hair for corporate america
Hairstyles

The Best Hairstyles For Corporate America

My Story

I was 16 when I had my very first job interview. At the time, I lived in a small town, with a variety of individuals occupying the space. I was so focused on finding a part-time job to sustain me while I was in high-school. I was tired of my allowance depleting with every year I got older. It was time to get a job and be independent.

While I was a teenager, I didn’t do too much for my hair. I refrained from getting styles like weave, or wigs, partially because my mother didn’t approve. I also didn’t have the funds to maintain it.

So, as a young teen, I was always rocking a new braid style. I thought I would run out of techniques, but braid stylists are more crafty than you think. After applying to some jobs in the area, I finally got a call for an interview. My hair was not braided, so I was rocking a fro. At the time, I wasn’t well-versed in the world of haircare. My fro wasn’t the best looking, but it got the job done.

Is Natural Hair An Issue?

I never thought to wear my natural hair would be an issue until after my first interview to be a pharmacy tech while in high-school. At the pharmacy, I initially applied in person while having braids. Everyone seemed very friendly towards me, and I had a feeling I would get the job. However, when I went back, that same friendliness had seemed to disappear. I thought, “Did I do something wrong? Did they hire someone else?” I had no clue what had happened.

I then spoke with my mother who is the expert at being presentable for corporate America. She told me that what had changed was my hair. Due to my hair change my potential employer’s impression of me had changed also.

work hair

Hair In The Workplace

It’s not every day in a society that we encounter employers that are not somewhat accepting of our natural hair. However, the issue is still standard in workplaces, especially in corporate workplaces. Most corporate workplaces desire to have a “prototype” employee. This means that they want all their employees to represent them similarly. Usually, this entails that everyone must be professional, and well kept.

No matter the reason, many of us have probably been told that our natural, curly, colored and “wild hair” is not acceptable in the workplace. While this conclusion can be unsettling, it doesn’t mean that we are defeated. Instead, it highlights just how versatile we are and how we can adapt to almost any situation.

If you’re dealing with this issue and wondering what you can do to maintain your hair and preserve your job, we have some tips and tricks for you to make it through and still feel fabulous.

corporate hair

Braids

Braids are a great style for a corporate job. There are a variety of braid styles to help you to feel fabulous while still looking professional at work.

If you’re looking for something sleek and simple, a ponytail braid style is suitable. If you’re someone that hasn’t tried braids before, its best to start with individuals. A ponytail braid style on a newbie could be more painful than expected. If you are tender-headed, which entails that you are sensitive to any hairdo that requires brushing, braiding, or pulling your hair, make sure that your pair up with a stylist that can accommodate you as much as possible without hurting you.

Even though adding color to braids is easy, and fun to do, its best to wear a natural color that isn’t bright or eye-catching for corporate. As mentioned before, there are plenty of braid styles that you can achieve that are both fun, and professional including individual braids, goddess braids, braided bun, braided ponytail, a braided updo style with hair left out at the top, and so on.

There are so many options for you to choose from and if you like braids, this is a great way to maintain your hair in the workplace. Typically, depending on which stylist you choose, braids can cost from $80 – $200 per braiding session and last 6-12 weeks. A good thing is they don’t require much upkeep.

braid up do

Weave

If you’re someone that likes weave and don’t mind the maintenance of this style then wearing one for work is probably best for you. While looking to get a weave suitable for your workplace, it is essential to do research. Obtaining and maintaining this style has a great deal to do with your stylist. Finding a good stylist is crucial.

Weave styles vary and have recently evolved into an art form. Nowadays, when someone has a great weave, you can hardly tell that it’s not their real hair. Weaves can look magical when done correctly. However, they are costly, especially if you want the best look possible.

For a corporate environment, it’s best to get something sleek. A straight, neutral colored, weave style is suitable and easy to maintain since it won’t require much styling. Weaves can cost around $400-$1400 depending on the type of hair you chose and the install costs. If you’re looking for some excellent quality hair, Private Label Extensions is the place for you!

middle part sew in

Wigs

There’s so much to say about wigs, but the most important fact is that they require the least amount of daily maintenance. Wigs are easy to maintain because they are removable, meaning that once you get home, you can give your head a break. Wigs are great as long as  you consistently take care of your hair underneath. You can still wear your natural hair once you leave work without having to go through a lengthy process to rock it.

Wigs are also great if you don’t have the time or money to maintain a consistent look, and just want something simple. Of course, with any bomb look, you’ll need to spend a pretty penny to get what you sincerely wish, but it’ll be worth it if you get it made correctly.

My experiences with wigs have always been beneficial to my healthy hair journey, and when I was working a corporate position, I had no issues at all.

There are a variety of wig styles to choose from. If you’re looking for something that will last longer, you’ll need to purchase a wig that isn’t synthetic. Synthetic wigs tend to tangle quickly, and usually last about 3-12 weeks with exceptional care. Virgin hair wigs from Private Label Extensions can be used for a year or more if taken care of correctly. Make sure you learn how to care of your wig so that you be presentable for that corporate position.

wig with closure

Blow Outs, Deep Conditions, Intense Heat

If you just can’t seem to get into the groove of braids, weaves or wigs, then you do have another option. Given the developments in the hair world, there are ways to transform your hair into a sleek, and silky style without doing too much harm to it. Before the current trend, the go-to look involved perms, but now, you can get a conditioner and have the luxurious style of your dreams.

It’s important to understand that transforming your real hair to fit corporate standards can affect the texture of your natural hair. If you get this look, after a few treatments, you should be able to maintain the look. In most cases, you’ll have to straighten your hair to fully complete the look.

Taking this route of changing your actual hair, rather than using weaves, extensions, or braids, is the least recommended. It’s the least supported because if you value your natural curls, you can risk losing them. If you do decide to take this route, always make sure you go to a hairstylist that you can trust. Try to find a hairstylist that is well-versed in the language of hair-care.

Although this is the least recommended way of achieving your needed looks, some of the side-effects of choosing this approach won’t affect you with the right hairstylist. Make sure that you ask all the necessary questions before just jumping in, and you should be fine!

straight hair

Color For Corporate

With any professional position, bright colors, typically primary colors, are not accepted. If you do want to add some color to your hairdo, make sure to choose a color that doesn’t clash too much with your skin. Stay away from reds, purples, blues, or any colors that don’t look like natural highlights.

If you’re adamant about keeping your color, make sure to ask your employer about their regulations before adding color to your hair. The worst that could happen is that they say no, and you won’t die if they reject your request so you should at least try!

blow out hairstyle

What Not To Do

While trying to obtain this corporate look, it’s crucial never to compromise the health of your hair. Don’t engage in perms or harsh chemicals that can harm your hair. Avoid straightening your natural hair too much to avoid heat damage. Don’t do anything without a proper hair consult.

Make sure that when you do decide to embark on this journey, you’re adequately equipped with the needed tools, and knowledge to ensure you don’t damage your hair. Understand that long-term wear of weaves or wigs can harm your edges and scalp. If you do decide to add some natural looking color to your hair, be mindful of what brands you use and how they can affect your hair. Choose what’s best for you, and what can fit your needs in the most manageable, yet fabulous way possible.

corporate hair

Always Stay True To You

When dealing with the need to change yourself for a particular environment, it’s essential to analyze the situation accurately. Is this something that you want to do? Is this the right setting for you? How important is it to you to be accepted? We all need a way to sustain ourselves, so declining a job because you have to change some parts of yourself probably isn’t the smartest move. Just because you have to change parts of yourself to fit in, doesn’t mean that you’re defeated.

Missing out on a paycheck, especially when it’s needed, isn’t worth the rebellion of choosing to be yourself. You can attempt to incorporate other ways to be yourself in that environment. Yes, you might need to compromise how you want your hair to look. Try to remain faithful to yourself in other ways, it may not feel as bad.

Staying honest to who you are in the workplace isn’t difficult, you’ll just have to be adamant about what you value, and how you can hold those values close to you. In most cases, for any job, we’ll need to change something about ourselves to obtain and keep a job. We have to wear a uniform, get up at an ungodly hour, and possibly work under someone we don’t like. It’s all a part of everyday life.

Even though an employer disliking your natural hair is a flagrant foul, you have to make the best decision for yourself. Assimilate, or rebel. Just know that we’re here to support you, and show you how to maintain that fabulous hair of yours for any occasion.

About Simi Muhumuza

Simi is an undergraduate student at GSU. She is studying psychology, and is an avid black mental health advocate. She is also a poet, and is working on a book that will be released next year. She DJ’s on her spare time, and can be reached on all social outlets as @simimoonlight.

12 thoughts on “The Best Hairstyles For Corporate America

  1. Melissa Smith says:

    Corporate styles are not that difficult. Braids are the most versatile. You can change the style as much as you like and it’s low maintenance. I’ve had braids, wigs and weaves for the workplace! Wigs allow your natural hair to breathe at the end of a long day and is my number one choice for the workplace!

  2. Jadore’ll Avant says:

    I love this article! It has actually taught me some new things. As a recent college graduate, I’m constantly applying for jobs in my field so I always try to keep my hair in styles that I wouldn’t have to worry too much about when it is time for interviews because sometimes I get calls for interviews and they want me there the next day! So I find it easier to just have my hair in a style that I can just put up or pull back for those interviews. Thanks for this!

  3. Malena says:

    This is a very relevant article for naturals in the corporate world. For me personally, I find wigs most helpful for keeping my natural hair protected and giving me different style options.

  4. Ché Luxe says:

    As a recent college graduate from CAU I can definitely relate to this. Coming from an HBCU where the quote “Black Girl Magic” is as popular as Fried Chicken Wednesday’s in the cafeteria, I was so accustomed to seeing braids, locs, twist outs, weave, and wigs that it didn’t occur to me that a lot of these hairstyles are not deemed acceptable in the corporate world. Sadly, our beautiful black coils are seen as a distraction, wild, unkempt, and even dirty to some corporate leaders. Natural hair SHOULD NOT be an issue, but sometimes it can be. My best advice to my natural hair ladies is to play the game, but use cheat codes! Wear styles that compliment your individuality but in the most “European” way possible. Want to wear box braids and locs? Put them up in a bun? Want to wear your natural hair? Slick those coils and edges into a neat low ponytail. Wigs and weaves will almost always be accepted as long as it is a natural color and isn’t too long ! There are so many ways to play the corporate hairstyle game, be yourself, and still win! If you’re the woman that believes she shouldn’t have to mask her natural beauty just to please society, then I support you too! Go ahead and a find a corporate job that doesn’t care about how your natural hair looks in the workplace; you’ll probably be happier there. In summary, a black woman’s hairstyle should never determine if she capable of doing her job; her credentials should! I support all of my natural hair ladies and their journey into the corporate world.

  5. Shannon says:

    This blog really resonated with me. I’ve grown accustomed to being the only African American person in my environment. First I was the only black person in my high school classes. Then my entire college major. Upon landing my co-op, I too was the only person of color in a firm of about 80 people. Going natural my freshman year of college, I struggled with appealing to corporate America. For the longest, I kept my hair in box braids but I still felt that I was hiding. Don’t get me wrong, I love my box braids; but I wasn’t wearing them because I loved them but because I felt that I had to. Returning to the firm a second time I realized that I did not want to work for a company that chastised me for embracing who I was naturally. You wouldn’t believe the relief I felt after my coworkers actually complimented my flexi-rod set, my twist out, and eventually my afro.
    Sadly, many of my natural sisters aren’t fortunate enough to have a firm this welcoming. Box braids are definitely a lifesaver! They’re protective, versatile (rock a bun, a high pony with laid edges, braid them in a fishtail, the options are endless) and “appealing” to those incorporate. Flexi rod sets are also a great step stone to introducing the corporate world to your natural hair. Also, the products that you put into your hair drastically change how “presentable” your natural hair looks! Heat damage, poor deep conditioners or sulfate full shampoos can drastically alter how your natural hairstyles look and are maintained throughout the day. But to all of my natural corporate sisters, you aren’t alone! We got this! And one day we won’t need to police the way we wear our hair.

  6. April Stephens says:

    Great article and can boost confidence to any recent graduate. Thanks for embracing our natural beauty!!

  7. Brittany says:

    I can definitely relate to this article in so many ways. As a young lady who came straight out of college & being able to wear my hair, however, I wanted & then landing my very first corporate job only a couple months after graduation really took a toll on me. Besides just trying to look like “the standard employee” it was also very difficult for me to keep up with my natural hair every day, in addition to traveling a couple hours to work. Knowing that I could not arrive at work looking like a complete mess I began getting protective styles more than I usually Would such as braids, weaves, wash n sets every week. I even Considered chopping all of my hair off *forehead slap*. Regardless though if you are a young woman trying to find how you fit the corporate standard try your best not to feel attacked & just do your hair, however, you like on the weekends, as passive as that may sound lol.

  8. Crystal says:

    Though the article is very informative I still am perplexed by how much a person can be judged by a hairstyle, hair color, natural, braids etc. Why and how hair can have such a huge impact on a person’s character. I’m a stylist but I’m also a Pharmacy Technician & a Medical assistant. As a stylist all hair is acceptable but certain colors, braids and even length has gained negative attention.

  9. Sheena Goodman says:

    I can totally relate to this article. For a very long time, I struggled with hair options. I learned early that all hairstyles were not what some deemed to be “work appropriate” and this actually resulted in me becoming a Plain Jane. I’ve always been into trying new hairstyles and literally changed my hair almost every other week. I had a job that had a strict hair policy which basically boiled down to me wearing my natural hair.

    What I did was develop a strategy for my hair. I have been working in corporate America for 9+ years and I went into my interviews as a plain Jane. Over the years I slowly started making small changes to my hair and getting more and more creative. While there are still things I will not do to my hair, my management knows that I am a creatively expressive person and they look forward to seeing what my next hairstyle will be.

  10. Raquellwashington says:

    I was very curious to see how this topic would be handled and I am pleased with what I read. I am blessed to work with a company that doesn’t have rules on how your hair should be. A lot of my co-workers have multi-color hair, bright colored hair, and I can wear my hair in a fro without judgment.

  11. Allensia Brown says:

    To me knowing how to wear your hair for the different environment is key, because it show versatility. You can do sleek but edgy if you work at Walmart or target and then do boss-chick style in a more upscale environment. Me personally hair is an art form and expressing myself with different styles can give a voice to the voiceless

  12. Melissa Brown says:

    I don’t have my hair natural, but I like to switch hairstyles a lot. I have had co-workers trying to tell me how I should wear my hair. If I wore a bun style they are like do you ever wear your hair down or straight? I feel as long as a person’s hair isn’t all over the place then let people wear their natural hair if they want to. I understand about loud distracting colors though.

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