Curly hair has a history of being seen as "messy" or "unruly". According to stereotypes and media, "proper" or "attractive" people don't have curly hair.
Curly hair is often described as "messy looking", as it's harder to keep tied up and harder to shape into a completely symmetrical style than straight hair. A person's hair often is portrayed as a reflection on their mind or morals, as seen (less negatively) in other tropes: Quirky Curls for a free spirit, Einstein Hair for an absent-minded professor, Wild Hair for someone "uncivilized", etc.
Due to backlash against depicting characters with curly hair as unattractive, this is becoming a Dead Horse Trope when played seriously. Most examples will be of other characters judging people for their curly or kinky hair. However, the undesirability of curly hair is still unironically noticeable in Makeover Montage, where the geeky or unattractive characters straightens their hair and loses the glasses to reveal that they were Beautiful All Along. This trope also pops up unironically in countries where naturally curly hair is rare and is thus subject to Values Dissonance when people from countries where it isn't view the work.
May lead to Fake-Hair Drama.
- In One Piece, Luffy gets an afro wig for a boxing match, to very mixed reactions. The more conventionally fashion-aware characters found it horrendous.
- Tomohiro Nagatsuka from A Silent Voice has been mocked for years for having very curly hair. He takes pride in it though.
- In early chapters of Gintama, Sakata Gintoki is often mocked for his naturally wavy hair, and apparently he himself wants straight hair.
- In one Yo-Kai Watch episode a youkai called Furdinand causes everyone's hair to grow. Nate starts out with messy medium-length Anime Hair before it becomes a Funny Afro. Nate freaks out and his friends tease him for it and say it looks like a shrub, meatball, and helmet.
- This is a big subplot for Princess Adrienne in Princeless, since the very first scene shows her mother attempting to tame her Funny Afro and as a young adult she keeps straightening it. This finally culminates in an issue where she faces this directly and shows a flashback to her getting her hair done and the hairdressers complaining about getting her while her sister Angelica is "the one with the good hair" (i.e naturally straight). At the end of that issue she gives herself an Important Haircut and cuts it short to symbolize her coming to terms with it.
- Played with in The Boondocks. Given the fact most characters are black, curly hair isn't shown negatively. In fact Huey has a big afro and Riley has a short but still curly cut (changed to cornrows in the cartoon and later comics). The half-white Jazmine however doesn't like her frizzy Stubborn Hair. She wishes she had straight hair like her mother.
- Annie from Little Orphan Annie faces bullying due to her curly, red hair.
- Subverted with Frieda in Peanuts. She takes pride of her curly hair.
Film - Animation
- In The Simpsons Movie, Ned Flanders dishes his younger son for his curly hair.
Todd: I wish Homer was my father.Ned: And I wish you didn't have the devil's curly hair.
Film - Live-Action
- The Princess Diaries has Mia getting her frizzy, messy curls straightened to fit a more "princess-like" look, instead of simply making her hair neater or changing the style.
- Malcolm X opens with a scene showing that black people in the mid-20th century used a very dangerous chemical to straighten their hair so they could look more like white people.
- The Venezuelan drama film Pelo Malo (meaning "Bad Hair") is about a nine-year-old boy who constantly tries to straighten his unruly curly hair. His obsession with his looks leads his mother to worry that he is gay.
- The documentary Good Hair by comedian Chris Rock is about this trope and how it affects African-American women.
- A Wrinkle in Time: After years of being mocked about it, Meg, a multiracial character, is very self-conscious about her puffy, curly hair. When another character tells her he thinks her hair is awesome, she's clearly confused and taken aback, because it's a feature she dislikes about herself. In a scene where she is offered the chance to go back as a more popular, confident version of herself, the "perfect" version of Meg is shown to have long, straight hair and doesn't wear glasses like the current version of Meg.
- In Harry Potter Hermione is described as being as ugly as Ron Harry Neville and Draco until she straightens her unruly curly hair and dresses up for the first time. Before that, a big deal was made over just how bushy her hair is.
- The picture book Nappy Hair is about a little African-American girl who is ashamed of her tightly-curled hair, leading to the Aesop that she should accept and love it because it's exactly the hair God wanted her to have.
- "Me and My Hair" by Lisa Hollis similarly defies this trope.
- A minor but recurring theme in Rivers of London is that while Peter and his (white) father don't agree with this, many people on the Sierra Leone side of the family do, especially the women. Boys have their hair cut down to the scalp, girls are subjected to a regime of straightening products. Peter says he was a teenager before he realised that African women don't naturally smell of burning.
- The titular character in Bridget Jones complains about having "mad hair" that could resemble "peaks and horns" if she isn't careful and laments not having the shiny tresses of her Alpha Bitch acquaintance. This feature does not show up in the movies where she is played by the straight-haired Renée Zellweger.
- In A Yellow Raft In Blue Water, Lee mocks his mother Aunt Ida when Christine (her sister/cousin whom she adopted as her own daughter) gives her a home perm treatment on New Years' Eve (a particular one where Christine thought the world was going to end) to give her naturally curly hair. At first before the mocking, Ida looked at herself in the mirror with the perm and seemed to appreciate it, but after the mocking, she ended up restraightening her hair, doing it up in a long braid.
- Sesame Street has a skit, "I Love My Hair", specifically to avert this view in Real Life (more specifically, towards young black girls).
- Zoey 101:
- Chase is constantly mocked for his "Jewfro" (the actor had naturally curly black hair).
- Averted by his roommate Logan however, who is supposed to be conventionally attractive and has hair with a curl.
- The children's rock opera Princess Beans Messy World has the eponymous Princess Bean decide to enter a princess pageant, where she is told that she doesn't stand a chance of winning unless she changes her "free spirited" look. This includes straightening her hair... by tying rocks into it.
- Not Always Working: These workers apparently believe this, at least they justify trying to grab a woman's hair as she walks past by saying they're "just trying to help you get rid of those ugly curls!".
- You Tube comedian and Buzzfeed Producer and Actress Julissa Calderon is a proud Afro-Latina of Dominican descent and she has worn a t-shirt mocking the "Pelo Malo" notion and has done videos highlighting the experiences of dark-skinned people and of her receiving a Devacut.
- South Park: Kyle has very curly red hair, in an exaggerated "Jewfro", and he is somewhat ashamed by that. In one episode he is listed among the ugliest boys in school which may or may not be related to his hair, though his hat covers it up.
- There's a controversial Winx Club scene where curly hair is used as the pun of a joke. An Ambiguously Brown girl's straight hair turns into an afro. She reacts in horror and begins tearing up, while the other characters clearly are disgruntled by the fact her hair is now kinky. It doesn't help the implications that the scene before it involved characters cooing over Stella's straight blonde hair. 4Kids Entertainment noticed the scene wouldn't fly in America so they changed the context to it in their dub. The redone version is instead about how the girl's voice magically changed instead of her hair.
- In As Told by Ginger, whenever Ginger gets her red, frizzy hair done for special occasions or as a makeover, she straightens it as a moment of She Cleans Up Nicely.
- In Scooby-Doo! Frankencreepy, the Mystery Inc. gang gets cursed with Daphne going from a Size 2 with wavy hair to being Obese with very frizzy hair, oddly she is said to have been turned into a Size 8.