The pro­fes­sion­al­ism of nat­u­ral hair is a con­stant top­ic of debate in black cul­ture. And while many nat­u­rals advance pro­fes­sion­al­ly and enjoy sat­is­fy­ing careers, some peo­ple seem to be stuck on the idea that hair trumps tal­ent and intel­li­gence. To be fair, it must be acknowl­edged that there are still inci­dents of nat­u­ral hair lead­ing to pro­fes­sion­al dis­crim­i­na­tion (Six Flags being the most pop­u­lar exam­ple, cur­rent­ly), but the­se inci­dents are the excep­tion and cer­tain­ly not the rule. And also, just because dis­crim­i­na­tion hap­pens, it doesn’t mean that it’s jus­ti­fied or even sen­si­cal. Here are 5 rea­sons why nat­u­ral hair should nev­er be viewed as ‘unpro­fes­sion­al’.

1. A naturally occurring physical characteristic CAN’T be unprofessional

Think about it. Would you call the shape of an Asian woman’s eyes “unpro­fes­sion­al”? Or the col­or of a black woman’s skin? Then how can you label hair — a nat­u­ral­ly occur­ing phys­i­cal trait — as “unpro­fes­sion­al”. It makes no sense. Now, of course, how you choose to ALTER or ADORN hair or body can be con­sid­ered pro­fes­sion­al or unpro­fes­sion­al, but to call the nat­u­ral char­ac­ter­is­tics of the body itself ‘unpro­fes­sion­al’ is total­ly ludi­crous.

2. Natural hair can be styled conservatively

Afros are love­ly and amaz­ing, but most nat­u­rals have enough com­mon sense to know that, depend­ing on where you work, it won’t always be an appro­pri­ate style. Some work envi­ron­ments will call for a nat­u­ral wom­an to pull her hair away from her face. Oth­er work places might have more lee­way, allow­ing for big­ger styles like twist outs, braid outs or curly fros. In either instance, it is HOW the wom­an decides to style her hair that deter­mi­nes whether it is pro­fes­sion­al. Not the hair itself.

Tip: Short haired nat­u­rals (less than 6 inch­es) might feel they don’t have the length to rock con­ser­v­a­tive styles. Not true! Pinned up updos can work on short­er lengths.

3. Discrimination based on hair texture is illegal

Plain and sim­ple. Now you can be fired for vio­lat­ing a company’s pol­i­cy on how you STYLE your hair or present your­self. But to be fired for hav­ing a cer­tain hair tex­ture is lit­er­al­ly crim­i­nal.

4. It breeds paranoia

Have you ever heard a nat­u­ral swear that she didn’t get a job or was unfair­ly treat­ed, “just because I’m nat­u­ral.” Mean­while this wom­an might have a total­ly unpro­fes­sion­al atti­tude and an unkempt appear­ance. Unless it’s obvi­ous that you are being dis­crim­i­nat­ed again­st because of your hair, it’s not healthy to walk around with the assump­tion that this will or has hap­pened. Not only does it breed para­noia, but it diverts focus from oth­er weak­ness­es that could be the REAL cause of lost pro­fes­sion­al oppor­tu­ni­ties.

5. There are tons of natural hair professionals making moves right now

Don’t think that nat­u­rals can be pro­fes­sion­al? Take a walk through down­town Atlanta on any given work­day. The nat­u­ral hair scene is incred­i­ble! Black wom­en rock­ing suits, pumps, and some fierce­ly ele­gant nat­u­ral styles. If you’re look­ing for nat­u­ral pro­fes­sion­als in your own city or town, look no fur­ther than the many online nat­u­ral hair forums (such as the BGLH Gallery or CurlTalk). They are chock full of pro­fes­sion­al wom­en proud­ly rock­ing the nat­u­ral.

The REAL Dilemma

So where is the REAL dilem­ma when it comes to nat­u­ral hair and the work­place? In this day and age, it is a lack of under­stand­ing of the styling options and neces­si­ties that come with nat­u­ral hair. While a nat­u­ral can get by pro­fes­sion­al­ly rock­ing buns or french braids, they might not be able to wear more intri­cate styles, like corn­rows, locs and in some cas­es twists, that are unfair­ly labeled as ‘rad­i­cal’ or ‘extreme’ when, in real­i­ty, they are great styles for keep­ing nat­u­ral hair attrac­tive and well-groomed. Per­haps the focus should now be on how to com­mu­ni­cate to employ­ers and human resource pro­fes­sion­als that nat­u­ral hair thrives in styles that — to the uncul­tured eye — look exotic or intri­cate, but are actu­al­ly quite ‘nor­mal’.

Ladies, what are your thoughts? Do you think nat­u­ral hair can be viewed as unpro­fes­sion­al? Why or why not?

Black Girl With Long Hair

Leila Noel­lis­te, founder of Black Girl with Long Hair (April 2008). Social media, pop cul­ture and black beau­ty enthu­si­ast. bell hooks’ hair twin…

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131 Comments on "5 Reasons Natural Hair Should NOT be Viewed as Unprofessional"

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Nikki
I won­der how many White peo­ple real­ly believe that nat­u­ral hair is unpro­fes­sion­al? I would love to see a sur­vey on this or some­thing. When I have caught grief about my hair it has been main­ly from Blacks telling me that my hair is unpro­fes­sion­al and the Whites won’t accept it. If any­thing, they have been the ones judg­ing me and not nec­es­sar­i­ly the dom­i­nant soci­ety. There are so many ways to where nat­u­ral hair, plen­ty of styles that can be con­ser­v­a­tive (with or with­out straight­en­ing) and oth­ers that are less con­ser­v­a­tive. I guess, my expe­ri­ence, I just don’t real­ly… Read more »
AnonyChick

This is true. I get more flack about my hair from Black peo­ple than from White peo­ple. I, too, would like to see some sort of sur­vey. I feel like this is one of those things that we (Black peo­ple) have made big­ger than it is. If any­thing, White peo­ple embrace my hair. Nev­er heard any com­plaints about nat­u­ral hair in my work­place.

Keedy

The lady is the pic­ture is beau­ti­ful and her hair and make-up are gor­geous!

Renee

Yes indeed Keedy! Hair…amazing…makeup…flawless! I love the entire look!

Rachel R.

It is so fun­ny how our nat­u­ral hair is con­sid­ered to be unpro­fes­sion­al in todays soci­ety. Can any­one answer this ques­tion PLEASE.…What race back in the 1950’s wore BIG BEEHIVE hairdo’s and used a half can of hair­spray dai­ly??????? Seriously…and they say our hair is UNPROFESSIONAL. At least our hair is NATURALLY big. I laugh at the con­tra­dic­tion. Does any­body feel me on this? Just asking…our hair is beau­ti­ful and can’t/want be stopped.

EG

you don’t have to go back that far, I’ve worked with many proud ‘i’m from jer­sey’ big haired wom­en and nobody says boo to them.

Rachel R.
I know I did’nt have to go that far but I was try­ing to make a point. We have been wear­ing big hair since forever in a day. When oth­er races tease their hair so that it will stand high its not a prob­lem, or it get perms because they want curly hair its not a prob­lem, or they have curly hair and want it straight its not a prob­lem. In oth­er words what I am try­ing to say is that what we are nat­u­ral­ly born with, we are neg­a­tive­ly put down but yet they try to copy the big… Read more »
bonbon
That’s because we live in a sick soci­ety where every­thing nat­u­ral­ly good is reject­ed and their tox­ic fake mim­ics are cel­e­brat­ed. A case in point: nat­u­ral brown skin is appar­ent­ly infe­ri­or but fake plas­tic tan/burnt orange skin is seen as desir­able. Sim­ple fresh nat­u­ral foods are seen as bland and avoid­ed whilst tox­ic processed junk foods are seen as the ‘tasty’ norm. A sim­ple lifestyle close to nature is con­sid­ered ‘backwards/primitive’ whilst the stress filled fre­net­ic urban exis­tance is glo­ri­fied and seen as ‘advanced’. Nat­u­ral­ly cuva­cious, full lipped black wom­en are seen as ‘less fem­i­nine’, whilst white wom­en with faces… Read more »
Rachel R.

AMEN…Well said lady.

Rachel R.

Also I only went that far back just touch­ing the surface…the TRUTH is it goes back alot fur­ther but no one wants the TRUTH. The TRUTH always stings.

yoco. L
I am a para­le­gal, a law stu­dent, and a nat­u­ral­is­ta. Law has tra­di­tion­al­ly been a very con­ser­v­a­tive field, may­be 2nd to bank­ing. I have been 100% nat­u­ral for the past 2 yrs although I had dreamed of being nat­u­ral for years but had some fear as to how I would be viewed at work. I tran­si­tioned for a year and then chopped of the remain­der of my relax­er, mak­ing my once bras­trap length hair to my shoul­ders when straight and to my neck when curly. Ini­tial­ly, I straight­ened-bob, as my hair grew (back to top of bras­trap length now) I… Read more »
Renee
I always find it inter­est­ing that a Black women’s hair in it’s NATURAL STATE is intim­i­dat­ing. This is our NATURAL hair! We should not have to change that for any rea­son. So many of us Black wom­en have been duped into chem­i­cal­ly treat­ing our hair for the “look” and not the ease of main­te­nance. I went nat­u­ral 9 years ago and when I flat-ironed my hair the first time after years and years of braids, it was SO soft and healthy! I was shocked I could achieve the same “look” as chem­i­cal­ly treat­ed hair. Now, I have not even flat-ironed… Read more »
EG

Amen, I’m so sick and tired of brain-washed blacks giv­ing me the ‘well you have to under­stand their point’…no I don’t’! If some­one doesn’t like your nat­u­ral hair, I can guar­ran­tee you that’s it’s not the only thing they don’t like.

RockStar

exact­ly! who cares if they “under­stand, accept, like” or what­ev­er. Peo­ple need to get over them­selves and stop believ­ing that the worlds of oth­ers should begin and end with their own likes and opin­ions. I enjoy com­pli­ments, who doesn’t? And I wel­come con­struc­tive crit­i­cism. But at the end of the day,that’s it for me. and quite frankly, my moth­er taught me not to be rude enough to open­ly put peo­ple down for their “fash­ion” choic­es.

Jo

You said it! Blacks are sooooo brain­washed it’s amaz­ing and not only that but very set so they don’t want to change their mind. There is hope though and in years to come it will be dif­fer­ent.

Camille

I total­ly agree with you Renee! We spend too much time let­ting oth­ers define us (down to the very of essence of the image cre­at­ed by God). Every human is unique. From our eyes, mouth, and yes, even our hair! Thanks for your com­ments, and also thanks to the per­son who wrote the arti­cle:
5 Rea­sons Nat­u­ral Hair Should NOT be Viewed as Unpro­fes­sion­al.

Jo
Great point,however peo­ple are scared of what they do not know or under­stand hence the stig­ma with nat­u­ral hair. Also with wom­en waer­ing what is thers in tex­ture or style peo­ple don’t know what REAL hair looks like. We have to remem­ber that our stan­dard of beau­ty is not dom­i­nant in this cul­ture so the bur­den to con­form in the work­place espe­cial­ly is heavy. I remem­ber rock­ing corn­rows with exten­sions and as i was the only black in the office every­one was intrigued and so curi­ous ask­ing me tons of ques­tions. LOL I do believe a bal­ance can be struck where you… Read more »
Mina

So true!

yoco. L

Amen Renee!

LaKisha
I’ve been nat­u­ral since Jan­u­ary 2012, but this is my sec­ond time going nat­u­ral. I was nat­u­ral for two years from 2007–2009, but changed up my hair fol­low­ing a lay off from my job and hav­ing to enter back into the job mar­ket. Enter­ing back into the job mar­ket was the rea­son for the change in my hair. I live in the con­ver­sa­tive South and as much as peo­ple were intrigued by my hair and want­ed to touch it, they were not so will­ing to offer employ­ment. I’m hap­py to say now that peo­ple are now more accept­ing of nat­u­ral… Read more »
June

I think some peo­ple have viewed nat­u­ral hair as being unpro­fes­sion­al across the world. There’s hope though. Many more black wom­en are wear­ing their hair nat­u­ral­ly so its get­ting more and more com­mon. So atti­tudes will change with time.

Ms.Tea

I think it depends on the style and pre­sen­ta­tion of it.. Nat­u­ral black hair can be intim­i­dat­ing to many non blacks, but by the same token, non blacks wear “nat­u­ral hair” every­day and no one gets upset or thinks it’s unpro­fes­sion­al.

Rou

In my opin­ion, I think nat­u­ral afro-tex­tured hair can be intim­i­dat­ing to both Blacks and non-Blacks! I am speak­ing from my per­son­al expe­ri­ence only! But, some Blacks are uncom­fort­able with see­ing Black wom­en rock­ing their nat­u­ral hair. Their reac­tions to it can be down­right rude and inap­pro­pri­ate.

Marie
I agree that its can be intim­i­dat­ing to oth­ers. I am the only black female in my office and I went nat­u­ral because I was ill and my hair was falling, then I began to embrace it com­plete­ly and ques­tion why am I doing this to my hair. I usu­al­ly wear twist, twist out, coils, or rock my fro from time to time, and at least every quar­ter I may wash and blow dry it and roller set it and wear that style for about 2 weeks. I aways get the com­ments I like your hair like this you should… Read more »
RockStar
I hate to get polit­i­cal, but it’s because black peo­ple have been conditioned–on purpose–to think our hair is unat­trac­tive and unac­cept­able. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, some of us believe this. I have 3b (curly)almost waist length hair. Most times, I wear it up in a bun or pineap­ple. Occia­sion­al­ly, I will wear it out when I want to be “free”. It is absolute­ly unbe­liev­able how many black wom­en ( espe­cial­ly the old­er wom­en) stop me and tell me I need a perm!!!! I think it’s rude so I respond in kind “no thanks, I’m not Euro­pean and don’t care to look like it.”… Read more »
D

That sucks because nat­u­ral hair is awe­some.

Porcupine

@ Rock­Star

I get the same reac­tion. It’s sad that white peo­ple tend to be accept­ing and appre­cia­tive when a black wom­en wears her hair nat­u­ral. I have got­ten hate­ful and dis­gust­ed looks by black peo­ple- espe­cial­ly black men- when I rock my nat­u­ral fro. The amount of dis­dain is down­right hurt­ful.

CurlPlease

Same here, it get more rude com­ments fron blacks than non-blacks. I have had white wom­en say they love and with their had would behave like mine, curl etc.

CurlPlease

*wish

Florida Steph

Rock Star, I have the same reac­tions.

Alexis

This is crazy, I have got­ten very sim­i­lar reac­tions as well. The bad thing about it though is that my I’m tran­si­tion­ing from acci­den­tal heat train­ing so my hair doesn’t even have its real curl pat­tern right now and I wear it in updos most of the time. White peo­ple look at it like its a mir­a­cle of God and many black peo­ple have told me that I’m wast­ing my looks by wear­ing my hair this way. What­ev­er the heck that means.

Michelle
I can’t dare wear my 4a hair open no mat­ter how long it gets. Actu­al­ly depend­ing on where I work I can’t even wear my nat­u­ral braids down with­out peo­ple star­ing and it’s the black peo­ple who are doing the staring…it’s nev­er untidy but appar­ent­ly, in my coun­try, peo­ple with my ‘kind’ of hair should have it chem­i­cal­ly straight­ened or curled with­in an inch of its life if it is to be accept­ed with­out ques­tion! It’s not so bad now and I long ago decid­ed that I should work on my atti­tude and my qual­i­fi­ca­tions rather than get­ting para­noid about… Read more »
Janae

Ikr! It’s so sad! I had a twistout last week. I washed my hair in the mid­dle of the week and wore my afro with a nice head­band for the rest of the week. Who had some­thing deroga­to­ry to say about it? It wasn’t the white peo­ple! It was actu­al­ly black peo­ple, 2 wom­en and a man who all had hair that was way wilder than mine! What a shame to hate our­selves so bad!

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