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Dr. Opie publishes new article in Fashion Studies Journal

Hello everyone, I recently published an article in the inaugural issue of Fashion Studies, a new peer-reviewed journal published by Ryerson University. Specifically, the fabulous Dr. Ben Barry and Dr. Alison Matthews David serve as co-editors. According to the journal’s website (https://www.fashionstudies.ca/about):

Fashion Studies is an open-access academic journal in fashion that celebrates multiple ways of knowing and sharing that knowledge.

Yes! Sign me up! My article is entitled, “Let My Hair Be Me: An Investigation of Employee Authenticity and Organizational Appearance Policies Through the Lens of Black Women’s Hair” (https://www.fashionstudies.ca/let-my-hair-be-me). In the article, I: 1) explore how organizational appearance policies, though seemingly innocuous, may conflict with efforts to encourage employee authenticity; 2) delve into the intersectional experiences of Black women in the workplace; and, 3) discuss how what we wear to work relates to uniforms!

The woman depicted in the article (and below!) is Ms. Petra Lewis, a blogger and friend that I met years ago while conducting research interviews. Shout out to Kevin Ryan for taking the amazing pictures!

Petra Lewis, Blogger & Entrepreneur
Photo Credits: Kevin Ryan

Also appearing in the issue are topics as varied as the origins of fashion mannequins and the relationship between fashion and race. Check it out!

Please share your thoughts on the article. Does your organization have appearance policies? What do you think about them? I look forward to hearing your thoughts!

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The Hair Matrix

A few days ago, I said “I continued to feel like an alien in the workplace, well, at least when it came to my hair. There were very few Black consultants never mind Black people with natural hair.” I went through a self-discovery process as it relates to my hair. I asked lots of questions of myself. Why did I feel like a fish out of water? I don’t know who first said it, but I’ve often heard people say, “the first step to recovery is to acknowledge that you have a problem”. Well, I had a problem with my own self-image and being in a professional environment exacerbated the problem. I then began to explore why this identity issue may have arisen. Could it be that I’d been receiving messaging that I was less than? Hmmm, maybe this wasn’t just about me. Yes, my personal experiences played a role in my path, but maybe, just maybe, there were macro forces at work that influenced how I felt about my hair. Of course!

I felt like I was in a scene from the movie “The Matrix” by Warner Brothers Pictures. What? Bear with me. In that movie, Neo (played by Keanu Reeves) recognizes that he is in fact in a world under the control of forces he’d previously not noticed. Then, he “awakens” and fights against the control of these external forces. The thing is, I was fighting against external NEGATIVE IDENTITY forces that had slithered their way into my own thoughts! I know that sounds creepy and I mean it that way.

I was feeling so on edge about my appearance that it became quite time-consuming: make sure your twists are tight and your edges are smoothed; it’s raining outside, do NOT wear a twist out to work and definitely not to the client site; keep gel and a toothbrush in your bag for quick bathroom touch-ups, etc., etc.. Don’t get me wrong, personal grooming is important to me. However, I was basically engaging in a covert cosmetic mission: keep the naps out of sight at all cost! What a waste of time and energy! Given that other women have confided in me that they’ve also engaged in such activities, I can only imagine the loss of mental energy and productivity in the workplace. When people feel that they have to constantly strive to attain an image that is not naturally attainable, such striving cannot lead to their best performance at work or in life.

Something to think about for employees and employers.

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