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Well dressed black man with a dreadlock ponytail and sunglasses relaxing by a bridge port.

Dreadlocks in the Workplace: How to Wear Dreads Professionally

Natural, black hair like dreadlocks never need to be "fixed." Society's outdated and colonialist views on black people, culture, and their hair need fixing.

But if you are an average black person and choose to wear your hair in its natural and beautiful form, you can't get away with it.

You could be denied employment or fired from your workplace for wearing dreadlocks. In the United States of America, discriminating against someone for wearing dreadlocks is 100% legal.

We at Lion Locs want you to be proud of your natural hair. But be cognizant of the consequences of wearing your natural hair when trying to make a living.

Your dreadlocks are beautiful, ancient, natural, and a part of your identity. And it is easier for a society empowered by institutionalized racism to fear the power that your hair represents, the power to not imitate the aesthetics of the colonizers, than respecting your humanity.

We will offer style advice on how to wear dreadlocks professionally so you can get or keep a job. It's not fair, but the world is not fair. Only seven states have laws that protect against hairstyle discrimination.

Until the American Justice system is fixed, we encourage you to wear your dreadlocks in a way that accentuates your professional attire. Before we discuss that, let's first discuss how we got to this place in American society.

And why you must always be socially vigilant when wearing dreadlocks.

Only buy your organic and natural dreadlock grooming products from Lion Locs.

Related: How to Interlock Dreadlocks

Dreadlocks Discrimination in the Workplace and the Natural Hair Movement

 A black man with short, thick dreadlocks in an office meeting.

In 2016, Alabama native Chastity Jones was told that she would have to cut off her dreadlocks during a job interview before accepting the position. Jones was told that her dreadlocks looked "messy." When Jones refused, the job offer was rescinded.

Jones sued the employer and lost. But Jones lost in a way that is telling of how American culture prizes Eurocentric hair and facial features instead of Afrocentric ones.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against Jones in 2016. But more than that, the court ruled that dreadlocks are not an "immutable characteristic" of a person's character. And that is it not racial discrimination to deny a job or fire someone because they have dreadlocks.

Unfortunately, racial discrimination in job interviews, Academia, and banking and mortgage industries are still outsized problems.

In an academic study where 5,000 mock job resumes were sent to 1,300 job ads, the resumes with Eurocentric-sounding names got more replies than those with Afrocentric names. African 

Americans comprise under 13% of the population. But 26% of the complaints filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission deal with job discrimination against black people.

Black women in the workplace are three times more likely to have their natural hair considered unprofessional. And African American women are 80% more likely to alter their hair to fit in at work than any other ethnicity.

In 2018, a black New Jersey high school wrestler was forced to cut his dreadlocks publicly before a match by a referee. The incident was taped, and it went viral on social media.

The video is hard to watch; high school wrestler Adam Johnson had his dignity, heritage, and culture violated when his hair was cut publicly to please the referee.

The referee was later suspended for making the arbitrary decision since Johnson's hair was not an issue before the match.

These sparse examples of systemic racism belie the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision. Black people and culture are inextricably linked to Afrocentric hairstyles like braids, afros, naturally kinky hair, and dreadlocks.

And it is overwhelming problem for Black people with Afrocentric hair who must alter it in the workplace, not other races.

How is that not an immutable characteristic of a black person or black culture in general? 

Worse, this court decision will enable racist job discrimination more. And it will make it harder for black people to embrace the latter-day natural hair movement.

The Natural Hair Movement

This is a movement where black hair, whether braided, naturally curly, afros, or dreadlocks, is advocated as a natural expression of black identity. However, in the centuries since slavery, reconstruction, and the civil rights movements of the 1960s, 

American society has put a premium on denigrating, trivializing, and trying to erase the natural aesthetics of black culture.

For example, natural black hair is usually considered unprofessional in social and professional circles. It is why Black people are encouraged to chemically straighten their hair to make it look Eurocentric.

We believe that you should wear your hair any way you want, naturally or chemically straightened. But also consider why 80% of Asian, White, or Latin people are not pressured at work to alter their hair to please their bosses.

If you choose to wear dreadlocks, we commend you for making such a personally empowering choice. It takes courage to pridefully wear your natural, afro-textured hair in a society that fears it.

However, to get or keep your job, you may have to sacrifice how you wear your dreadlocks when you are on the clock.

How to Wear Dreads Professionally

 A beautiful Black woman wearing an upswept, beehive style dreadlock hairstyle.

Never assume anything in life. Always ask about dress codes for clothes and hair before applying to a job. It's better to be insulted pre-interview about a dreadlock ban than during the interview.

If dreadlocks are allowed in your workplace, ask about the aesthetic dress code.

Keep your dreadlocks tied up, wrapped up, or in a tight ponytail. Your dreadlocks should not be free-flowing over your face and ears.

Wrap up your dreadlocks with a scarf, beany cap, or hairpins. The style in which you wrap your dreadlocks should be simplistic and utility-minded, not flashy or trendy.

Try an "updo" style, like a braided crown or beehive. The point is to wrap your dreadlocks above your ears in a tight bun-like hairdo.

Try tying sections of dreadlocks into thick stump-like braided knots on your head.

Focus on keeping your dreadlocks wrapped up in an aesthetically boring way. You want to keep your dreadlocks fully contained, not free-flowing, swaying, or loose.

The most control you can have when wearing dreadlocks in the workplace is to be preemptively picky when applying for new jobs. After applying for a job, ask about the dress code as it applies for dreadlocks before the interview.

Check out Lion Locs today to get the best organic and natural products for dreadlocks maintenance.

Related: A Beginner's Guide To Starting Dreads With Short Hair

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