GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — For years, Truimage hair salon owner Ronita Stanford has helped clients feel comfortable with their natural hair.
“I’ve been learning about hair for over like 20 something years,” said Stanford. “I try to take away the limitations from my clients so that they can be more versatile to wear whatever they want.”
Over time, she has seen many changes come through her Winterville salon.
“I am grateful that I have professional people that I service, and I have to make sure that that their style is not too flamboyant, edgy or too eclectic so won’t nobody really judge them, but still where they can be able to express themselves and still feel like they are their own individual person,” Stanford said.
In September of 2016, a federal appeals court ruled that banning an employee from wearing their hair in dreadlocks is not racial discrimination.
In a 3-0 decision, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed a case brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against a company that refused to hire a woman because she wouldn’t cut off her locks.
It is an issue that hit home for some in the East.
“In certain situations, where if I looked a little different, things probably would have not gone down the way that they did,” said Sarah Chidester, who wears dreadlocks.
“No one should be questioned about your appearance,” agreed Michelle McNair, who also wears the hairstyle. “Your appearance is just your appearance.”
Stanford disagrees with the ruling.
“My hair should not be a distraction from you just because you can’t control me,” Stanford said.
Attorney Jacinta Jones said the lines of discrimination can be blurry.
“When it comes to the policies that an employer can put into place, they generally can make any policies that they would like to based on an employee’s physical appearance,” said Jones.
As long as it doesn’t interfere with race, gender or religion, Jones says they can decide to hire you or fire you.
“I think the main thing is in the legal field is that your hair comes off as professional and presentable,” said Jones.
But for many, hair has a deeper meaning and following those policies just isn’t an option.
“If I have to have a job based on having chemicals in my hair or to look differently or to look related to other people’s description, I won’t do it,” said Rosalind Bond, who wears her hair natural. “I just won’t have a job.”
Because of that, do it yourself tutorials are all over social media, and local schools are even changing curriculums to keep up with the demand.
“One of the things that we can do is educate the clients on with natural hair how can you wear it styled so it also is appropriate,” said Tonetia Favorite, Miller-Motte College cosmetology program director
Stanford said chemicals, changes or colors can be appropriate in the same way styles like dreads, twists, braids and even straightened hair are.
“It shouldn’t be like that,” said Stanford. “It’s the same way when you decide I want some blonde in my hair, I want some color. It’s the same thing, just wear it, rock it and change it when you ready.”
Hair ultimately means different things for different people and Stanford said it is always best to just stay to your true image.
“Just as long as we be confident in who we are we shouldn’t allow society to keep right on,” said Stanford.