Nov 26, 2013

DISCUSSION: Naturals Cracking the (Dress) Code

In the wake of so many KNOWN instances of employers and schools creating rules that unfairly forbid natural hair and natural hairstyles, it is easy to become an unofficial member of the Liberty and Defense of Natural Hair Association. (Since I just created this association 2 seconds ago, I voted myself founder and CEO.) However, I've noticed recently that some naturals can tend to take the natural hair liberties too far. When you work in a corporate office, there are usually dress codes and rules regarding your appearance. In case no one has ever mentioned it: THIS INCLUDES YOUR HAIR.

And by "your hair", I mean your naturally kinky, coily, curly hair. Yes, even you have to abide by certain rules. I'm not referring to the school who told the 7 year old Tiana Parker that her dreadlocks were a problem. Nor am I referring to Farryn Johnson, the Hooter's waitress who was fired because she colored a streak of her hair blond. Ashley Davis' situation is also excluded. She worked at a bank in Missouri, and was told 2 months after she was hired that she needed to cut off her 10+ year old locs to keep her job. That's not the same as being professional when the job calls for it. This discussion is about how you choose to wear your hair when companies request that while you are at your desk or cubicle, you maintain a corporate or business casual appearance. Having textured hair doesn't exclude your hair from needing to be business casual as well.

If you are in the number of naturals that love to experiment with their hair, that's fabulous. I'm all for it. I personally haven't had time for much experimenting since I've begun working again. But I have big plans to do something new to my hair.... eventually. I don't, however, plan on testing the rules at my new job with a hairstyle that is definitely not work appropriate.

Being natural can allow you to express your free spirit just as much as it fits your out-of-the-box personality. However, when you are in a work environment the focus should be on your work, NOT on your hair. I know there are those who will say "Well my work should speak for itself, and they shouldn't judge me for my hair". It's no different from coming to the office with super messy, tousled beach wave style hair. Or showing up on Tuesday in a club dress and high heels. The texture of our hair is not a reason to bypass dress codes. Besides, if you are just LOOKING for a reason to rouse the people who provide your income, there are several more creative and entertaining ways to do so. Try spilling a drink on your computer... and then maybe another 2 or 3 colleagues' computers. Bring a bottle of merlot and chocolate for a day of Netflix on company time. Flip your manager's desk all the way over. Go out with a bang!

But wearing styles that were made for photoshoots and hairshows are not appropriate. They do not add to your company value, and they can distract you and others from work. I do not ever agree with companies firing or having different standards of appearance for those with textured hair versus straight hair. There are enough battles to fight without creating unnecessary ones. This is not about adhering to Western beauty standards. It's about adhering to company policies. Natural hair is versatile enough to be funky and professional. Enjoy the freedom of your natural hair. There is so much you can do with it and still manage to stay within the lines of professionalism.

Do you test your limit with hair in the workplace? Where do you draw the line on work appropriate hairstyles?
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