Natural Hair = Unprofessional? NEVER!

From time to time people ask me if my hair has hindered me in my career.  The short answer is no (at least, not yet). But, I think it’s a bit more complicated than that.  I think there are several things to consider when one decides to wear their curly/kinky hair.  While I have run into no issues, actually the opposite, I understand the hesitancy and apprehension one feels when that first interview comes.  In this economy especially, I understand some people’s hesitancy to rock their natural hair in professional environments and everyone has to make that very personal decision to alter their hair for the job or not.  If you’re strapped and need to put food in the table then I say, do what you gotta do…even if it’s just to get your foot in the door.  While I believe that “professional” can hold a lot of unnecessary biases and unwarranted traditions, I don’t feel like anyone should be sacrificing food or shelter in order to wear a big ass fro to work everyday.  But that’s just my opinion.

For better or for worse, there are several things to consider when deciding to wear natural hair in the workplace and you may want to give thought to the area you live in and its population, the field you want to work in and the status of the particular position.  I personally think that if your hair looks styled and doesn’t cover half your face then you’re probably professional in my book.  Not everyone agrees with this and everyone is entitled to their own opinion but as a wise man once said, “Some opinions just suck”.

When I came into the first interview with my current job, I mulled over the idea of cutting my hair out of fear that my fro might hinder my chances at the job.  Well, it didn’t!  While I did psyche myself to focus on my qualifications and training during the interview I think my chances were improved due to the nature of the somewhat nontraditional social services field.    I wear my hair as a fluffy, curly fro and I wear it this way…EVERY DAY.  I have not had any negative comments from colleagues or supervisors, and in fact, I’ve only had very supportive comments from both. My boss’ boss, who is a bald man, use to ask me how big I was going to let my hair get.  Initially I would get nervous, back track a bit and say, “Well, I don’t want it to get too crazy, etc”. His reply, “Just go for it!”  Hell, sometimes we even talk and joke about the strange things people say to me while I travel for work.  While I was very nervous about how people would react to my fro I now sing a very different tune.  I treat my hair as a complete non-issue and others seem to roll with that.

What negative or positive experiences have you had in the workplace regarding your curly/kinky hair?

6 thoughts on “Natural Hair = Unprofessional? NEVER!”

  1. Like you, I contemplated pressing my hair for the interview at my current job. I decided not to, because I didn’t want to work somewhere that I would have to change my hair to fit in. That’s probably a very idealistic view of the world (like you said, I don’t want to jeopardize my ability to pay bills for a hairstyle), but I think natural hair can and often is professional.

    I really haven’t had any “negative” experiences, but I have had co-workers ask me, when are you going to press it? or why don’t you press it? or, I wish I was bold enough to do that, etc.

    I’ve heard a lot of women talk about pressing their hair for other things besides job interviews, like formal events (i.e. weddings, graduations, etc) and that does bother me.

    I will say this. I think the more people we see with natural hair, the more likely it is to be accepted. Of course, the media plays a role in that as well. But I think this perception of natural hair as unprofessional will slowly fall out favor.

    1. This has to be the quote of the day: “I think the more people we see with natural hair, the more likely it is to be accepted.” I wholeheartedly agree!

      1. That quote is on point! During my transition grandmother couldn’t understand why anyone would stop relaxing their hair. Two years later, she doesn’t bat an eyelash b/c we see curlies everywhere.

        SN: I live in the deep south, so I don’t often see curly dudes. But I have a feeling that’s about to change… #optimism

  2. I haven’t had any problems with wearing my natural hair. Two of my co-workers have problems with it since they call me maya angelou, and things like that but I just laugh it off. I’m ready for my hair to get big like yours one day 🙂

  3. A guy with dreads who works in corporate America said,” If you have an issue with your hair then so will others. If you don’t make an issue out of it no one else will.” I have used that philosophy since I have been grooming my hair for locs. No one has peeped a word. I really think we psyche ourselves out and create phobias that aren’t always true.

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