Are Braids "Too Black?"

Spring is here and the temperature is finally rising. For many girls, that means it's time to switch up our hairstyles! To avoid dealing with my thick, high-maintenance natural hair, my style of choice is a traditional sew-in, usually long and straight. I do, however, like to wear box braids every now and then, especially when it gets hot outside... 'cuz nobody got time for that!

I started working at a bank a few months ago and being one of the few black women at my job, wearing my hair long and straight made it easy for me to fit in to the new, corporate environment. But would I fit in the same way if I wore braids? I began doing research because I was worried about how my co-workers would react to such an ethnic style. Surprising enough, the consensus, mainly from other black women, is that braids are "too black" for the workplace.

A black Banana Republic employee was told by her manager that her braids were too urban and unkempt for their store. A bi-racial Zara employee was told that her braids were unprofessional. Even Hollywood actress Gabrielle Union came forward with a story about her black hairstyle being rejected. Clearly, this is an issue black women have been struggling with longer than I've realized. Howard women love a good twist out, but when I step off campus, it is rare for me to see black women embracing their natural hair that way. I'm so used to seeing girls perming and pulling back their hair to appear more presentable. But it's one thing to "tame" your hair because you want to, it's another thing if you're doing it to conform.

We were born with kinks and curls and braids are a part of our culture. But we wouldn't dare go to a job interview with those styles; We alter it in order to appear more professional. "The idea that how you wear your hair somehow relates to your character, your intelligence, or your wokeness is bullshit," said Gabrielle Union. I couldn't have said it better myself. The fact that I even hesitated to get braids because of fear of judgment goes to show how we've been manipulated into believing that we are not good enough and we have to change our appearance. I have no doubt that black men, those who wear dreads, for example, experience the same thing.

Moral of the story, I got the braids. While I got several compliments from customers, my co-workers commented that I looked "different." I decided to take that as a compliment too.