Perceptions of curly hair

(61 Posts)
greenteawithlemon Sat 20-Apr-13 16:58:06

Feeling a bit bummed about my naturally curly mop.

Every time I go for an interview, I straighten it. I "tame" it with straighteners every day.

Every boyfriend I've had prefers it straight.

Sigh. Wish curly hair could be seen as sexy and professional in the same way as straight hair.

squoosh Sat 20-Apr-13 23:29:26

I'm grin at the idea that curly hair is off putting to public school types. Is it only busty serving wenches or scullery maids that have curly hair?

HandsofaCrone Sat 20-Apr-13 23:30:10

Curly hair has traditionally been seen as very feminine, an ideal (think pre-raphaelites and almost all romantic descriptions of women's hair in literature - no one ever writes 'she had beautiful straight hair that looked like it had been ironed to within and inch of its life'). Maybe that's why SOME people have considered it to be incompatible with the professional world...

wearingpurple Sat 20-Apr-13 23:33:46

Ah, you've reminded me of a bit of the book What Katy Did (late Victorian, I think) where one of the children always includes in her self-penned fairy stories 'the princess's hair was straight as a yardstick and she never NO NEVER had to put her hair in curl papers' or something like that.

alwayslateforwork Sat 20-Apr-13 23:48:13

Squoosh - YES!

It's ridiculous, but it's more than accepted as a truth - posh gels have straight hair. Curly girls are common, matronly, or sexy. They aren't professional.

Star - I bet she dragged it back and controlled it for years during her training, and is having a mid-life 'fuck it, I've made it and don't have to conform any more' rebellion.

Iggi, the link worked the second time but I feel like I've totally missed the point - loads of women with overworked and straightened but big hair, and a couple of faintly wavy ones? No real curls to be seen?

But I'm loving the eighties vibe. It was the only time I remember in my life when my hair actually fit in with the rest of society. For the last 25 years it's been the cause of much mirror angst in order to attempt to confirm to the groomed and professional look, and the cause of much eyebrow raising and sucking of teeth if I don't bother. grin

Hands, definitely. It's considered very feminine, hence the sexy comment upthread. And most bosses don't consider sexy to be very professional. Hence the adoption of masculine modes of professionalism, or über grooming to distance that overtly 'out of control' look.

alwayslateforwork Sat 20-Apr-13 23:51:02

<even if you have spent two freaking hours trying to control it>

Only a curly girl knows the trauma of spending two hours trying to make her hair look presentable, only to arrive at work at glance in the mirror and think 'why the actual fuck did I bother? It looks like I slept on it, or spent six hours shagging on the tube on the way in'.

'Do something with your hair'

Like I haven't been fecking trying.

Iggi101 Sat 20-Apr-13 23:54:46

It was just a reminder of how much our views on hair come down to fashion.
Posh is not the same as professional, surely? If people are saying in their professions it is perfectly fine to have non-straight hair, you can't really argue with that can you?
I'm not disagreeing with the idea that the current fashion is for straight hair, but that all curly-haired women are viewed as unprofessional.. (Better not tell my boss!)

And heaven help non-caucasian women who might have totally different hair types.

HandsofaCrone Sat 20-Apr-13 23:58:07

I remember being solo jealous of Gabby's curly hair in Neighbours - it was beautiful! And Julia Roberts's in Pretty Woman. I've seen quite a few curly bobs on Pinterest that look great - less wild than long curls but still not fighting your natural texture. And a curly bob can look awesomely 1920s. Not that I'm saying people should cut their long curly hair. If it was me I'd let it fly around sexily all the time, or pile it all on top of my head for a cool up do. As it is I have weedy little short waves.

Bessie123 Sat 20-Apr-13 23:59:10

A woman I know interviewed for a job, which she was offered, but with feedback that her hair was not professional because it is curly and was not tied back. They then proceeded to treat her horrendously for the 5 months they employed her. She says now that she shouldn't have ignored the warning signs of their stupid comments about her hair.

alwayslateforwork Sun 21-Apr-13 00:21:13

Oh yup, totally. Fashion has a lot to answer for. But then, if you aren't at least keeping tabs on what is 'fashionable' then that can be viewed as not being properly groomed as well.

And I speak as the least fashion-led person on the planet. And not just because of my curly hair. But it did mean that my then-manager expressed the desire to make me over, as I could just look fabulous with her help.

Weird that she had Nowt to say about my professional capabilities, but was always angsty about my appearance. grin

The curly criticism only ever happens to white women. That's not to say that anyone else doesn't have a whole heap of other potential criticisms or historical (and plausibly current) discriminations to fret over. My colleague has the most amazing curly hair envy and I've never heard anyone complain or comment on it. She does tie it back, but it's effortlessly gorgeous. The other two curly women in the office? Weekly moaning, and one's my manager. Of course, it might just be that my colleague has a much better sense of style and grooming than i do... grin

And that's not to even start on the grey and curly routine. Yes, mirror, I'm looking at you.

I'm all for being out and proud about your curls. But it'd be interesting to see the untouched kate bush look back in...

Aesthetic conformity is a pita.

Laquila Sun 21-Apr-13 10:44:14

I have just-past-shoulder-length curly hair and agree that it's perceived, somehow, as less professional than sleek straight hair. This was definitely the case in a large law firm I worked at in London, maybe a bit less so in my current job (still office-based but retail, and much more casual).

But I noticed this most whilst working for a huge-name couture house in London a few years ago - my colleagues all had incredibly sleek, straight, shiny hair, and I felt very inadequate to begin with! Having shiny sleek hair was definitely seen as part of the being-groomed-and-professional thing. I got the distinct impression that I was deemed not to be trying hard enough - it was all very Devil Wears Prada. Tbh though, it was more my eating habits that threw them - having more than a sardine and a crispbread for lunch was practically a sacking offence.

Laquila Sun 21-Apr-13 10:46:37

wearingpurple I LOVED those books! And felt her pain...

dontyouwantmebaby Sun 21-Apr-13 11:48:30

this thread is a real eye-opener, as someone with long, straight hair (I wouldn't call it sleek!), I'd KILL to have natural curls. I really never knew that people with curly hair were thought of as 'unprofessional' or not groomed shock

agree that fashions have a lot to answer for, I was aghast when I found out my 13yo niece with absolutely GORGEOUS naturally curly hair had been using straighteners! I cannot believe her mum let her but I'm not a mum to a teenage girl so what do I know. Don't follow the pack, be individual.

kerstina Sun 21-Apr-13 13:08:33

I have wavy fine wavy hair but have always loved a natural straight look. I really envied my friends naturally polka straight hair. She looked like Vanessa Paradis. However she and lots of other people in the 80's decided to have tight curl perms. That included the boys shock I was probably one of the few who had no desire to have a perm and was attracted to my then boyfriend because he had short hair not a permed mullet grin
It is now fashionable to have shiny sleek hair but I think curly hair is becoming more covetable again judging by the babyliss curler thread.

HilaryM Sun 21-Apr-13 14:22:54

Love the idea of 'polka' straight hair...

HandsofaCrone Sun 21-Apr-13 15:07:30

This has bought back memories of being at uni in the early 2000s. I lived on an all-girl floor in halls and we divided into two friendship groups pretty quickly. In one group the girls all had poker straight, dyed blonde hair, which they ironed to within an inch of its life every night before they went out (the smell of burning hair was rank!) In my group (the less cool group grin) we all had curly or messy wavy hair and went to indie clubs instead of the meat market big clubs. Straight hair was definitely something to aspire to back then, if you wanted to be in.

girlonfire Sun 21-Apr-13 15:17:50

I have straight hair and have always envied women with curly hair. I think if curly hair is well groomed it looks gorgeous.

Ages ago I read that curly or wavy hair looked unprofessional, so I bought some straighteners. They electrocuted me on first use. I took it as a sign and have been wavy ever since. grin

That and having bare legs at work. What MUST people think of me.

HandsofaCrone your group sounds way cooler.

Bessie123 Sun 21-Apr-13 15:23:10

girlonfire I think that is the point - curly hair can't often be 'well groomed'.

MadBusLady Sun 21-Apr-13 15:28:07

Greentea Stop straightening it! You need to get used to it curly and learn what works and what products to use to make the best of it. Curly hair can definitely look groomed and well-behaved with the right cut and treatment.

I do put my curly hair up if I want to look super-polished, but I'd do that if I had straight hair too.

bleedingheart Sun 21-Apr-13 16:13:49

A senior colleague once warned me that I'd never be taken seriously unless I straightened my hair. I can't straighten mine without it looking like frizzy straw, it has (or had before pregnancies) a super string curl.
I've never straightened it but I do wear it in a roll or pleat for interviews.
I try not to let perceptions bother me because I am common and matronly wink

bleedingheart Sun 21-Apr-13 16:15:36

*strong not string!

Hanginggardenofboobylon Sun 21-Apr-13 16:22:54

This is really interesting, I have dark blonde naturally curly hair and have at times had it very blonde. It has never occurred to me that it would be considered less professional or that it would be viewed negatively. I am a lawyer and spend a lot of time in court with a wig plonked on top of my 'big hair'! I don think it has ever come up as an issue, I do tie it back in a pony tail or French pleat most of the time, but I do go to court/meetings with it loose and I can't say anyone has ever commented negatively (that I know of!)

<< gets paranoid that people are judging my curls>>

bulletproofgerbil Sun 21-Apr-13 18:05:55

I have straight, fine, lank hair and HATE it. I've always been really envious of you curly haired folk. It looks so thick and lush. My friend was like you OP and fought against her curls for years and years. I didn't realise just how curly hers was till, encouraged by a new hairdresser, she embraced her curls. I have never seen her look as fabulous as she does these days. If you know what Kate Humble from Autumn/Spring etc Watch on TV looks like, it's like that. My friend looks younger and more vibrant with her naturals curls. Just beautiful. And she says she wish she'd stopped working against it before. I know quite a few curly professional people. I don't think they look ungroomed or out of control one bit.

Jayne266 Sun 21-Apr-13 18:39:07

I hate my curly hair and if it has to be curly (to give it a break from the straighteners) then I tie it up.

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now