Sunday, March 2, 2008

To Lock or Not....

A reader sent me this inquiry by e-mail: "I am entering the the corporate culture as an accountant and I have biased thoughts as to if I should lock my hair or not....."

Yep...I remember this one. As I stated in my previous post, one year ago when I was contemplating locks myself, I was also unemployed. So, not only was I concerned about how I would pay for my locks' installation and maintenance, I was concerned about how it would affect my job search and interview process.

I had made the decision to lock and I was certain that it would not be an issue with my current employer. Our dress code was business casual every day and jeans on Friday and a lot of the employees were African-American. However, when I knew I would have to start looking for a new job, I began to worry about my hair being yet another variable to perhaps tip the scales - and not in my favor.

What to do?

It weighed very heavily on my mind! But I decided to do it anyway. I decided - in my heart - that I did not want to work for any company or corporation that would not be accepting of my natural hair and that was that.

I would not begin to say that every work environment is lock-friendly, but I can definitely say that in my personal experience, they never seemed to have any impact on how I was perceived. I don't feel like I ever lost out on any opportunities on account of my natural hairstyle.

I do think lock acceptance depends on several factors, like the region of the country one inhabits and how many black people there are in the area. I think an even bigger factor is how the locked individual carries him or herself.

Are you otherwise well-dressed and well-groomed? Do you speak intelligently and with confidence? Do you have a stable work history, solid resume and relevant work experience? I think employers today are much more concerned about those factors.

That having been said, corporate culture varies widely from company to company. There are still accounting firms, law firms, and other organizations that have extremely conservative views on many things.

My opinion is this: if you present yourself professionally, your locks should not hinder your job search in any field. If you want to be a lawyer, a doctor, an accountant, or banker - in general - your well-maintained and tastefully styled locks should not be a problem.

However, I do add this caveat: Anyone seeking a job with a specific company (if you are set on working there) should try to do some research on their individual culture and whether natural styles are welcome. Sometimes even within a generally open company there is an individual department head who is known for holding certain prejudices. At that point it is up to you to decide how badly you want that particular job with that particular company.

My locks do still look a little bohemian sometimes when I wear them loose. (I have a fine, curly textured hair and all it takes is for a little wind to blow through and it's all over my head! And I'm in the habit of tousling them a lot and playing with them when I haven't put them up.)

So whenever I have a business meeting or event where I think my contacts or audience might be especially conservative, I do put my hair up. I wear it in a bun or french roll. Even with straight hair, I tend to think that these types of styles present a more business-like image.

I have not had one single minute of regret about having started my locks. I cannot say that they have had any negative impact on any area of my life, least of all my employment opportunities. I have found them to be a total non-issue, even though I am often the only person of color in a room. I get compliments on them all the time - from all sorts of people.

So, dear reader, I say: Go for it!


dreamangel75 said...

I agree with your thoughts! I worked for a large management consulting firm and had no issues with my locked hair. I even wore my hair natural prior to locking (wore styles like two-strand twist and little 'fro). I think the way one carries him/herself is a factor to consider too.

Anonymous said...

I remember back in college, my boss told me I wouldn't be accepted in the professional community if I stayed natural. At that time my hair was loose. This pushed me further away from the option to perm.

I also so GO FOR IT!!

Anonymous said...

I meant to say...I also say GO FOR IT!!

Goodnapps said...

I couldn't have said it better if I wanted to.

Shavonne said...

I worry about being able to find employment if I lock my hair. Most of the people telling me not to do it are black folks. My mother is the biggest opposer.

Lakia said...


Aya said...

It never even crossed my mind if I would have problem at work as a result of locking. Luckily. I've not experienced any problems. The opposite has been the case. I get comments often, even from white folks.

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blackstone said...

Excellent post, i know alot of women and men for that matter are very scared to have their hair natural when entering corporate america, it is very conservative. i'm glad you didn't let that stop you