Natural Hair in the Workplace - Why You Still Can't Wear It | Natural Haircare News
Dianne Austin
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Wearing natural hair at work still a no no?

Image from Felix Casio

With the rising popularity in natural hair, you would think it’s acceptable everywhere. Sadly, there’s one place where black women aren’t necessarily able to sport their hair as it grows from their heads: the workplace.

  • In 1987, Cheryl Tatum was fired from a Hyatt hotel for not complying when told to undo her braided hairstyle.
  • At least two women were denied employment in 2010 at Six Flags theme park because they wear locs (dreadlocks).
  • In October 2012, news anchor Rhonda Lee lost her job after responding to Facebook comments relating to her short natural. The news station claims she broke an “unwritten” social media rule about engaging with viewers.

These are just a few examples of how black hair is viewed in such a negative light that it’s deemed unacceptable for work unless it’s been manipulated to look like something else, i.e. straight hair.

Braids and locs are still viewed as “extreme” in some workplace dress codes. It’s no secret that these particular styles are worn much more often by black people than anyone else, so the hint of racism that hangs over these policies can’t be ignored.

Is it fair that straight-haired people can go to work with their “natural” hair and no one says a thing about it, but when a black woman sports a short Afro, she’s viewed with suspicion? Of course not. Yes, some hairdos can look unkempt or unprofessional, but this is irrespective of the wearer’s race or the hair texture. Some straight styles can look just as ghastly as some curly ones.

The only way to fight antiquated policies that embrace one hair texture while demonizing others is to be vocal and continue to fight with lawsuits if necessary. Not surprisingly, some employees have filed discrimination suits over their firings. With luck, there will come a day when braids, locs and Afros are just as acceptable in the office as straight hair.


Comment on this articleChanging attitudes about natural hair” is what we do at Natural Haircare News. Through informative articles, podcasts and videos, we go beyond just sharing the latest advice and tips on kinky, curly, wavy haircare – We shake things up and focus on the realities of wearing our hair natural. 

2 Responses to Natural Hair in the Workplace – Why You Still Can’t Wear It

  1. Afrina JONES says:

    Maybe it depends on location. I live in the uk. I and my mother work in the same office. We are the only naturals, I’m a loose natural and my mother has locs. We have never had a problem. I find we get more looks and negative comments from people of our own race outside of work. Most people are weaved around us. Just need to be true to ourselves and keep up the confidence!!

    • Dianne says:

      Thank you for commenting Afrina. I’m happy to hear that your experience has been positive and I agree that it depends on the location. I certainly can relate to the “why don’t you straighten those naps” looks that we can sometimes get from our own. What do others think? Does being natural have more of an impact based on location or industry? Do we catch more grief from blacks about wearing our hair natural than from others?

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