Just Get A Haircut Already

by John Hawkins | June 19, 2006 11:31 am

In the age we live in, even something as innocuous as a business requiring people to have a nice, neat haircut if they’re going to work with the public is portrayed as an insensitive, racist practice that may lead to lawsuits.

From a WAPO article[1] on the “controversial” Six Flags haircut policy:

“It’s right there, under “Extreme Hairstyles,” in the 2006 seasonal handbook for Six Flags America employees: no dreadlocks, tails, partially shaved heads “or any hairstyle that detracts or takes away from Six Flags theming.”

Braids “must be in neat, even rows and without beads or other ornaments,” the amusement park handbook advises.

…Femi Manners and her 16-year-old son, Shakir, agreed that he would not change his hair: short cornrows with a small design braided in. Instead, she contacted the American Civil Liberties Union, which is investigating complaints from more than a dozen black employees of Six Flags America.

The complaint is the latest in recent years alleging that private companies or government agencies are violating civil rights with restrictions on ethnic and Africa-inspired hairstyles and beards.

“This is culturally very, very insensitive and possibly discrimination,” said King Downing, coordinator of the ACLU’s national campaign against racial profiling. “The question is, how long do we have to keep going around and around with this when it comes to people of African descent and the natural style of the hair that they wear?”

In the 1980s, a Marriott reservations clerk in downtown Washington sued successfully to keep her cornrows. Five years ago, District firefighters sought to wear longer hair or beards for religious reasons. Now, the fight has come to Prince George’s, a predominantly black, middle-class county where many people consider such hairstyles a point of ethnic pride and few consider them “extreme.”

“Many of the people who go to Six Flags have locks and twists and Afros,” said Demetrius Hall, 16, of Suitland, a Muslim who said he will not cut his hair, for religious reasons. “Black people are not offended by those hairstyles.”

…The recent dust-up at Six Flags America probably resulted, said Goldberg, the national spokeswoman, from the effort by the new general manager, Terry Prather, to enforce the policy since he came on board in February.

…Prather, who is black, said that allowing employees to wear hairstyles that violate the park’s policy would lead to customer service problems. He said he has dealt with the ethnic hairstyles of his children, ages 23 to 33. “I totally understand it,” he said. “I live with it.”

He denied that the policy was antiquated or discriminatory, although he understands why some employees might be upset.”

Here’s what it all comes down to: if you’re a businessman and you have employees who are meeting with the public, you want them to look nice, neat, and presentable. You don’t want them to look like punk rockers, thugs, hippies, prostitutes, goths, or weirdos.

That means, among other things, no mohawks, no dreadlocks, no rat tails, no corn rows, no mullets, no afros, no spiked hair, no long hair on guys — no haircuts whatsoever that are going to automatically turn part of the population off because they believe the cut looks strange, sloppy, or trashy.

Yeah, yeah, yeah — I know. If people have a problem with your hair, that’s their problem, not yours. Your hair is a unique part of your identity. It makes you — well, you. Well, guess what? Businesses don’t care about your “unique identity,” especially when you’re talking about someone who sells popcorn or takes tickets. If you don’t want to wear your hair in a professional manner, get a job as a roadie or a record store clerk, where they don’t care about your hair, or better yet, get a job that doesn’t require you to work with the public.

But, if you want a customer service job that requires face to face contact with customers, you should do the same thing I’ve done before, the same thing a lot of people have done: cut your hair.

  1. WAPO article: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/06/16/AR2006061601801.html

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