This week was a milestone for me.
This week, for the first time ever, I wore my hair to work in its natural, curly state.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been TO work with the afro out, but only as a visitor, not actually working on the shop floor. It’s either been straight, or tied back into a messy, curly, afro bun.
My hair has a confused identity because of the common perception that natural hair is not professional.
As a doctor, from an infection control perspective, I would normally tie my hair back, particularly if working on a neonatal unit, but currently, the freedom of working in a job with a significant proportion based in outpatient clinics has led me to wonder what I’ve been so afraid of in wearing my curls free.
My Hair Story
Well, I’d gotten this far and I was never ging to be this crazy again, so I decided to dye my stubble blonde.
I played around with hairstyles – from simple cornrows, to a lighter tone pick and drop braid style, to an all out brown weave as a treat…
..To the present day work looks – straight hair styled into a simple bun, or the messier, Afro bun version…
In The Media
For many years, persons of colour have conformed to the Caucasian stereotype of straightening their unruly hair into manicured, relaxed dos and weaves. But recently, there has been a wave of non conformism, a wave of noveau natural hair sweeping the United States of America. And that wave has arrived in the United Kingdom.
There are loads of articles sweeping about on natural hair and its acceptance in the workplace: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-36279845
And yet. how does that affect me? Why do I feel so self conscious about my hair?
I’m sure you’ve read about the story of the person who Googled ‘unprofessional hairstyles’ to see an array of Afros and other natural hairstyles, compared with the search for ‘professional hairstyles’ encompassing many straight, Caucasian dos.
What does it say, in this day and age, where an educated person is afraid to wear their hair in the way that it naturally falls? And more importantly, what message does this send out to youths about the link between our natural selves and our projected image?
So what happened when I went to work?
I held my curly head high and took a deep breath.
And was met with a barrage of ‘your hair looks AMAZING!’ ‘Never seen your hair like that before!’
And my answer, at least in my head, is that I still don’t like my hair.
I don’t like the way that the curls are never perfectly defined.
I don’t like the way that if I sleep on it, my curls are immediately squashed out of place.
I don’t like the fact that I have to cover it in product to make it look ‘presentable’.
And then I realised something – maybe it’s not just teenage girls who are guilty of looking at Instagram, comparing themselves to idealised versions of other people.
But I’m still saving up for a trip to Errol Douglas or Charlotte Mensah…and that’s ok, as long as I can realise that my hair is beautiful in it’s own way too.