You may just get a funny look or a strange stare that lasts just a few seconds too long. But then come the comments — some are curious, while others can be crushing!
That's what it can be like to have curly or kinky hair in corporate America.
Embracing your curls in the workplace may have its challenges. But experts say it’s the way you handle those challenges that determines how your curls are accepted on the job.
“A lot of people with curly hair have had this pressure to conform to the standards of beauty that are often put forth in fashion magazines and the corporate world, like the image of the woman who is very controlled with stick-straight hair, no frizz,” says Titi Branch, one of the founders of Miss Jessie’s Salon and hair care products in Brooklyn, N.Y. “Unfortunately, as a result, it has meant that curlies have had to straighten their hair to conform with what they thought was the ideal in corporate America. But people have started to change.”
In our multicultural society, there are more images of people with different hair textures than ever before, and trend trackers say it’s no longer cool to just have straight hair.
“People have decided that they’re tired of spending all the time to change what they are naturally,” Branch says, “And they want to embrace who they are and express themselves.”
With family and friends, you’re supported — you can do it. But embracing your curls in a conservative workplace can be more daunting for closet curlies, who’ve been fastened to their flat iron for years and fear their curls will be called into question.
Here, curl-centric stylists reveal five steps to proudly transition your curls into a corporate environment.
1. EXPERIMENT, EXPERIMENT, EXPERIMENT!
If you’ve always stifled your curls in a stick-straight style, curl experts suggest testing out new curly dos before you walk into the workplace.
“Experiment with products on the weekends or on vacation, when you have a chance to connect with yourself,” Branch says. “Get a good curly hair referral. Do all those things first, so you feel good about your curls within yourself.”
Stylists emphasize that taking care of your hair is yet another important way to take of yourself. Presentation means a lot in business, and your hair is part of that polished presentation.
“If maybe your curls aren’t being managed as best as they could, then it’s time to do some research and find out what works for you first,” says Betty Di Salvo, stylist and partner of The Curl Ambassadors in Toronto, Ontario, a salon whose stylists specialize in curly hair.
2. SEEK OUT A SAVVY STYLE
“In Corporate America, when they think of curly hair, they may think of wild or unruly hair, so the key is to keep your curls in a neat, tidy and controlled way,” says Diane DaCosta, curl expert and author of "Textured Tresses." “Any style you choose that will reflect that—and still show your curls—will be fine.”
For example, if your curls are constantly falling in your face and you can’t do your work, DaCosta suggests using a clip or a band to gently pull the top back.
“Now, if your hair is curly, but it’s wild and frizzy, and you don’t try to tame it, yes, people are going to say something,” DaCosta says. “Don’t just go into work thinking, ‘This is my hair and I’m going to do anything I want!’ It doesn’t give you carte blanche to break all the rules.”
Always make sure you’re following your company's general guidelines for grooming!