Informant Data: My informant is an International Relations major here at the University of Southern California. He is African-American and does not identify with any religious system of belief.
Item: The folk-belief that it is bad luck to cut your baby’s hair before its first birthday. The following quotations are direct transcriptions of my dialogue with the informant, while the additional information provided is paraphrased.
Contextual Data: My informant first heard this belief around the time he was in high school. He overheard his mother and her colleagues mention it, and when he inquired to its veracity he remembers their light-hearted affirmations. “They seemed to think of it lightly, but still as a solid parenting rule.” When asked what would happen, according to the belief, if one were to cut their child’s hair prior to their first birthday, he was a little unclear. “I always just assumed bad luck, not for the parent but for the child, in health or development, or perhaps it prophesies a future of horrible hair for the kid.” He continued on to explain that in the African-American community, there is a strong fear of coarse and hard to manage hair, and that perhaps this belief is an attempt to evade such . Additionally, the roots of the saying could be traced to a more evolutionary position, in which hair served a principal role of keeping the child warm, and cutting a baby’s hair would indicate potential illness or vulnerability. The informant continued on to say that he felt it common “in the African American community that superstitions contribute a great deal, whether consciously or otherwise, to how individuals conduct themselves in their everyday lives.” While this may be valid for many groups, the informant’s resolute acknowledgment of such a facet of his own community speaks to its prevalence. When asked if he agreed with the position of this being a parenting rule to abide, he replied, “I cannot think of a substantial reason why it would be valid, at least in modern day. So yeah, if my kid needs a haircut before their first birthday, I wouldn’t deny them that on the account of superstition.”