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… 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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