A recent Huffington Post editorial has reignited conversations around women of color who opt to wear their natural hair at work.
Victoria Hoffman, who admitted that she is often “the only Black person in all-white spaces,” said that being natural has come with its challenges, specifically at her workplace where she constantly feels the need to explain or address her hair.
“My natural hair would be the natural choice to wear to work if I wanted, but for some reason, it can be viewed as sloppy, distracting, or unprofessional,” Hoffman wrote. “Honestly, I should be allowed to list my upwards of $3,500 annually haircare costs as a tax write-off since it’s low-key required if you want to exist in Corporate America as a POC.”
It is a large part of the reason why the CROWN Act was passed, she believes. The CROWN (Create a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair) Act is a new legislation recently passed in 2019, that outlaws discrimination based on hair style or texture.
While Hoffman knew the new law was groundbreaking, she hinted at knowing that it would still be a struggle for her to wear natural styles she loved – mainly because of work.
“I wore hip-length knotless box braids to work, we might as well have called an emergency company meeting about it,” she wrote.
Her new workplace as an executive assistant was trendy, innovative and diverse, so she thought nothing of it. Prior to her work at the office, she worked at a corporate finance firm, where she would stick to a “mid-back, straight, non-threatening sew-in.”
“But this new office was trendy and fashionable! We could wear stylish sneakers and bright nails,” Hoffman wrote. “People here got it, yet when I walked by my boss (white) one morning, I immediately recognized her quizzical facial expression.”
She continued: “You would assume people could put two and two together when it came to hair extensions. If it’s short one day and long the next, what other explanation could there be? Of course, these are extensions. Her face shifted from confusion to excitement, eventually settling on genuine child-like wonder. She was operating at the same frequency as a puppy gleefully experiencing its first pile of freshly raked leaves. I’ve never seen a person so infatuated by my existence before. She asked if I had free time later, so I could ‘tell her more about my hair.’ I wasn’t sure if this was a joke because what exactly would I tell her? I got braids. I didn’t go on a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Sandals Jamaica.”
All in all, she says the experience taught her many things, but she advises that women be easy on themselves when deciding to wear their hair naturally at work.
“Being emotionally prodded over trivial things about yourself is a rite of passage, so congratulations! You’ve officially received another punch on your Black Card. I’d suggest writing some go-to elevator speeches for moments like these because it’ll happen many times again. Forever!”