I can’t deny the love I have for my afro hair, it is a symbol of who I am but – it’s such a shame that I did not know my real hair texture until last year. Since birth, my hair had been chemically altered to become straight. I did not know how my own hair felt and I didn’t accept it. The unnerving thing is that I may be forced to wear my hair straight hair in work environment; to hide myself because my hair doesn’t look professional.
Employers can apply dress codes for their workers and at times women with an afro are told to either wear a wig or straighten their hair to look professional. Even when women with afro hair are allowed to wear their hair they get unnecessary zoo-like questions like: “Can I touch it? Do you wash it? Is it dirty and why is it so big?” Its hair, not an artifact in a Museum!
To take care of hair, certain styles need to be adopted as the hair is less likely to retain moisture. This means either cornrows (a form of braiding) or protective styling of the hair. However cornrowing hair has been connected with gangsters and criminals; “the bad guys”. Should hair that is associated with crime be used in a professional environment? Why was the hairstyle associated with crime in the first place?
Moreover, African hairstyles which were seen as ugly-like cornrows and Bantu knots when done on African women are now being seen as trendy because the fashion gurus deem it fashionable. Just because these styles don’t lean towards a certain beauty standard doesn’t mean they aren’t beautiful.
Correct me if I am wrong, but I have never seen a presenter on BBC, ITV1, or Channel 4 with afro hair. Back in 2011, Samira Ahmed a senior channel 4 presenter quit her job after her boss said her hair was scruffy and her hair isn’t even as kinky as afro hair. (Don’t get any ideas kinky means a high intensity of curls or a tight curl pattern)
About 6 months ago, Nicola Thorpe from Hackney who works at a consultancy firm, was encouraged to go back home to wear a weave to disguise her afro hair. She also said she was not taken seriously.
What happens to me then? What will my future look like? Will I be told to hide my hair? If I want to wear a wig it should be my choice but I don’t want to be forced to wear it. I want to be a presenter with my big kinky/curly hair but that might not be the case because job security comes before appearance.
Hair is for everyone – it is also a means of expressing yourself. Nobody should be told otherwise. Although an afro isn’t just for those of African Descent, an afro is big and fuzzy and people of all races have this kind of hair even though it is not as kinky as a traditional African style.
Written by Ayomide Alli