Black Joy

‘Gorilla grip bonnets’: The story of the non-slip bonnet

Imagine you wake up at 3 a.m. in the morning and your nightcap is on the other side of your pillow. You touch your hair in disbelief and mean-mug your bonnet or durag for sabotaging the twist out you spent three hours on or crashing your waves that have been causing tsunamis for weeks.

MNJSales, a Black-owned bonnet and durag company that has gone viral for their non-slip bonnet videos, says protective caps that fall off don’t have to be your reality.

“A lot of people are now calling them gorilla grip bonnets,” said James Nix, MNJ Sales’ owner.

Nix started his business four years ago with his younger brother, Matthew after he hurt his back in the construction field. He and his brother came up with the name MNJ Sales to represent them both: M stands for Matthew while J stands for James.

Now Nix is the sole owner of the business, but he continues to depend on family, including his brother, Matthew, his fiancé and friends for support.

“You have to build a team because you can’t do it by yourself,” explains Nix.

And teamwork is what has fueled the viral success of MNJ Sales. As a way to reach Black folks and market their bonnets as proof that they won’t fall off while sleeping, Nix creates hilarious videos proving his bonnets are the best.

“The first video to go viral was when my friend dragged me by the bonnet through the grass. It went viral on TikTok and after that we started to make more viral videos,” says Nix.

After their first viral video, every video after that started to get more than 1 million views.

“So then we said, ‘Let’s test the bonnet against gravity on a roof. Now, what can we do to beat the roof? Let’s pull a car, a boat, and let’s get a dog to pull it’ - to show the craziness of how this bonnet won’t come off.”

Nix says MNJ Sales have had more sales in a week than they have had in the past few years.

Making a non-slip bonnet became a profitable idea for Nix when he saw a problem in his community.

“Bonnets come off every night, especially my fiance’s. One day she was complaining about her bonnet falling off every night. I wanted to think of something that wouldn’t come off every night, and I did.”

Bonnets and durags have been used as a way to protect textured hair for decades. But when worn outside of the house they have been flashpoints for controversy, criticism and shaming — from Black folks and non-Black folks.

Back in 2021, Mo’nique, a comedian and actress, posted an Instagram video calling out Black women for wearing protective bonnets and headscarves in public. She explained how her message was telling young Black women to take ‘pride in yourself, show up to places presentable, and represent yourself.’

“I saw so many of our young sistas in head bonnets, scarves, slippers, pajamas, blankets wrapped around them, and this is how they’re showing up to the airport, I’ve been seeing it not just at the airport, I’ve been seeing it at the store, at the mall. I’ve been seeing sistas showing up in these bonnets and headscarves and slippers. And the question I have to you my sweet babies: when did we lose pride in representing ourselves,” says Mo’nique in her Instagram video.

Far too often, opinions like Mo’nique’s draw Black-culture bashing.

“It sickens me when people call it ghetto. It isn’t ghetto. You are protecting your hair. So why are you calling your own culture ghetto for doing that? We all wear a bonnet or durag to bed, so it’s normal, but when people call it ghetto it makes people not want to wear it at all,” says Nix.

Nix’s passion for protective hair bonnets and durags carries over into his love of creating and lifting up Black-owned businesses.

“Usually, when you start a brand your only supporters are your friends and family, but Black Twitter saw and supported me. They made it easier to get my name out there and treated me as another Black-owned business to support.”

Now Nix pays that support forward by offering tips and elevating other Black-owned businesses like his own.

Here are a few Black-owned businesses Nix says to follow:

TYT ATTYRE - a limited edition t-shirt and shirt company

Silhouette Stylez - a woman-focused fashion brand for curvy girls

Alexis Wray

Alexis Wray | awray@reckonmedia.com

I report on HBCUs and Blackness, working to introduce voices and perspectives of students, alumni and community members that amplify the experiences of Black life on and off campus.

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