I’ve been wrapping my hair at night since I was little, like my mother, her mother, and her mother before that. My grandmother is partial to a bonnet with ruffled edges that covers her rows of rollers, while my mom ties a scarf over her locs. I’ve always gone back and forth between the two. When my hair was chemically relaxed I stuck to scarves, which held my wrapped hair in place. When I went natural, I became fond of bonnets, which hugged my two-strand twists or double sealed my deep-conditioning treatment, creating a much-needed barrier between my cotton pillow and my precious ends. That said, there’s a fundamental issue with bonnets and scarves writ large: They fall off. No matter how many times I knot my scarf or how close to my eyebrows I set my bonnet, I always wake up to find it somewhere other than my head. Which totally defeats the purpose of wearing a bonnet in the first place, and often leaves my hair a frizzy, fuzzy mess.
Things changed, however, when I started wearing the Grace Eleyae satin-lined cap to bed. I’d known about it for a few years before trying it myself — it had made the rounds on natural hair YouTube. Beauty gurus swore by its versatility; it was both bonnet and hat, people said — something that could be worn in the bedroom, and zhuzhed and worn outdoors. Unlike frilly bonnets or patterned satin scarves this cap (a SLAP cap, to the initiated) is unassuming — a stretchy, solid-colored cap with built-in elastic that fits snugly around the head. The first time I wore it to bed, I knew things were different, chiefly because it was still there when I woke up. It also felt different: soft (thanks to the satin lining) and snug without being tight (its elastic band apparently comfortably fits over twas, fros, dreadlocks, sister locs, and more). And I quickly could tell what a difference it made when it came to the appearance and health of my hair. Cotton pillowcases are notorious for sucking the moisture out of hair and causing friction that can ultimately lead to split ends. After a couple of days of consistently wearing my Grace Eleyae, my trims happen less frequently, and when they do, I don’t have to cut as much off. My edges were in particularly good shape, too.
And after a couple of weeks of adjusting to the cap in the bedroom, I found myself venturing outside with it on. If my hair is in twists or my wash-and-go is getting old, it’s easy to slide it a little further from my forehead to create a slouchy beanie look. And just pulling the whole thing over my head looks cute too. I own two colors now: black and beige, and I keep at least one with me wherever I go. Being a Grace Eleyae fan is sort of like being part of a stylish bonnet-wearing sisterhood, and I always know I’m in good company whenever I see its familiar black tab: the woman at Digg Inn who wears hers in place of a hair net, my sister’s mother, Viola Davis on set.
Since switching over to the cap, I’m now incapable of comfortably sleeping without it. And I appreciate it even more in the time of social distancing, when I’ve pretty much abandoned my beauty routine. I recently took down my braids and turned my attention to my natural hair, and have more or less been wearing the cap nonstop ever since. I love that I can take Zoom calls without having to slick my hair into a high ponytail, or go through the trouble of wetting, fluffing, and re-moisturizing my curls (and without anyone knowing I’m wearing a bonnet onscreen).
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