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Don’t Police Our Curls: There is Nothing Unprofessional About Curly Hair

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at U Maine chapter.

Go to Google and type in “Professional Hairstyles.” What do you see? It’s a plethora of white women with straight or wavy hair. Now change that Google search to “Unprofessional Hairstyles.” Notice something? It’s all black women with their natural hair.

And it’s not just Google. Zara was recently under fire for telling an employee that her box braids were unprofessional in the workplace. Natural hair in the military often leads to issues. Newscasters are given strict standards for their appearances and this includes hair. Think about the women with curly hair in movies? They’re either stereotypical hippies or the awkward girls waiting to get made over. Drybars are opening up all over the place so women can pop in and have their hair looking polished (and professional).

What the hell? Women of all colors with curls are being penalized for the way their hair naturally grows. It’s incredibly unfair that there’s yet another way a women’s professionalism is being measured by her appearances. I say that instead of giving in and frying our poor hair to death, we tell them where they can stick that hair straightener.

I’ve always had crazy, kinky, thick, bouncy curls. My mother likes to tell people that when I was born, I already had a crown of little tight curls. I can’t imagine myself without them now, but it wasn’t always that way.

When I was in third grade, my mother signed me up for swim lessons. Partly because I needed to learn how to swim eventually, but also because we had moved to a new town and I had yet to really make any friends. People had their friendships established and weren’t looking for any new additions. There were a group of girls in my swim class that were always together. All three had shiny, straight blonde hair and adorable one piece suits with ruffles. I was a little self conscious in my plain blue suit, but they were always giggling and seemed like fun. Boy, was I wrong. Those girls made it their personal mission to make sure not only that I knew that I was different, but that I was in no way welcome to their party. Of all the teasing, one focus of theirs stood out the most- my hair. My thick dark curls were the complete opposite of theirs.

My hair had been a source of embarrassment for me as soon as I started school and would continue to be for years. The chlorine of the pool just made my hair bigger and frizzier, it was a mess. One day after swim, the girls were chatting and combing out their hair after showering off. I took out my comb and tried to join them and they turned and laughed. One of the girls lifted a dark curl, clearly mine and shrieked “Ew! Someone is getting their pubes everywhere! That is so gross!” (Side note: do most third graders know about pubic hair?) They weren’t the last to make fun of it. Through middle and high school I endured jokes about poodles and cotton balls, and wore my hair in a bun for nearly ten years. When I straightened my hair people would tell me how it looked better and reinforced what at that point I truly believed; my hair was ugly and therefore so was I.

I know I’m not the only curly haired woman with a story like that. We live in a society where loving yourself unapologetically is a radical thing. Today, I couldn’t feel more differently about my hair. I love my curls, they’re one of the things that make me who I am. And if an employer doesn’t see it that way? Then I have no interest in working for them.


Terry Shortt is a fourth year Journalism major minoring in WGS Studies and Creative Writing at the University of Maine. In her free time she enjoys writing, reading, playing dress up, crafting, and eating. She fancies herself to be a sex positive, feminist, Martha Stewart. She enjoys the simple pleasures in life, like warm summer nights and perfect cat-eyes.
Kate Berry is a fourth-year journalism major at the University of Maine in Orono. She loves reading about the latest trends and events.