The Hair Chronicles – Chapter One: Men’s Hair and Corporate Jamaica

DISCLAIMER: THIS POST IS LONG… ish If you don’t care about hair, you may go.
If you do, or you’re curious, great! \o/
Now you may carry on 😀
I love hair. Women’s hair, and my hair. I love hair so much; I want all women to have a lot of hair, and I want to have a lot of hair too. I don’t like when a woman cuts off her hair, and frankly I’d rather not cut mine either. Don’t judge me, you have things you really love too I’m sure. Don’t worry women with short hair, I love you all too. My love for hair has prompted me to grow my own hair twice, with one successful attempt and the other short lived as an act of pleasing my mother (who detests males having a lot of hair).
The hair in all it’s splendor

Where am I going with this? Just ‘hair’ me out. 

I am now a member of corporate society. I’ve already had to cut my hair for work once, and I wasn’t pleased about it, because I wanted to lock my hair. Not to become a Rastafarian, but I just like the style. As I write, I still want to lock my hair, but I’m on the verge of another haircut!

This is Jamaica, and corporate men have a certain look; a look that if you are found outside of that box, you are frowned upon. Even more recently, my boss asked me if I don’t go to the barber, as I have acquired over a month’s worth of hair. 

Isn’t this corporate enough?

I joked that I was becoming a Rasta, to which I was rebuked and told “oh no, no. We don’t have that here.” In this day and age, 2013, when so many other things have been accepted, why is corporate society still against a black man and his hair. I turn to the words of my best friend, Carl Cunningham, who so aptly wrote a feature piece called “Picky Picky Head—Dead”.

He drew from the words of the song, “Rasta Love”:

She didn’t know how to tell him, she was in love with a Rasta man” are the words that ring out from reggae prodigy, Protoje and veteran artiste Ky-Mani Marley. The song is titled “Rasta Love”. The profound and very true-life lyrics narrate the predicament of a Rastafarian man who happens to be in a relationship with a high society girl.

She doesn’t know how to tell her family, particularly her hoity-toity father that “she was in love with a Rasta man”! He would never have it! The relationship was growing and she was eager, but too timid to tell him, her father, what was on her mind. The song itself is very metaphorical in nature, using the story to represent a familiar societal prejudice: African descendants have not embraced their natural beauty. Picky, picky head- Dead!”

You think Bob would’ve been accepted in the corporate world?
Yeah… Didn’t think so either.

Time and time again I’ve seen it. Places I’ve worked, church, school—you name it. After all, I did have a lot of hair once. In Carl’s experience (one relating to both males and females),

“I have seen parents, family friends, and “well-wishers” contort their faces at the sight of locked, twisted, plaited and or just afro hair styles. [TRUST ME, I would know! I was one of those with the hairstyles!!!] But, I have never seen those same faces screwed-up at the sight of a freshly processed—or should I say damaged, head of hair. Instead there is delight and reception. I have seen friends reluctantly remove an entire head of rich African hair to go to a job interview after patiently nurturing its growth for years. Why do we as Africans resent our natural hair texture?”
YOU SHOULDA SEEN THE LOOKS WHEN I DID THIS!!!
As a matter of fact, lemme roll the footage! ***

//www.youtube.com/get_player

*** Auntie Karen seh mi get electrocuted!!! loool too funny. We love the Morgans though, and I know they love me too 😀
Personal Experience

I remember–somewhat painfully–the experience of coming to Kingston to sing at church one Sabbath (Saturday) afternoon. My family came to hear my choir. My hair was twisted at the time, but I left that surprise for them to see upon coming to the church. As these church events normally go, you meet up with folk you haven’t seen for a while. When it was over I was standing by my family, and my dad met up with someone he knew from way back. I was standing right there and in the way only he does he said, “Oh, do you know my son?” (Twisted hair and all) and introduced me. Now I know my mother loves me dearly and I love her to death too, and I put my arm around her and she did not want me to hug her. Why? Because she wasn’t pleased about my hair. Ain’t that something? I said some words to her, not anything disrespectful, but I was stern about how I felt about her response to me. Basically, I thought that as her son, regardless of what I do, or how my hair looks, she should accept me and love me the same. 

My family ❤

Corporate Jamaica’s Lack of Acceptance

Returning to the issue of corporate Jamaica, and the workforce, an article contributed to the Gleaner by Tesi Johnson in 2005 stated that corporate Jamaica seems determined to keep Rastafari out of their circle, and they discriminate against Rastas who seek employment. The icon of the “natty dread locks” is a far cry from the clean-cut image of the corporate world, and it seems as if corporate Jamaica is doing what it can to preserve that image by marginalizing Rastas. And even if men sport locks as a hairstyle rather than a symbol of their religion, they still face discrimination in the corporate corridors.

8 years later, has this changed much? A little maybe, but on a large scale? No.

A conversation I had with the General Manager of the media house in which I did internship, really enlightened me. She told me when I arrived there for internship and she saw my appearance and heard the way I speak, she didn’t really expect much from this tall, lazy-voiced guy in dire need of a haircut. However, she added that as time went by she got to know me, my work and my commitment to being a good media practitioner; she actually grew to like me as a person and for what I was able to do, and not how I looked! Granted, she was still quite happy to see me approximately 6 months later without my hair, as her personal preference is for men to keep their hair low, but she pointed out to me that though it should not be so, when going for interviews and job opportunities, some people pay a great deal of attention to appearance only, and less to the responses given to the questions and the qualifications of the person. She added that she got to know what I could do because I was placed there by my school for internship, and not because of a personal choice. She said most people probably would not be afforded the opportunity to get to know me in such a way and would simply turn me down because of my hair and appearance.

For my first “real” job, I went into the interview with my hair, but after being told I got the job, I was informed that my potential locks had to go. Well, kudos for the manager for seeing past my hair at least for the interview. (Although, I’ve gotten wind that he was just desperate… oh well!)

My hair wasn’t styled before being cut though (clearly) but here’s a short before and after! And yes, I know after wins -__-

Before:

then after:

                                       //www.youtube.com/get_player

1970 and 80’s

Unfortunately (or fortunately), I wasn’t around in the 1970’s or 80’s—at least that’s the period whereI think afros were in style at the time (historians, and people that were, you know, there; correct me if my timeline is wrong). What happened in those days? What kind of hairstyles did corporate men have? Was there even a corporate Jamaica? Did men have to cut their afros for work? I’m merely asking, because I really don’t know. I blame youth. 

Check out these pics; seems like there existed some acceptable looks back then that aren’t so acceptable to now (never mind the pose in the 2nd one):

This looks QUITE Corporate to me!!!
And what’s wrong with this one? Not big on the pose,
but he looks quite fine, hair and all!

           

Conclusion

I believe that the kind of hair a person has, should not determine how he (or even she) is perceived in the workplace. If the hair is being grown but can be kept neat, personally, I don’t see what the big fuss is. With the majority of our population being of African descent, we didn’t ask for the kind of hair we have. It’s not our fault we can’t slick back or easily maneuver our hair like Caucasians or Asians do. Why do we think that (as men) our hair has to be kept low to be considered attractive or appropriate for work? I think we need to step away from this mentality. Just like how a male African Lion is seen as graceful and attractive with his mane, men can and should be accepted if it is our desire to have our own ‘manes’.  Our hair doesn’t stop us from being productive, so why continue to let it be a hindrance? Weekly or monthly haircuts are hardly the panacea for the problems in corporate Jamaica, and even in the wider society. I end with what Carl said to end his piece, and this applies to both men and women: 

“There is nothing barbaric, primitive or distasteful about natural African hair. We need to realize that our young girls are victimized mentally and psychologically by these facades in the business world. They are forced to change their physical features and are given the impression that their natural hair is unprofessional and ugly. We need to realize that regardless of religious persuasion, hairstyle, dress or speech, everyone deserves fair treatment, respect and the equal opportunities. Until we release ourselves form these false values, we will always be mentally enslaved and picky, picky head will always be dead. ”

To this I raise my comb and afro pick and say “Hair, hair!”

P.s. for the record, the image below is never appropriate.
Hairwise, or any other other wise.
WHAT WAS I THINKING?!!!

SING IT SESAME STREET MUPPET! ^_^

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8 thoughts on “The Hair Chronicles – Chapter One: Men’s Hair and Corporate Jamaica

  1. My thoughts exactly Alwayne. I personally like long hair on a man, although strangly, not the canerows. Lol. Locks, however, are very sexy 🙂 It irritates me when people screw up their faces at a black man with his hair grown past 'acceptable length.'Kmt! It's just hair. It won't damn you to hell or elevate you to heaven. People need to get over themselves and free themselves from the shackles of mental slavery.

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