By Julie J. Wiggins
In the past couple of years, there has been an increase in women becoming natural. I know, that statement in itself is quite interesting. ‘How can you BECOME natural when you already are born that way?’ Great question. Well lately, the term ‘natural’ has been used in the context of someone wearing their hair in its natural state. In other words, wearing their hair the way it grows out of their scalp. That means no perms, no texturizers, no hair extensions, and no wigs.
In America, especially in business and government, a professional appearance is key in the workplace. For women of ethnic background that are, or are considering, wearing their natural tresses, professionalism is a big factor. Some people would not consider an afro or braids to be professional; regardless of the attire. They would probably suggest the person run a hot comb or flat iron through their hair. Who knows? But Washington, D.C. is known for being surrounded by the federal government and businesses, so this is an important topic of discussion in our region. So the question is, “When ethnic women wear their hair in its natural state, is it professional or not?”
For example, in recent events, there was a seven-year-old girl who was forced to leave her elementary school only because she wore her hair in dreadlocks. The school’s policy considers dreadlocks and afros to be faddish hairstyles and unacceptable. Now, I don’t see how wearing your hair the way it naturally grows a fad. Personally, I’ve known people to wear dreadlocks for decades. Although this happened in Tulsa, Oklahoma, it is still a concern for the whole nation. If there is such a policy in education, what does that say for the policies in our businesses and government? Isn’t school supposed to prepare us for the workplace? Well, I consider that incident to be a poor example of proper preparation.
I am pleased to announce that I have not experienced this stigma in our nation’s capitol. Since I’ve lived in Washington, D.C. for over two years, I have seen a wide array of ethnic women in different businesses and in the courthouses that wore their hair naturally. It is not an issue as long as it is worn neatly; which is the circumstance with any hairstyle. Along with the proper attire, professionalism is not difficult to achieve for a Naturalista.
I am also a Naturalista myself. After wearing a perm since I was nine years old, I decided that would be the better choice for me to cut my hair, and focus on keeping it natural. I have nothing against those who choose to perm their hair, but years of damaged, thinning, and stunted growth was just not working for me. But that is a story in itself.
With the rise of naturals, in men as well, the natural hair industry is increasing. There are more natural hair salons and natural hair products that focuses on the needs of this growing industry. Maybe the increase will open the minds of those who cannot fathom the thought of an afro, braids, or dreadlocks as being professional enough to wear in the workplace. Until then, I will enjoy the progress we have made so far.