Advice

To weave or not to weave that is the question

By on
86

I can’t afford a new weave but my natural hair may be too much

WEAVE

In the latest instalment in our Career Conundrums series, one budding trainee rounds on corporate law firms’ unspoken hairstyle policy.

LEAD1

I’m a black law student with natural hair, which is on the looser curl side. I usually wear it natural, and sometimes put it in braids. I had a few training contract interviews last year (I’m in my final year now) but I wasn’t successful. A friend of mine from law school suggested to me that maybe this was because I attended interviews with either my natural hair or braids. I’ve been thinking of getting a weave; I think this may increase my chances of being successful as I might be considered more professional. Getting my natural hair done in this way can be expensive though, and I am a poor university student who really cant always afford the expense (not until I get a TC anyway!) Is showing up for interviews with ‘unprofessional’ hair, really a factor that may have contributed to being unsuccessful? Surley this can’t be allowed or be the case in this day and age? Surely this can’t be allowed.

If you have a career conundrum, email us with it to careers@legalcheek.com.

86 Comments

Nigel Farage's 2nd chin

Speaking as a bald 45 year old (who just had to Goggle weave) I’ll leave this to you younger folk

(17)(1)

Trumpenkrieg

Legal Cheek is a cuck publication. Keeps censoring racial-realist comments.

(1)(0)

Anonymous

why have you wasted space with this comment

(1)(0)

Anonymous

Ignore your friend, they’re talking nonsense.

End thread.

(20)(0)

Anonymous

In all honesty I believe you should. It’s bad but I think a lot of interviewers judge you on your appearance and they may have a pre-conceived idea of people with your hairstyle. This is not meant to be offensive I just believe this to be true in our society especially at prestigious law firms.

(7)(8)

Patrick Connelly

As non legal person, I had coffee with the senior partner in a law firm and he commented that he would not hire anyone with a tattoo.

Add that to the debate!!!

(2)(4)

Anonymous

That is the view point of many high up people in this profession. They believe having tattoos is symbolic of thug like behavior and a rough back ground which at law firms is not something they would like to promote. I believe it is awful but unfortunately that is how this profession is.

(1)(0)

Anonymous

Genuinely, what the flying fuck is this?

(21)(32)

Anonymous

Oh shut your ignorant mouth; not everything has to revolve around problems you’d understand. It’s someone’s legitimate difficult decision, that’s what it is.

(45)(11)

Anonymous

A difficult decision? To buy a wig, or to not buy a wig?. Jesus. Let me call MENSA and see what they have to say on the matter…

(16)(34)

Anonymous

A weave is not a wig you absolute moron

(32)(4)

Anonymous

Then buy a wig if a weave is too expensive for this cash-strapped student.
Common sense does not appear to be a trait which this person possesses. No wonder they were rejected at interview.

(6)(27)

Scouser of Counsel

Why not call HHJ Mensah instead and ask her view? (See what I did there?)

Seriously though, this is one that should not really be up for discussion amongst people without any insight, nor should corporates be telling people of BME origin (or anyone for that matter) how to wear their hair!

(5)(0)

Observant (In-House)

I am genuinely convinced that thus “Carrer Conundrums” are LC’s banter

(0)(1)

Observant (In-House)

this*

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Not sure whether that would affect your chances, though law firm partners can be incredibly prejudiced, consciously or otherwise, and there was a recent article in the FT where recruiters for investment banking admitted to not hiring people because of loud ties or, shock-horror, brown shoes.

Whatever you choose, I hope you are successful, and I hope that law firms and the world in general can become less racist with their preference for default-white hair etc.

(19)(6)

Anonymous

Who in their right mind would wear brown shoes in the City?

(19)(5)

Anonymous

Well the recruiters said it was fine if the interviewee was European (i.e. sounded European). Forgive me for being a philistine, but why on earth shouldn’t you wear brown shoes? Do they somehow detract from the quality of work. It doesn’t seem like much on its own, granted, but they same article said that there was accent-based prejudice even against highly qualified candidates. It just doesn’t seem right to me that someone highly skilled with a good brain might be rejected from a job which ends up going to someone less competent because they happen to be wearing dark brown shoes with a Navy suit (which I was always taught was fine – French parents) and speaking with a Newcastle accent.

(1)(2)

Anonymous

Why not wear clown shoes then, if it doesn’t matter at all?

Appearance matters to clients. Clients matter to the firm. Therefore your appearance matters to the firm. It’s not rocket science.

(9)(4)

Nick

Bloody hell Alex, what were you smoking last night to dream up this one?

(14)(10)

Anonymous

Perhaps its her academics and personality that result in the failures.

Stop passing the buck, and use a comb.

(9)(42)

Anonymous

Well to get to the final stage of the interview its DEFINITELY not her academics is it! (Idiot)

(24)(3)

Anonymous

Then she is crap at interviews, or unable to gel with the interview panel. One does not have to jump to the conclusion that she was rejected because of her hair, and vis-a-vis her race.

(6)(22)

Anonymous

I think this is an issue for a lot of women …. Racist or not. It’s more a sexist issue.

I have an interview today myself and the agony of actually getting physically ready (is my lipstick too loud?? Is my eye make up too towie??) as well as mentally prepped to say the right thing is a chore.

Ultimately it’s a short term amount of work to get something you want. In much the same way as training before a long distance run is.

Suck it up and get on with it …. It’s the world we live in …. For now!

(7)(4)

Anonymous

Newsflash, you don’t need to wear lipstick or eye make up.
Men don’t. They get hired. What’s the problem?

(4)(21)

Anonymous

Men aren’t expected to wear makeup. Women are, whether we like it or not.

(24)(1)

Trumpenkrieg

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.

(2)(12)

Scouser of Counsel

What a lovely person you are…

(0)(0)

Anonymous

The problem is that you do. Certainly to interview. I actually don’t wear make up at work most days (now that I’m hired) for a number of reasons however if I’m going out to a networking event or to a client meeting out of the office, I do take myself off to the toilet 10 minutes beforehand and put some make up on.

Without fail, every time I emerge from completing this ludicrous ritual, I am told that I look better or I look less tired or I look more professional or that they’re glad I have done that in advance of the meeting with x/y/z.

It is, equally, the same with high heels. I have worn a particular outfit on one day with heels and been told I look really smart that day. When I wore the exact same outfit (with the same make up) the week later, I was told I looked a bit too scruffy but it was ok if I was just in the office that day.

I don’t consider any of my colleagues sexist and I get on very well with them all. It is simply a fact that societal views are generally skewed. There will be a few who do very well in spite of flying in the face of convention and I’m all for people who want to change the world. I just choose to get on with it to an extent with which I am happy.

I won’t spend 10 minutes every day putting on make up nor will I strut around in high heels all day, but… I will put on make up for an interview, I will stash heels under my desk so I can swap them for my flats if I’m seeing clients and I will put on make up when I’m in front of referrers, clients or am networking. I play the game to a degree with which I am comfortable.

Unfortunately for this person, the solution is a little more expensive and less temporary. I can change my shoes and make up easily on a minute-to-minute basis. A weave is more expensive, time consuming and long-lasting.

Whilst we would all like to think that you aren’t being discriminated against regardless of how unintentional it is, it is clear that a lot of people think this is, at least, a possibility. Are you more keen to make a stand or more keen to get a TC?

Personally, I would play the game and do the things you think are unlikely to cause a stir…. *at least for the interviews*. At that stage it is very hard to prove discrimination.

Once you’re in, educate them. They will see your work. They will know how competent you (hopefully) are. Wear your hair as you want. They probably won’t care. If they ask you to change it, it’s easier at that point to bang the discrimination drum.

At interview stages, they are guessing how well you will fit in. Make it easy for them. Once you are in, they don’t have to guess; they can see. At that point their assumptions are irrelevant

(71)(0)

Anonymous

O how much I love this comment.

Really wise.

(7)(1)

Trumpenführer

She could shave her head, you know.

(1)(0)

Anonymous

It can be racist *and* sexist.

(8)(1)

Lord Lyle of Jamaica

I recall an absolutely gorgeous female barrister of Jamaican origin who wore dread locks down to her waist. Her wig on top was spectacularly incongruous.

She was a bloody good barrister.

(24)(1)

@CRProudman

I disapprove of your cis-gender hetero-normative patriarchal and sexist remarks about this Jamaican barrister.

brb, just got to pen a quick column in The Guardian about this outrage.

(16)(4)

Stallone

Cool story brah, made me get dreadlocks.

(0)(0)

Anon black law student, been there done that

Afro hair is like no other hair on this planet. Even “jew fros” do not come in the same league of uniqueness that is Afro hair, even when it is on the curly side. I actually was offered a TC, and showed up to both interviews in braids. I’ve worn my natural hair to all the firms events since- not out, but clipped back with a quiff, or braid/twist in the front. A twist each side of my head, you name it. If they’re rejecting you because of your hair it’s a race issue- there’s a Supreme Court case supporting that assertion. Afro hair is specific to no other race except black people. To reject someone because of basically a genetic, racial difference which is no one’s choosing is racist.

Try getting some professional interview help, because clearly they like you on paper to invite you to interview.

(40)(2)

Anonymous

Be confident in who you are! For crying out loud its your NATURAL HAIR!
Yes law firms can be prejudice/subconsciously bias but be mindful. If a law firm is rejecting you based on your hair (although not fact but it could be a factor), is that really a place you want to train and work at?! Braids and kept natural hair shouldn’t be a factor in rejections in my opinion.

My best advice as a black male is to speak to other BLACK FEMALE TRAINEES AND LAWYERS. Speak to social mobility groups like RARE, BLD LLP, SEO and Black Solicitors and find out more from them in regards to hair and personal style. They’ll be the best to ask as they would’ve been through the same thought process and would know how HR and lawyers think of this issue.

(30)(1)

Anonymous

Just look neat and well-kept. End of story. If you’re discriminated against on the basis of your hair, would you really want to work at said firm anyway?

(13)(1)

Black Future Trainee

I’d echo this. Ensure your hair is as neat, tidy and professional as possible – as anyone would going to an interview. If you feel this isn’t possible, go for a wig rather than a weave. A lot of my black female friends at law firms and in other corporate roles do this. I would have thought that braids would be regarded as professional too.

Additionally, get feedback and interview help/ advice to make sure that you are doing everything you can to perform as well as possible, aside from hair concerns.

If a firm rejects you based on the fact you naturally have an afro, clearly you’d be much better off working elsewhere.

Good luck!

(9)(0)

Anonymous

I myself am a white male but my wife is a Black female lawyer. From what I understand from her she thinks that people would judge her too much if she had a full blown Afro going on, however, her natural hair is not a problem it is more how she styles it, namely keeping it short or straightening it. In terms of the cost of getting a weave done, my wife and her sisters have started wearing wigs, you can buy one much cheaper than having a weave done and you can take the wig off at home which I understand helps the natural hair to grow also, that could be an option therefore.

(18)(3)

Anonymous

One black person does not like hearing advice from a white man…

(1)(8)

Anonymous

The same one has returned here.

(3)(0)

Not Amused

I would not want to hire anyone attempting to be a lawyer who wrote, and presumably meant, this:

“Is showing up for interviews with ‘unprofessional’ hair, really a factor that may have contributed to being unsuccessful? Surley this can’t be allowed or be the case in this day and age? Surely this can’t be allowed.”

This sort of nonsense is fine for lay people down the pub (or journalists). But the applicant is trying to be a lawyer and lawyers need to be able to think.

(6)(9)

Anonymous

There are many YouTube tutorials on styling natural hair in a “professional” way.
If you’d prefer to cover your natural hair, you could buy synthetic hair extensions or a synthetic wig – these range from about £15 to £50.
You could also thermally straighten your hair for the interviews.

(2)(0)

Anonymous

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.

(5)(26)

Anonymous

‘Too many black law students are becoming activists’?!? Really? You are clueless aren’t you? Centuries of discrimination, slavery, murder, but no, black students are not supposed to be activists, even though the only times that the intensity of discrimination have historically lowered have been because of, oh yeah, activists. What an awfully racist things to say; I hope you never end up on an interview panel.

(3)(0)

Anonymous

I wouldn’t want to work somewhere which made me change my hairstyle

(4)(1)

Anonymous

Such a childish viewpoint.

Oh no! Rules and standards! Down with society!

(2)(3)

Adam Deen

Would it be childish if the rule was to Kay Why Ess? You Eff Gee Tee.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

I’m sure they will be devastated in not having you work for them.

(3)(1)

Anonymous

Don’t worry about your hair – as long as you don’t look like a crazy person I don’t see an issue. Focus more on substantive stuff like experience and grades. You should be more worried by the fact that statistically you have it harder than your white classmates.

(1)(1)

Gregory Lauder-Frost

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.

(2)(13)

Anonymous

What if the UK is his/her natural homeland. Idiot.

(3)(0)

Gregory Lauder-Frost

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.

(1)(2)

Gregory Lauder-Frost

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.

(0)(3)

Meme

Dass raysiss!!!

(0)(1)

kelbol19

I disagree. Sincerely, Kellee

(0)(1)

Edward Scissorhands

Why don’t you just shave your hair off? Problem solved

(2)(5)

Clo

You shouldn’t need to change your natural hair. If these firms turned you down because of your natural hair or braids then they should be ashamed!

(1)(0)

Anonymous

You need to get out more. Perhaps try living in the real world for a while.

(1)(2)

Clo

Why?

(0)(0)

Anonymous

In my experience with the legal sector, there seems to a belief that there’s such a thing as an unprofessional ethnicity, sadly.

(3)(0)

Anonymous

You absolute moron! How can you be allowed to be so racist. People with natural curly hair can call Britain their natural home just as you can call your mother mum – twat!

(0)(0)

Anonymous

I’m a mixed race law student but my hair is very much afro. I currently have a weave as I have two young kids and don’t really have the time to maintain my natural hair so it’s a much easier and quicker option for me. Saying that, if you don’t want a weave then don’t get one. They are really awkward to get used to, and you don’t just have the upfront cost of it there is also refit and tightening costs etc. I would say if you feel your hair may be making a negative impact I would wash it, and keeping it wet just brush it and tie it back into a bun. Don’t change if you don’t want to.

(6)(0)

Lord Lyle of The British Army

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.

(0)(0)

Lord Lyle of The British Army

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.

(0)(0)

Lord Lyle of The British Army

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.

(0)(0)

Meme

Das raysis!

(0)(0)

Anonymous

One of our associates at my City firm who is black also has naturally very curly hair, but it’s always extremely tidy and kept in a bun. How wild can hair be that it can’t be tamed into a hairband? I’m a bit ignorant with the hair of other races, but is it not possible to use straighteners, mousse or other products to ‘tame’ it? At least you’ll look neat and professional without compromising your values and natural looks.

(4)(5)

Anonymous

You’re at risk of being down-voted for questioning other races’ hair regime.

I agree completely with your point, however.

(0)(1)

Lord Lyle of the British Army

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.

(1)(0)

Lord Lyle of the British Army

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.

(0)(0)

Lord Lyle of the British Army

Why can’t we mention the war LC?

(1)(0)

Anonymous

One article about a problem faced by someone because of race and, OOPS, here come the racist brigade. The LC comment area really does have a few cesspit dwellers.

(3)(0)

Trumpenberg

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.

(2)(0)

Meme

Dass raysiss, sexiss and homophonic!!!!!

(1)(0)

Anonymous

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s policy of suppressing any comments which run counter to one particular narrat

(1)(0)

BeenThereThoughtAboutThat

I believe this is a completely legitimate concern, in a similar way that women wonder whether they should wear a skirt or trouser suit, or men think about what colour shirt/tie/shoes/belt is appropriate when you really want the job.

How you come across in interviews is a combination of appearance, body language and what you actually say, therefore someone serious about getting into law must scrutinise every aspect if they have faced rejection and want to improve.

Firstly, law is hard to get into, many talented people will face initial rejections so kudos for not giving up if it’s something you really think you can succeed at.

Secondly, you want to stand out because of your talent and capabilities rather than anything else. That means being as inoffensive as possible in every other way. Long hair and men’s facial hair tidy, suit and shoes clean, shirt ironed etc.

I appreciate you’re concern is that people may (wrongly) consider your natural hair untidy. I would suggest don’t get a weave unless you want to for you personally especially because it’s a lot of upkeep and money. But do tie it up either in a tight bun or plaits in the attempt to make it inconspicuous, and if they do take notice of it then it shows you have made an effort.

My opinion comes from having very unruly hair which I make sure is tightly tied up for any interviews so it is out of the way, and I also have a number of cartilage ear piercings which I take out for interviews but have worn from day one at work. My reasoning behind this is that I’m not ashamed of them but I wouldn’t want anyone on the interview panel to make a snap judgment on me for it, so taking them out for an hour or so it a very easy thing to do in comparison with the risk of missing out on the job to someone without any controversial accessories.

(2)(0)

Lord Lyle of the Sensational Alex Harvey Band

O Fater! O Fater! O show us a sign your people haf waited to zee.
Ze morning vill come ven ze vorld vill zee, tomorrow belongens zu me.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

As a black female and recent law graduate now working as a corporate and commercial legal secretary I would suggest you get a weave or a wig. In jobs I did on a temporary basis prior to my current role I had braids but when it came to law firm interviews I always had a weave or a wig.

Unfortunately afros (especially on black people) are considered messy and unprofessional which is a shame. You will be judged without a doubt. And if you aren’t judged the potential employer will be thinking ‘what would as client think if they met x with this sort of hair’. There are other black females who wear their hair out at my firm but they have been relaxed.

If a weave really is out of your reach order a wig online and make do. Once you’ve got the role you want then moved onto braids etc

(0)(0)

Anonymous

I’m a mixed race woman, NQ solicitor. I don’t work at a corporate firm, but I too was unsure whether my natural hair would be seen as too “unprofessional” when interviewing for TCs. I used chemicals to straighten my hair (regrettably and grew it out). I now wear my natural hair to work. It has raised eyebrows at times, but people are generally fine with it. As awful as it sounds, I would consider changing my hair again to look more “European” if I were to interview for a new role and not bust the natural hair out until approx 3 months into any new job. I don’t think I should have to, but unfortunately it is the world we live in.

(0)(0)

Tyrion

I’m honestly curious as to why you feel you need to have more European hair for a role in the City. Honestly as long as your hairstyle is tidy and minimal I don’t think anyone cares. Braids, plaits, short, in a bun, there are so many options other than weaves or breaking out the chemicals. You will not lose a job for having natural hair provided it is not massive.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

I am a black woman who got three vacation scheme offers (two Magic Circle firms and one US firm) with my hair in black braids which I tied back into a tidy ponytail. I foolishly straightened my natural hair with flat irons for my vacation schemes and wore it in a little bun, it ruined my hair but I got TC offers from all three. But I honestly don’t think it would have made a difference had I worn braids, none of my white colleagues noticed my hair had changed. I think braids should be fine as long as they are fresh and neat, and maybe also stick to black (I had 1B).

I have since cut all of my hair off and wear it short and natural which is how I will be wearing it for my TC. I don’t think it will be a problem as long as it stays neat and tidy. I’d highly recommend going for the chop.

Good luck! I wish you every success!

(2)(1)

Dirty Johnson

Kinky afro, I lyke it.

(0)(0)

SP

This is probably the strangest thread I have read in a long time. The original question is funny, but the comments section is absurd – I mean, literally ABSURD and clueless for the most part.

I have worn my hair in an afro and braids throughout secondary school, sixth form, university, postgrad and in my career as a barrister. When I sat my exams and achieved top grades, I wore my natural hair (afro & braids) – so my hair is clearly not an impediment to academic excellence. In practice – I have worn my hair in all of the below hairstyles – see links.

During a bar school residential weekend at Cumberland Lodge, an immigration law judge asked me if I was trying to make a statement with my hair. I looked at him with disdain – how could wearing my natural hair be a statement?!?! White women wear straight blonde hair, straight brunette hair, straight ginger hair – all the time. Chinese women wear their natural hair to work. Italian women wear their natural hair. Turkish women wear their natural hair. Pakistani women wear their natural hair. If every other ethnicity wears their natural hair – why, then, won’t a black woman also wear her natural?

There are plenty of professional hairstyles that successful black women wear to work everyday. Including all the below hairstyles (obviously the clothes and accessories are not relevant – and corporate interview attire will be worn):

http://trendy-hairstyles-for-women.com/pictures/hairstyles/long-hairstyles/afro-long-hair/2015-long-hairstyle-for-natural-curly-hair_b.jpg

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-igjGId2_-Tw/UUhYPE-vTeI/AAAAAAAAAFk/6GVMLtVpukQ/s1600/andrea.jpg

http://www.girlishh.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/Hairstyles-With-Kinky-Twist-Hair.jpg

https://i.ytimg.com/vi/WOmkZONKP-4/maxresdefault.jpg

(3)(0)

Comments are closed.