Dreadlocks in the Workplace

Question: Do you think dreadlocks should be accepted in corporate America?

Luke Visconti’s Ask the White Guy column is a top draw on DiversityInc.com. Visconti, the founder and CEO of DiversityInc, is a nationally recognized leader in diversity management. In his popular column, readers who ask Visconti tough questions about race/culture, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability and age can expect smart, direct and disarmingly frank answers.

Ask the White Guy Luke ViscontiQuestion:
Do you think dreadlocks should be accepted in corporate America?



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  • Absolutely not ! as an African American who was born and raised in a low income housing community in Mobile Alabama where differences was defined by social economical factors such as what type of clothing you wore, where you lived, dressed, and what type of car you drove. Back then there wasn’t a lot of weight placed on education or legal employment that would have defined us in a more positive light. It was only when I graduated from college that it began to set in that if I really wanted a good job, it had to be something about me that would set me apart from the negative stereotype that dreads locks and tattoos presents. My mother and father always told me that absolutely nothing beats a clean-cut, well groomed man and quit frankly, dreads do not look neat, clean, or professional. A Clean-cut Individual can survive almost any negative stereotype placed on us in the work place and it’s the most durable, internationally time tested look in the world. She also said if I wanted to reach the top, dress and carry myself like the person whose job I wanted to have one day. In other words, if the boss wasn’t kicking it with an Afro or Dreads it might be a good idea for me as well. Finally, The Top CEO OF AMERICA a well groomed black man understood this more perfectly growing up; that why he is The President, Commander and Chief of the greatest nation in the world. I say no to dreads !

    • The Commander-in-Chief actually had a Black man with dreadlocks interning in the White House. His name is Brian Terrell. Terrell has interned at the White House’s Office of Presidential Correspondence and has worked for Jen Mason, who serves as the deputy chief of staff for the Office of Personnel Management.

    • Maybe you should say yes to dreads. The problem with your philosophy is that you create a dynamic where Black people are only tolerable if and only if they perfectly conform to white standards of aesthetics. If a white employer hires and person with dreads and sees that they work as efficiently as anyone else, then the stereotype is debunked. If perception is never challenged, there never will be social change.

  • I am saddened by the fact that any person especially one of ethnic origin would say that it is acceptable to be judged based on your hairstyle. As long as hair is properly groomed, professional and neat there is no reason why it should be unacceptable. We all know that racism exists however, that doesn’t mean that we should comply to what someone thinks is what we should be doing. If our ancestors had these attitudes towards our natural GOD given features our identities would be completely lost. I am thankful for the individuals who embrace their ethnicity and dispell the stereotypes that exist in reference to hair. I am absolutely sure that there are (as the guest put it clean cut and well groomed individuals) without dreadlocks or tattoos who are dishonest and for the record why would I want to kick it with someone who is judging a book by the cover!

    • I agree wholeheartedly with your reply. I am an older woman trying to find work now since I was laid off. I started growing dreadlocks over a year and a half ago. They are shoulder length now. I am of a mindset that if I wear my hair a certain way, if I dress a certain way, it has to be neat and pleasing to the eye. With that said, I have seen many many suit wearing guys wearing dreadlocks that were well-kept, did not look dirty or matted and I just feel it did not take anything away from them. We should not be told how to wear our hair but keeping that in mind, if we are working in corporate america, keep it neat and well groomed. I have extremely good skills and have passed all tests with flying colors yet I have not landed a job yet. I know I am also dealing with the age issues, but wearing my hair in locks I think is also a deterrent for some employers. Nevertheless, I do not intend to cut my hair. I will just continue to look. There is someone out there who will see that I can get the job done and that is when I will GET THE JOB! I now live in Charlotte and even though there appear to be more dreadlocks worn here than in New York where I am from, I do not believe they are as accepting of them.

  • Well peole I’m here to tell you all that I work currently in Charlotte , in Corp America and yes at first people did look at me funny but I really think it all has to do you with your attitude and how you carry yourself. I’m a 12 year Pharmacy Techinican and currently being trained as Clinical Data Analyst. Every day I wear my locks differently. Up, down, half up, with hair wraps.. you’ve seen it done , I’ve worn it work. I carry myself with elegance and very professional . I do not speak in any other way then how the Lord Created me to speak and am very respectful to others. Honeslty , I really dont think it’s what you carry on the top of your head verses what you carry INSIDE your head. And to top it off.. I’m Puerto Rican . So if you think that only “clean cut” is they way to work yourself into a leading role in Corprate America you would be sadly dissapointed. This is 2014 not 1914. Wake up people dont follow the hype , make a way !

    • Yes! I absolutely agree with Juliana. I moved from NYC to Mississippi and have not felt that my locs have held me back in any way. I carry myself in a professional and my locs are always presentable (though not always retwisted-which I think many people confuse with “neat”). I’ve worn my hair in its natural state since I was 18 years old and I can’t say it has held me back one bit (though I recognize that others may have had different experiences).

  • I’m a 23yr old Black woman with thick waist length locs and an undercut in the back. I’ve been growing my hair since high school and never had trouble landing jobs in retail, hospitality, or administration. A few places asked that I take out my nose ring, but no one ever said anything negative about my hair. Usually I get compliments from customers and coworkers alike! I wear them in a high pony, bun, or French braid to keep them off my neck and out of the way. Even when I worked at Saks, BCBG, and Banana Republic, managers complimented my aesthetic and ability to fit the brand. The world is changing. Hygeine and grooming is obviously important, but as a black woman, if I do nothing to my hair, it will lock. That’s natural! Why judge me for what my hair likes to do naturally? No one gets mad about acne, crooked teeth, curly hair, cowlicks, freckles, or pudgy bellies! Lol. Focus on appropriate/modest dress code, hygeine, work ethic, professionalism, experience, and ambition.

  • I’m a 41 year old black female in Louisiana who has been recently looking for work with dreads.. I’ve been growing for three years now & been unemployed for about 7 months now.. I’ve worked in the corporate world for most of my work life & this has been the longest it has ever taken for me to find a job.. Some are telling me its because of my dreads.. I sometimes feel that way, after several interviews I’ve went on & I also felt like we are still dealing with racism.

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