Can natural hair be worn in the workplace? YES

By Angelica Cabral 

“Celebrities want your hair, Angelica, look at all the crazy things they do to their hair to give it volume like yours,” my grandma used to tell me in Spanish as she pointed excitedly at the TV during an award show.

This was in sharp contrast to another part of my childhood. My mother going to a hair salon, right before an important event at her job or an interview, to have her hair straightened, paying upwards of $30 each time. Also, my friends who already had fairly straight hair straightening it to perfection before mock trial competitions.

There has always seemed to be a an uncomfortable difference between the way curly or wavy or big hair is perceived in a “fun” setting and how it is perceived in a “professional” setting.

Hollywood and the media is always ahead of the curve, latching on to different trends and making things that are different into something interesting. “Natural beauty” has been on the rise. Recently, Maria Borges even walked in the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show with her natural hair, an afro.

Maria Borges // Photo retrieved from Getty Images
Maria Borges // Photo retrieved from Getty Images

The business world has not been so friendly.  Many women I’ve spoken with have felt the need to change their hair to be taken more seriously or have been directly told to do so.

The idea of a businesswoman has been cultivated for years and there are multiple fronts on which she must fight — for equal pay, for respect, for the position or promotion she deserves regardless of her gender. She does not need more battles, especially not one about something she truly cannot control: how her hair naturally looks.

The question on my mind is how did the idea of curly hair being unprofessional begin? Is it because white men dominate the business world? It recently came out that there are more CEOs named John than there are female CEOs. And if we’re being honest, curly hair is far more prominent in racial minorities than it is in other races. Have we as a society begun to associate curly hair with unprofessionalism because we associate it with minorities? Perhaps, we’ll never have a direct answer; regardless, there is always something a woman can do to.

First, fight back against stereotypes and wear your hair exactly as you want it.

Second, employ a “controlling” hairstyle, which I do sometimes when it’s time to get down to business (or academics). One that I like is a half up-half down style because it makes my hair look slicked back if you’re facing me, but maintains my wild hair in the back (business in the front, party in the back mullet, anyone?)

A half up/half down look // Photo retrieved from Naturally Curly
A half up/half down look // Photo retrieved from Naturally Curly

Stereotypes are a long way from changing completely, but maybe for once, the business world can take a big nod from fashion.

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