Bread Crust and Curly Hair

SS is from San Diego. Her grandma used to tell her that eating the crust of bread would make her hair curly. S tells me, “I didn’t want curly hair, so I would never eat the bread crusts.” To this day S still feels uncomfortable eating crusts. Her grandma really convinced her that this superstition is true. I believe this shows the power that older figures have on the young, especially with folklore. Children take their parents’ and grandparents’ words as law, because it is really their only source of information for the first few years of their life. This explains how parents can influence their children’s behavior so much through various folk beliefs (a theme I keep coming upon in my research).

The superstition that bread crusts give you curly hair is actually an old folk belief. The belief probably emerged a few hundred years ago when curly hair was associated with being healthy. Bread is packed with calories, and it is a low-cost food that almost anyone ate to stave of starvation. A malnourished person might lose their hair, while a healthy one would have a full head of (possibly curly) hair. This is probably the origin of this belief.

Furthermore, the crust is the healthiest part of the bread. Packed with antioxidants, I can see how the belief that it would aid in a more fuller head of curly hair. Curly vs. straight hair, however, is determined by genes, not diet. But this tendency to explain a mysterious scientific phenomenon (genes) with a more easy to comprehend explanation such as diet is a common theme in folk beliefs. These beliefs arise from the lay-person, not scientists. Analyzing them gives interesting insight into how we comprehend our bodies.