The Children's Place features several curly kids in its advertising.
Flip through your newest catalog or page through a parenting magazine and you'll see them everywhere: young boys and girls with flowing waves, fluffy afros and tight ringlets.
Curls, kinks and coils, once all but ignored by the media, now are celebrated by such companies as GapKids, Nordstrom and Children's Place. No longer is there one homogeneous version of beauty.
"We are using all types of models with all different features, curly hair being one of them," says Jodi Barone, vice president of creative services for Children's Place. "There is more awareness and more acceptance of all types of beauty."
We say it's about time!
"I think it's great to see more and more curly hair everywhere," says Christo of Christo Fifth Avenue, a curly salon in New York. "At least 70 percent of the public has wavy to curly hair. Why not have curly kids in ads to make it look real and convincing?"
"I think it's amazing," says Lorraine Massey, author of "Curly Girl" and creator of the Devacurl line of curly products.
Advertisers are picking up on demographic changes that have transformed our society. With more mixed marriages and blending of cultures, today's youth are more diverse than ever. Companies want to make sure they include images that a wide range of kids can relate to rather than the one-size-fits-all approach they once took.
Nordstrom uses curly models.
"There are many more models to choose from with many different looks and features," Barone says. "The modern concepts of beauty have broadened the spectrum of what is considered 'beautiful,' enabling us to incorporate all types of great-looking kids into our media, advertising and photography."
Today, the general market is the intra-cultural market, Stephen Palacios, executive vice president of consulting firm Cheskin, told "Advertising Age."
"We argue that if you don't have a response to that, it's a problem," Palacios says.
Kids today are doing more to celebrate their individuality -- whether in the way they dress or the way they wear their hair. They don't want to be put in "neat little boxes from a demographic standpoint," Que Gaskins, vice president of global marketing for Reebok International's RBK collection of footwear, told "Advertising Age."
They now have a tendency to incorporate attitudes and traditions of cultures other than their own into their identity -- a trend called "interculturalism."
It is a positive development that should help curly kids feel better about their natural texture rather than fighting it for decades. A child's self image is greatly affected by the media, and having more curly kids provides positive reinforcement that their natural hair is beautiful.
"A child or adolescent can become confused and preoccupied with the perceptions that others may have of him or her, becoming self-conscious about traits such as curly hair," says child psychologist Dr. Mary Lamia, who hosts Kid Talk with Dr. Mary on Radio Disney. "To make matters worse, peers may be prone to teasing that chid. A child's identification with role models in the media who have similar traits, such as curly hair, can lead to an alteration in the way that child sees him or herself, and can help the child develop an adequate, as well as desirable, self-image."
While Massey says she's encouraged by the trend, she believes there's still a long way to go.
"It's not mainstream yet," she says. "It's acceptable when they are kids. But as they get older, many are still fighting it. Just look at Shirley Temple. Whatever happened to her curls?"