Is Our Hair a Part of the Requirement?



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By Katie Wallace

Imagine going to a job interview and being told that you are required to wear your hair “out and in a straight style”. If this was me, I would stare at my employer, giggle and ask them if my hair looks like it can be worn straight. To be asked such a question in 2016 sounds pretty medieval, right? Well, this was the case with 20-year-old Akua Agyemfra of Toronto, Ontario. Akua was reportedly sent home after her employer asked her to wear her hair “down and straight”, regardless of her hair having already been pulled back into a neat bun.

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Now when it comes to the topic of black hair, many do not understand the science of it all. There is so much more to these strands than what meets the eye. Black hair grows out instead of down for example and our length is displayed in how big our hair gets.


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Our hair does not grow straight from the root, it curls and coils from root to tip. The strands are often thicker than non-blacks, so in order for hair to remain straight the use of chemical relaxers are used. And even at that point our hair does not easily blow in the wind, it often remains pretty structured even in its straightest form.


When it comes to the work place every job seems to have one requirement, and that is to wear your hair in a “neat and tamed style”. Now, there are a few things wrong with that requirement: what would be deemed as an acceptable tamed hairstyle? Is there a different category of neat depending on the different textures individuals may have? There's clearly an issue here.


To a black woman, an afro or braids might be seen as a go to hairstyle that is neat, stylish and full of personality. But, to others, it is often not seen as such. An afro may be perceived as wild, nappy, untamed and distracting. Braids are either too long or the colors may be too loud. Weaves and wigs are criticized for the curls being too big or the length too outrageous or-- my personal favourite--the color is “unnatural.” At the end of the day, it seems as though there is always something unacceptable about black hair, unless of course we wear it straight.


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So unless these guidelines are broader than what meets the eye, it seems pretty clear that black hairstyles are not exactly covered in the “ideal” workplace hairstyle requirement.

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