I finally choose to let my hair be "free" at work & this is what happened...
As the natural hair movement continues to grow in the black community everyday, women are becoming more comfortable with embracing their curls/kinks/coils and are bashing the notion that it is unruly or unpleasant. There is no doubt that I take pride in wearing my natural hair daily. I have tons of styles I really enjoy doing such as braid outs, twist outs, perm rod sets, puffs, bantu knots- you name it i’ve tried it.
I’ve been working in beauty/cosmetics for about a year and a half now. You would think that people would be a lot more open to different styles in the beauty industry but unfortunately that was never really the case in the stores I worked in previously. At Bloomingdales (the location I will not disclose) for some reason no matter what style I choose to go for I always feel a sense of hesitation about wearing it “out” to work. When I say “out” I mean completely free. No puffs, no braids going back, no hair pinned to the side; I mean allowing my hair to lay in whatever direction it wants in its most natural way possible. I felt “safer” pulling my hair back or up in some way for work. The majority of my coworkers were of latino decent and did not have nearly the same type of hair texture as I did. You know when someone “compliments” you and you can sense that tone of sarcasm in the persons voice. Maybe not even sarcasm but a tone of “i’m just saying this to cover the way I really feel”. I experienced that a lot with customers and coworkers on a daily basis- even when my hair was pulled back. It never tested my confidence or caused me to feel ashamed about my hair, however, when you work in the beauty industry people typically choose the shop with a person who they feel is more appealing (its sad, but true). I always felt that if my hair was out in the state that was unappealing to most- I would miss out on sales.
As many of you know I just recently started a new job as a Beauty Stylist at Bloomingdales’ biggest rival store- Nordstrom. Instantly on my first day I felt the dynamics of the store was very different. The location may have a big influence on this because Bloomingdales was located in a heavy latino populated area where as the Nordstrom is located in a much more diverse metropolitan city. For my first training day I wore my hair pulled up in a sleek bun (as pictured) just so that I could feel out the style of the store. It was already very different from Blooimgdales because at Bloomingdales we were very limited in what we could wear. Nordstrom’s dress code is pretty laid back for the most part and they value allowing employe’s to show of their styles and display diversity. To my surprise of the 10 people in the new hire group- 4 of us were black. The other 6 were not all one race either. Two of them were Russian, one was Swedish, one was Latino, and the other was Caucasian. It was very cool to see the diversity in the room. As training went on and we were able to explore the store- I was surprised to see lot’s of other sisters on the sales floor! Many of them were rocking their natural hair as well and I was so excited to see that.
After being able to feel out the store- I decided on the third day of training that I would wear my hair completely “free” (as pictured). I wanted to do it mostly for myself because I was so shy about doing so at Bloomingdales, but also to see what kinds of reactions I would get from coworkers and customers. Remember that sense of sarcasm I mentioned earlier? To my surprise- I did not encounter that feeling not once the entire day.
Starting off first thing in the morning with training again at 8:30am, the first group of people I saw were my fellow new hires. Of course my 3 sisters in the room were the most excited to see my wear hair out. Two of them are actually in the transitioning stage so I was able to talk to them and give them some tips based on my journey. The other girls in the room were SUPER pressed to touch my hair (not to my surprise) and thankfully they were really polite about doing so and did not just shove their hands in without permission. They complimented the lecture and softness of my hair in what seemed to be a very sincere and genuine way. They were saying things like “I wish my hair could do that!” and “Your hair is so unique!”. Even the store manager who was training us for the day complimented my hair and told me never to wear it pulled back again!
Customers on the sales floor reacted in the same way. Unlike my experience at Bloomingdales; my hair actually ATTRACTED
people to come shop with me which made me feel so good. I was able to sell them some of the natural hair lines Nordstrom now offers. Not only did my hair bring attention to my aseptic, but as people would come closer to me they would also see my skin/makeup and ask questions about that too- which led to even more sales. It’s crazy how different areas react differently to the idea of embracing natural hair in the workplace. In reality, how I dress and or how I choose to wear my hair and should never indicate to you my capacity to fulfill a job. I am fortunate to now be in a business setting where my hair actually works with me to my advantage- but not all work places in America are as accepting; although they should be.