes" and are depicted below.
The hair of these dolls is very similar, with the exception that one has more than the other, so I am not sure why the first is referred to as textured and for the other that word is left out.  Also, doesn't all hair have texture?  This requires further explanation from my vantage point in order to make any determination.  So perhaps the Bitty Twins are a bit more interesting to explore in terms of a N.I.C.E. assessment of their hair.

The Bitty Twins
Again, I will choose two, in this case, two sets are considered.  The first set are described as "dark skin, textured, black hair, brown eyes," and the other as "medium skin, dark brown hair and brown eyes" and are depicted below:

So it seems that once again, the lighter the skin of the dolls the straighter the hair, in terms of what is presumably the Black/African American dolls, although one can not be certain of the race of the dolls as this is not a category that is  used to describe them.  They are only described as dark or medium skinned by the American Girl Store displays.  So in this case, from a N.I.C.E. vantage point, it appears that the darker skinned dolls, in terms of a presumed categorization of Black/African American, have more natural hair.

Interestingly, naturally styled hair for the African American/Black dolls on the American Girl Doll website, is described as curly.  The information provided on how to care for this type of hair is: 

For curly or textured hair, we recommend using the Sparkly Hair Pick to work out tangles. Using a brush on this type of wig can make it frizzy."
The use of a pick is recommended for all of their dolls that have curly hair. Here is the sparkly pick:
American Girl Doll Hair Salon

So, the overall assessment of the American Girl Dolls is that an effort is being made by this company to approach natural hair from a positive vantage point.  However, there is some underlying statement that is being made that the lighter the skin, the straighter the hair which is definitely not necessarily the case in terms of Black/African American people. Furthermore, the use of the term "textured hair," as described above, is confounding because all hair has some type of texture.  However, interestingly, the American Girl Store in Chicago has a Hair Salon for the dolls, so if you have questions, I would say that perhaps, that would be the best place to get the answers.  The line was too long to pursue this when I was there and quite frankly, I had other things that I wanted to do with my time.  However, I did note that their newest feature at the salon is braids (see picture below).  Therefore, N.I.C.E. is ultimately bewildered by whether Natural Is Cool Enough is an accurate  assessment of American Girl Dolls, in terms of their hair, except for my daughter's original Addy and those selected as such above.  Definitely, for the original Addy, N.I.C.E.!

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