“How will it look once it grows? What if I can’t deal with it? What if people are right and it’s just too unmanageable and unprofessional?”
These are probably a few of the questions that were popping through your mind as you made the decision go natural and maybe even now as you’ve been on the journey for a while. I know this because I had them too. Taking care of natural hair is a learning curve, it takes time. Add to the equation styling your transitioning hair and trying to balance professional natural hairstyles and workplace and your worries can grow exponentially.
Natural hair is unprofessional, really?!
However, these worries are unfounded. Natural hair can look professional just like any other hair type. People, especially those who are not natural, have all these myths about natural hair: it’s too kinky, it can’t grow, it’s unmanageable, it’s unprofessional… I’ll raise my hand and say I had some of the same beliefs.
Isn’t it amazing how we can quickly point out the negatives in something, but not the positives? How we look forward and even prepare for the bad, but not the opposite? Okay, I’ll grant you that stepping into the unknown having been primed for the “ugliness” of natural hair all our lives is not easy to do. Nevertheless, you have one advantage. Yes, those of us who decided to transition or do the big chop have all those social constructs already eroding.
As more and more of us are embracing our roots, natural hair in the workplace should no longer be an event worthy of your colleagues’ starring parades or looks full of shock and amazement. It is a fairly common occurrence, although there will always be those who mock or disapprove of it (don’t mind those, ignorance is always afraid of change). Nevertheless, if anyone told you natural hair in a professional setting is not possible they’re lying to you. Worse, if you in some way still believe this you are lying and limiting yourself. You don’t need to live under wigs or hair extensions just to keep your job.
Some people would say that certain hairstyles like afros, edgy shaved or even bright dyed hair have no place in the workplace, but I don’t believe this. Though I wouldn’t consider some styles fitting for conservative work environments, there are situations where you can move away from the conventional. I believe everything has its time and place.
Care to have a look at 3 different work environments and how you can match your natural hairstyles with your workplace? Great! Moving on.
NATURAL HAIRSTYLES & WORK ENVIRONMENT
A work environment that has strict (or somewhat strict) guidelines will require a look that follows conventional expectations but in a more strict way. It will require a hairstyle that is polished, elegant, presentable and not too flashy. Yes, this is not the place for you to try undercuts, hair tattoos or pink hair dies. This can bring attention to you for all the wrong reasons.
We may not like to admit it, but appearances count and people are judged by it. We do it, eve-ry-day! Unfortunately, the idea in such corporate work environments is for you to blend in. Your professionalism and work efficiency are primarily the ones to star, not your hair or looks.
Lucky for us curly naturals, our hair can never be bland. So, if you like to spice up a bit don’t worry, your hair can do the job! Our hair’s versatility will make it stand out anywhere with hairstyles like updos, twist or braid outs, a simple and elegant bun, or even a faux bob (check out beautiful vlogger MahoganyCurls bellow on the top left-hand corner). And I believe, there is even a little space for some creativity like the stunning braided side-swept at the bottom.
Work Environments: Law, Accountancy, Management/Bussines, Engineering, etc.
Did you check the locks up there? Aren’t they just mind-blowing? For me, they can totally fit in this work environment too if properly taken care of like these, don’t you agree? Yes, I know this style is probably the least approved one socially, but hey, We gotta push barriers to make this happen, right?!
When originality and creativity are rewarded instead of the conventional or normal you may have the perfect place to express all the creativity you can think of and your hair can handle. And boy, oh boy you know our curly hair can handle it! However, please go easy on over manipulation. You don’t wanna cause unnecessary stress or breakage.
As for hairstyles, remember, when I referenced side cuts, hair tattoos, bold hair dyes as big no-no’ for corporate workplaces? Well, these are the types of styles you could wear in creative or artistic work environments. Where would those places be?
Work Environments: Art, Music, Writing, Dance. Sports, certain teaching environments, any place that rewards individuality and uniqueness.
I called this group conventional in the sense that your hair should look reasonably cared for and styled. You know, like when you make an effort to step outside the house and look presentable. Yeah, this is the group! Nothing too fancy, nothing too crazy, but trying to avoid the crazy mad professor look who fidgeted in bed all night and didn’t get to do her hair (yeah, I still see a few of these). You know, just the everyday-old-you… and no, I don’t mean plain-old-you. I told you our hair can’t do that.
In fact, for me, this is the group that is right in the middle but can move sideways into the artistic or corporate end of the scope. How much freedom you’ll have to play or tone down your hairstyles will depend on how far away your work environment moves from the centre.
In this group, buns, twist, braids and their versions, updos, Afros, puffs, wash and go’s and other regular everyday styles are good to go, as long as they’re groomed. But, as said before, you can also expand your creativity or constrict it, you know, put some spice in it.
Work Environments: Secretarial, Counselor, Teaching, Coaching, Sales, etc.
I know there are a few repeat faces in here, but they’re that good! Have you checked them out?! No?!? Seriously! Then check Naptural85, Chime Edwards and MahoganyCurls on YouTube or Instagram, they are just 3 of my favourite vloggers.
As you can see natural hair can look good in any professional setting. What doesn’t look good is people’s ignorance and prejudice. You just need to match professional hairstyles to your work environment. Luckily, the stigma against natural African hair is now being challenged as an increasing number of women take the plunge into their natural roots and are welcomed by a strong and growing community of naturals.
So, if you’re taking your first steps into transition or sleeping over it, you don’t need to feel overwhelmed by the uncertainty of what your hair will be like, look like or if it will comply with professional standards. You can totally nail professional natural hairstyles while transitioning and when completely natural.
If you need some initial tips to get you started on your journey read this post. It will give you some pointers on the do’s and don’ts of your transition to help you care for your hair’s needs. No hair can look good when it’s damaged!