Back when I was fourteen years-old, I stopped cutting my hair. For the first few months, I didn’t notice that my hair was getting long, partly because I played football and helmets hide long hair well. But after six months, I looked in the mirror and realized that my hair had grown like a plant in all directions. I had to face facts: I had an afro.
Personally, I was content to just let my fro grow without paying it any attention. However, my father didn’t like that plan. My dad came of age in the ’60s and ‘70s, when afros were more than just a hairdo: they were symbols of race, culture, and uniformity. He had high standards for the natural hairstyle. If I was going to have an afro, I had to follow his rules, which included regular shape-ups (barbershop visits to keep the hair tidy and shapely) and I had to comb it regularly to keep it presentable. Basically, my afro would have to look like how he styled his natural back in the day.
The one thing you quickly learn when trying to maintain a perfectly globular, velvety-sheened afro is that you have to comb it a lot. No seriously, A LOT.
Combing with a pick keeps your hair at a full length, but it’s temporary. The tendency of the hair to curl closer to the scalp is relentless. So you pick and pat down your hair all the time. Sometimes every hour. Sometimes every fifteen minutes. Sometimes even more frequently than that. If you don’t regularly comb your hair, it will look lumpy and uneven.
Another thing you quickly learn when you grow out a fro is that afro picks are not the most convenient combs to keep around. Even the small ones don’t fit into a front pocket and barely fit in a back pocket, where they are rigid and inflexible. The larger ones don’t fit in pockets at all.
So as a result of frequently needing to use an afro pick that does not easily fit in pockets or elsewhere, eventually it starts to seem like a good idea to just let the pick hang out in your fro. The thick hair is usually sturdy enough to hold it in place, so the pick just stays in place for easy access. As far as I’m aware, afros are the only black hairdos in which it’s possible to keep a comb in it, and afro picks are the only kinds of combs that you’ll find in that hair.
Obviously, some people will keep their afro picks in their hair for other reasons, for example, as a fashion item or hair decoration. However, even people who do this are most likely using their picks on a regular basis to keep their hair combed.
In summary, it’s just practical to leave your pick in your hair.