Some say the clothing makes the person, but does that translate to hair as well?

Sarah Royce

According to Hampton University, a historically black college in Virginia, apparently it does. The school’s business administration program prohibits admitted students from wearing certain hairstyles like cornrows and flowing dreadlocks as part of a larger policy that includes completing two internships and adhering to professional dress standards. Dean Sid Credle defends the rules as preparatory for students entering the stuffy corporate world, saying: “When we look at the top 75 African Americans in corporate America, we don’t see any of them with extreme hairdos.” But with this head start, he said, students “get very comfortable wearing a suit over a five-year period. When they get into corporate America, the transition will be easier.”

As a private institution, Hampton has the prerogative to enforce whatever rules and regulations it pleases – just one of the many delightful byproducts of those hefty private-school price tags – but the attention to post-graduation etiquette begs the question of what exactly students are expected to give up. I wonder: Are codes of conduct preparing us to be professionals, or are they just precursors to selling out?

I’m not disagreeing with Hampton’s rationale for behavior and appearance codes. My short stint in the workforce has shown me the importance of fitting in and exuding supposed professionalism. Whether real or feigned, the well-groomed kid who walks into the interview in a pressed Brooks Brothers suit with a firm handshake enjoys more credibility and respect than his counterpart in baggy sweatpants and a Michigan hoodie, although it might be the latter who is more qualified for the job.

We have all heard about the infamous University of Chicago and Massachusetts Institute of Technology study where economists Marianne Bertrand and Sendhil investigated the impact of having a so-called “ethnic name” on the interview process. The New York Times reported that applicants with white-sounding names, like Carrie and Brad, were 50 percent more likely to be called in for interviews than those with black-sounding names like Tamika and Tyrone. With identical r

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