5 Reasons Natural Hair Should NOT be Viewed as Unprofessional

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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?

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Black Girl With Long Hair

Black Girl With Long Hair

Leila, founding editor of Black Girl with Long Hair (April 2008), social media and black beauty enthusiast. When I'm not here, I'm moderating a Facebook group for black mothers called Black Moms Connect.

 

129 thoughts on “5 Reasons Natural Hair Should NOT be Viewed as Unprofessional

  1. I wore a wig in a interview (in the middle of a hot desert summer mind you) because I thought my natural hair wouldn’t get me the job (let’s be honest not many black people live in NM especially with natural hair) and I was so concerned about my appearance I bombed my interview. I did another one with my hair just pulled back in a bun and I got the job within minutes. If an employer can’t deal with your hair then do you really want to work there? You should know the difference. Yes our hair is big and sometimes unruly but the cool thing is that you can do so many cool things with it! Get your butt on youtube look up some how to hairstyles, get some interview tips while you’re doing your ‘do and rock the hell out of that interview!

    • Yes I totally feel u I live in New Mexico & there is a very small blk population..whenever i rock my fro especially people just stare.

    • I live in Santa Fe, NM & have for nearly a decade. My hair has been natural for more than twice that. I have never had a problem getting a job, interviews whatever no matter how I’ve worn my hair, ranging from locs to loose natural styles. My hair has never been a problem. But then maybe it’s because I never expected it to be. :) <3 <3 <3

  2. How can you, in your first point, a naturally occurring physical trait cannot be unprofessional and then in your next point say Afros are unprofessional? My natural hair naturally grows into an Afro. So Afros should not be considered unprofessional either. Especially for those with TWAs, even a twistout looks like a curly Afro.

    • I was thinking the same thing! I agree with you 100%… I was a little ticked by the “enough common sense” comment… Uhm! What do does that mean?

    • I’m sure the author means you would not go to an interview/professional workplace with your hair unkempt.
      If a European turned up to work with ‘bedhead’ or a knotty mess on his/her head, I would mention something especially if they were going to an interview or client meeting.
      Afros are beautiful! I’d rock and have rocked my Afro to work if I felt like it, just as I would rock an updo or a cornrow style. However, if it looks like it needs a re-do or a quick comb/brush then so be it!

    • I had to reread. The author is not saying that afro’s are unprofessional, she’s saying that if you like to where your fro in all it’s poofy glory, it cant be all bug and poofy in lets say, working as a waiter/waitress or someone who is cooking/serving food/operating heavy machinery. the point is that if you come with your fro to a job interview, the interviewer should know that your fro can be pulled back in a bun or poof or put in cap and that it shouldn’t be a deciding factor in their employment decisions.

  3. One of the main reasons why it’s NOT unprofessional is because it’s the hair that grew out of your own damn head. If every other race can get away with it why can’t we. That fact that this is still a topic is just sad and prejudice. And it saddens me every time I see it.

  4. Thank you for shearing such a good and interesting information! I have curly hair and I know that it is not so easy to take care about it every day! I’m going to follow your page and I will try some of your advices!

  5. Um why are there four more reasons? Number 1 is damn well enough. The hair is natural. NA-TU-RAL. Would they call white people’s hair unprofessional? No. Even though they have flyaways like ruffled feathers.

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