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African American Hairstyles in Corporate America

Updated on October 22, 2013

The uncomfortable subject of African American and Hairstyles

In response to several news stories addressing academic discipline over children choosing to wear their hair in dreadlocks or afro's; let's address this uncomfortable subject. The question looms; Why should African American's shun away from having pride in their race/culture and accepting themselves naturally?

Who could forget adorable little Tiana Parker of Tulsa, Oklahoma? A 7 year old girl bringing light to a controversial subject of decades: What should be allowed when it comes to hairstyles and do others have the right to determine how one should present oneself?

As children, African American hairstyles may vary and what's most important for children of all colors is that their hair is healthy, clean, and maintained. By maintained I mean cared for, aka groomed, and I personally didn't find Tiana Parker's hair to be in violation of any of those factors. This situation is not an isolated incident.

A charter school in Horizon Science Academy in Lorain, Ohio attempted to propose a ban on afro-puffs and twisted braids.

At Hampton University in Virginia the dean of business school defended and left in place a 12 year old prohibition on dreadlocks and cornrows for male students stating the look is not businesslike.

Then there are the words of Beverly Bond of Black Girl Rocks who was quoted as saying: “Our girls are always getting messages that tell them that they are not good enough.”

Should we live in a society that does not allow from any difference other than one standard form of look or presentation?

Shouldn't we live in an era where the character of the person matters above appearance and presentation?

Shouldn't every person of culture be free to be themselves?

Now taking on the issue of hairstyles for adults I must say, let's deal with reality. What should be and what is acceptable are often two different concepts. While all these questions deserve pondering to some point, we must also point out reality. The Afrocentric and extreme looks, for certain professional environments, are not acceptable in most environments. To be honest there were some African American's that were taught, in an effort to help them achieve great success that they were not free to present themselves any type of way in society.

As adults your hairstyle should reflect your package presentation. One may not always live in an exclusively African America community and if you are planning to enter certain career fields a conservative look is implied (mandatory) to maximize your opportunities. Some African America people were taught that braids, dreadlocks, afro's, afro-puffs, or other hairstyles are typically not the look of a CEO. From person experience there are times when I have sat in meetings totally distracted by the hair color(s), spiked rooster style hair, or someone's attire so much so that it is difficult to concentrate. How can someone concentrate on your presentation when your hair is spiked in different colors and you feel like you are waiting for the person to lay an egg?

The reality is Janet Jackson's long dookie braids hairstyles in the movie Poetic Justice is not the hairstyle you would wear when applying for a corporate career at Ernst and Young. At a time when emphasis is placed on your presentation and competition is abundant; should such deviance from the norm be acceptable? While all acknowledge it may not be fair, presentation is important. You could be a financial wiz but would anyone trust you if they met their CPA wearing cornrows? If you want to wear eye catching hairstyles, colors, or Afro Centric looks then; own your own business working behind the scenes, become a singer, become a blogger/writer, become a professor, become an entertainer, or open your own store. Just understand when you enter those corporate offices that the response 9 times out of 10 will be no. The game of corporate and business has not changed drastically from a conservative look. While fashion week and reality television shows might make one think walking around with blood red or blue hair is normal it is not acceptable in the business environment and will stifle your career growth and financial gain by doing so. This is the rule and not the exception. All natural hairstyles are not inappropriate in corporate America but one needs to be conscious of the style presentation.

There is a time and place for everything and unfortunately while discrimination is still real; African American people can not afford to stand out. Now I have not doubt some will read this article and feel offended but it's the truth if you take the route of corporate American and business. As a artists, present yourself as you see fit however just be aware every presentation is not suited for every environment.


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