Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Hair and the Workplace

During the summer I usually wear my hair in braids. Braids give my hair a break from relaxers and is a great way to deal with the DC humidity. I just took down my traditional style of braids. I have been debating on getting cornrows to tide me over until my birthday when I'll get the standard [read: more acceptable] style.

The problem with cornrows is that some people see them as "street" "hood" or "ghetto." Basically most professionals don't see them fitting into the workplace dress code. I worry what my Caucasian conservative coworkers will think or say. They are the type that would compliment you to your face but will talk to your boss behind your back. Then your boss will pull you in their office for a "talk." Believe me. It's happened before.

It is disappointing that we still have uncertainty about wearing ethnic hairstyles in the workplace. My sister recently had to cut her beautiful dreadlocks [locs] for a job. Now this was in California (everyone has locs in DC-I'm guessing this would not happen in DC) however in 2012 locs are STILL unacceptable/unprofessional? My sister kept her locs neatly maintained. This job she accepted believes that anyone who is a manager or works in customer service must be clean shaven and have "neat" hair. My first reaction was to tell my sister to pass on the job offer but who can really afford to do that in this economy? What would you do? Are we moving towards a more conservative society as far as the dress code in the workplace?

I call it the Mad Men affect. Suits, pantyhose, pumps, skirts are making a comeback. Soon Afros, braids, locs, natural "ethnic" looking hair will be on the outs. It will not be a direct assault. It will be more like peer pressuring you into conformity.

In the end I decided to style my hair cornrowed halfway back (meaning they stop at my ears instead of going to the back of my head by my neck). It was a compromise. (I won't conform just yet). I can curl the loose hair in the back and make it professional. I can't afford to lose a good job in this economy!!


29tolife said...

The mad men effect! I didn't even think of that. I hate pantyhose. I'm going to need for places to stay on the business casual line and not return to such rigid dress codes of yore. On the braid thing, yes, the times I've gone on vacay and gotten cornrows put in and im at work a day before I go or after I come back, I do get the looks and the questions. Usually I take them out before I get back to work not to deal with it. Cornrows especially do get a bad rap.

BeautySpeaks said...

I think those cornrows would have been ok.....but only because our department has loosened up some in that regard. A few years ago I def. wouldn't have suggested you get them (especially with them looking at me like a 3 eyed monster my first week working--I had cornrows!). But now with some natural sisters on the team and some wig/weave wearing divas...I think those would have been ok.

Now speaking on the real issue, I do think it's COMPLETELY ridiculous that in this day and age people are being judged for things like tattoos/piercings and hairstyle. None of which has anything to do with how I do my job. As always, the focus is on the wrong issue!

Tasha said...

I am in the middle on this. While the stares and looks can be annoying, depending on your profession, your appearance can affect your job. I know my father will not do business with someone wearing dreads or cornrows, but then again, he is 70 and grew up when every black woman considered of standing had to have their hair coiffed. Weaves and wigs are more acceptable because they pretty much indicate a willingness to conform to something. The only person I can recall heading up a major company with cornrows is Susan Taylor. And sadly until you see CEOs doing it on the regular, those looks will keep coming.