Natural Hair in the Workplace: The Natural Hair Movement

Posted on 06 September 2017

Natural hair in the workplace is riding a bold wave of evolution and style among African American women.  Lengthy, silky, European looking hair extensions and weaves are giving way to natural coils, curls, locs, and twists as more and more women of color love on their natural roots.  Only a few years ago, black women might spend hours, days, and weeks contemplating the risks of daring to display their natural hair in the workplace and thus, choose to add a bun or ponytail to conform to traditional European styles.  Black women not only found themselves trying to prove their experiential and intellectual worth but also had to worry about the stigma of wearing natural hair from their co-workers, customers, and bosses.

Natural Hair Versatility in the Workplace

This naturalista remembers wearing her first few twist-outs in Corporate America. The experience was a positive one, unlike the negative stories one often hears. There were many compliments from fellow employees. Co-workers often spoke in secret about how much they liked the gorgeous, natural style; then as if the area was under surveillance, they would lean in and share their plans of going natural someday.

Nearly a decade later, naturalistas are brazenly embracing the versatility of their natural hair, refusing to hide it beneath wigs, bury it under silky European looking weaves, or damage it with chemical relaxers to conform to a standard. Instead, black women are taking to wearing the hair that is growing from their roots.  Previously, natural hair was thought to be ugly, unkempt, unmanageable, and unacceptable. Today, there is an effort by many to avoid being caught up in ugly stereotypes of what it means to have good or bad hair.

Unfortunately, it requires conversation at times with those of European descent who are curious or seeking to understand the texture of a black woman's hair better. Naturalistas often have to endure discussions that center around fascination and inquiries about their hair’s texture.  While no natural hair diva wants to become a main attraction or exhibition for the ignorant, the conversation around natural hair is, in fact, helping to further the movement.

Natural Hair Education and Products Boost Confidence

The natural hair movement thrives today thanks to the availability and advancement of resources and testimony from the natural hair community. Self-proclaimed natural hair experts on YouTube and via blogs provide natural hair divas with access to tips, tricks, and products which undoubtedly contributes to their comfort level of achieving and wearing their natural locks in the workplace. There are thousands, possibly millions of videos available on YouTube and articles accessible by way of 

various natural hair blogs that demonstrate natural hairstyles that a naturalista might wear in the workplace ranging from twist-outs to up-dos to perm rod sets to braids, twists, coils or dreads.

For those who are considering transitioning or are in the process of taking the big step to wear their natural hair, it is important to note that no one expects this to be an easy journey in or outside of the workplace, despite the significant accomplishments of the natural hair movement. Novice naturalistas should do their homework and research styles that may be fashionable for Corporate America.

Natural Hair in the Workplace Controversy

Natural hair in the workplace is not without its controversy. While major organizations like the United States Army continue to take steps closer to acceptance of natural hairstyles like twists, there are those organizations who are not ready or willing to accept natural hair. Also, there are those within the black community that do not approve of natural hair in the workplace and can sometimes prove to be just as damaging to the cause as those who do not support natural hair in corporate America. Discrimination against natural hair is alive and well. The youth will undoubtedly have the biggest impact in carrying the movement further than their predecessors.

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