A more than a decade after its implementation, Hampton University’s business school is sticking to its policy forbidding its students from wearing their hair in dreadlocks or cornrows.
Male students enrolled in Hampton’s MBA program have not been allowed to sport these styles since 2001, when the ban was put into place. The ban was started because of the school’s desire to maintain a “professional” look for students in the program.
“I don’t think it shouldn’t matter what the hairstyle. It’s my life. I should be able to do whatever I want to do,” incoming freshman Uriah Bethea told WVEC Hampton. The freshman, who wears his hair in dreadlocks, said that he wouldn’t cut his hair as a part of a college program. “I would just find another major,” he said.
Issues of conformity and acceptable image standards have been a consistent source of controversy in the black community, including the debate over whether or not “natural” hairstyles for women are acceptable in the workplace. Hampton’s Business School Dean Sid Credle believes that the ban has helped the students enter corporate America, believing that students must look the part of a businessman.
“What we do is pay tribute to that image and say those are your role models. This is a way you will look when you become president,” Credle said. “If you’re going to play baseball, you wear baseball uniforms. If you’re going to play tennis, your wear tennis uniform. Well you’re playing that business.”
Detractors believe that the ban stifles the natural and cultural aspects of the longer hairstyles, which some may not deem as unprofessional. Questions must also be raised as to whether Hampton, a historically black university, is simply modeling their students after their white counterparts. Still, Credle maintains that neither dreadlocks nor cornrows have been worn by black professionals in the past.
“When was it that cornrows and dreadlocks were a part of African American history?” the dean said. “I mean Charles Drew didn’t wear it, Muhammad Ali didn’t wear it. Martin Luther King didn’t wear it.”