#WorldAfroDay: How you can help normalise natural hair in the workplace and at school

More and more women are now wearing their hair in its natural state (Photo: Shutterstock)

I remember growing up, the in-thing was to either have your hair permed (chemically straightened), in cornrows or blow dried until it was bone straight. Hairstyles like wearing your hair in its natural kinks and coils was unheard of and mostly considered untidy. Bearing in mind that having your hair plaited all the time isn’t particularly good for growth and health, it was impossible to keep your blowdry looking nice and fresh for more than a few hours after it was done. This meant that hairstyles both in school and in the workplace were restricted to the aforementioned cornrows, weaves (with their straightened strands), chemically-treated hair or for the few who could get away with it, braids.

Dreadlocks were a whole different ball game. They were a big no-no, mostly associated with rebellion. When I first got faux locs upon their introduction into the market, my dad was horrified to put it mildly.

In time these rules have changed. The natural hair movement has made kinky African hair more acceptable and lovable. For the most part, the rules have changed and women, and men, are now more free to wear their hair in its natural state and dreadlocks have become more acceptable.

Even as we embrace these new rules, the corporate world is a whole different ball game. Certain professions and corporations still frown upon natural hairstyles. Women are expected to either have their hair straightened, in neat cornrows or in wigs and weaves for them to be considered professional. It’s not unheard of to get passed up for top positions or even job openings based on how your hair looks like. But who said that the hairstyle you choose to wear is a reflection of your professional prowess?

There's a need to make these hairstyles more acceptable in a professional setting (Photo: Shutterstock)

Normalising natural hair

There’s a huge need for change in this regard. One shouldn’t have to be judged based on their choice of hairstyle. Whether in school or in the office, your hair choices should be viewed more as a personal style preference rather than a definition of your character.

Everyone should be allowed to choose their preferred hairstyle be it to wear their kinks free or in dreadlocks. One way to make this more normal is to stop demonising these hairstyles and instead talk them up. This is the hair we’re born with so we need to love it as it is and learn how to manage it.

There’s plenty of information online on the proper management of natural hair. In the past, the lack of knowledge might have meant that we took whatever information we were given and we had to assimilate it. However, now, with the myriad of tutorials and products made specifically for natural hair that is available, it is easier to understand how to care for our hair and make it look good.

In the corporate world and in schools, restrictions on natural hairstyles need to be revised and people allowed to wear their hair in the way they feel comfortable. We’re Africans after all, and as we embrace our chocolate skin, why not embrace the natural hair that comes with it?

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