Beauty Discussion: It Is OK to Wear Natural Hair in Corporate America?

Reader Che’lise writes, “I recently got an internship with a Senator and I am very nervous about going into his office having just started my natural hair journey. This means no heat, and definitely no perm. I am concerned about how I may be perceived by my fellow interns and most importantly the Senator’s colleagues. I want the opportunity to advance and grow in this position but all I keep hearing is you’re going to need to straighten your hair to be taken seriously amongst the political heavyweights.”

Hey Che’lise! Congrats on your internship! As a fellow naturalista, I’d say that you can rock whatever style you choose, as long as it looks neat and polished. People will most likely judge you more for your work than your hair, but perhaps my outlook is too optimistic (and remember, I work in the zany fashion industry where you can rock a face tattoo and still get a job). At any rate, I was unsure, so I tapped a few of my corporate friends to get their input!

My homegirl Amber who works as an investment banker shared my sentiments, saying, “I would say that everyone has to strike their own balance between expressing themselves and feeling true to themselves and making sure you go to work and are noticed for what you do and say and your work and not how you look. At the end of the day, just make sure you look polished!”

And my homegirl Carmen, a lawyer, offered, “Styled natural hair is probably fine and frankly the people you work with might not know the difference between permed and natural–to them it’s just styled. But, a 6 inch blown out fro is probably not a good idea.”

I say keep it neat and just go about your day…it’s only a big deal when you make it a big deal. I had natural hair my whole life and worked in corporate America. Besides a jacked perm or illfitting/poorly matched wig or busted weave is more noticeable than a regularly “low key” styled head of natural hair!”

Well there you have it, thoughts from three working women.
But we clearly don’t work in Washington, and are not 100% sure of the politics on Capitol Hill.
What do you think?
In 2012, is it ok for women of color to wear their natural hair in a corporate environment?


Claire Sulmers is the publisher and founder of Fashion Bomb Daily, the #43 most influential style blog in the world.