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MASTER’S VOICE: Does COLFIRE’s hair policy demonstrate T&T’s lack of progress

“Fifty-four years into our alleged independence and we still lack that almost arrogant self-confidence that designs then adopts patterns of dress conducive to our climate yet reflecting the dignity of high/corporate offices and then demanding that the rest of the world respect what we’ve created.”

Does COLFIRE’s policy on its employees’ hairstyles say something about our society? Corey Gilkes of La Romaine suggests it does in his Letter to the Editor:

Photo: Colfire issued Maurice Ramirez a warning letter which described his hair as “unprofessional” and a violation of company policy which states that: “Hair should be kept clean, neat and well-groomed.” Ramirez was worked that: “failure to comply will result in further disciplinary action being taken, up to and including termination of services.”
Photo: Colfire issued Maurice Ramirez a warning letter which described his hair as “unprofessional” and a violation of company policy which states that: “Hair should be kept clean, neat and well-groomed.”
Ramirez was worked that: “failure to comply will result in further disciplinary action being taken, up to and including termination of services.”

This COLFIRE caper illuminates some deeper issues that have always crept up every now and then. This doesn’t mean I expect said issues to be addressed; by and large, as a society we don’t like to face uncomfortable truths, preferring instead to deflect, trivialise and live in denial.

To be clear, I agree that in professional circles there should be dress and grooming codes. But that in no way precludes us from challenging and re-defining what those codes should be.

Face it, we’ve never really determined who we are because we have for the most part scorned what little we did see in answer to that question. At the very bottom of all this is a reflexive contempt for appearances, dress patterns and hairstyles that do not fit into the “ideal” image set by Europe/Euro-America—the “Default White” model that’s so all-pervasive it doesn’t even need to be mentioned.

Many callers to Power 102FM and i95.5FM following the death of the Chief Servant Makandal Daaga showed that very clearly.

Prof Glenn Sankatsingh, in an article on “Trailer” societies, talks about the mindset that what is good for the West is best for the rest. That pathological mindset is crystal clear in T&T’s corporate sphere, courthouses, electronic media and Parliament—Gerald Yetming notwithstanding.

Photo: The COLFIRE affinity card. (Courtesy COLFIRE)
Photo: The COLFIRE affinity card.
(Courtesy COLFIRE)

Fifty-four years into our alleged independence and we still lack that almost arrogant self-confidence that designs then adopts patterns of dress conducive to our climate yet reflecting the dignity of high/corporate offices and then demanding that the rest of the world respect what we’ve created.

Ditto for hairstyles that reflect our non-European ancestries. S. Hylton-Edwards, a white British soldier, mentioned it in his book “Lengthening Shadows” and still we remain in denial, finding all sorts of lame excuses.

COLFIRE just opened the bag of worms, but other financial institutions are no different—and schools too! Forget the fact that global trends are shifting towards digital/creative economies and the research that shows that persons who think and operate differently are at the cutting edge of these new shifts.

No, cut yuh hair, put on the suit and tie and keep yuh little tail quiet.

So millennials, I strongly suggest you create your own space and don’t strive too hard to get into the muddled ones we over-40s are occupying. We don’t have nearly the answers you think we do. Look at this latest issue for an example.

About Corey Gilkes

Corey Gilkes is a self-taught history reader whose big mouth forever gets his little tail in trouble. He lives in La Romaine and is working on four book projects. He has a blog on https://coreygilkes.wordpress.com/blog/ and http://www.trinicenter.com/Gilkes/. Vitriol can be emailed to him at coreygks@gmail.com.

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30 comments

  1. Lester Logie …what’s your point, just to give you a heads up…Where is the company “Chipotle” located and who governs their labour laws.?..be guided accordingly.

    • This is a legal problem concerning the legality of workplace rules. The workers use of social media is also an issue. When faced with a legal problem such as at Colfire, where there is no case law or Statute in your jurisdiction or country that deals with the problem, a judge will often look at how the legal problem was dealt with in other common law jurisdictions by examining similar cases. These cases are usually cited in their judgement. The US is a common law jurisdiction. The judge’s decision would now stand as law on that problem in his jurisdiction. That is how the Common Law is developed. Parliament cannot pass laws to deal with every problem.

  2. Sure does. Wreaks of our colonial past.

  3. Does anyone here have a scan of the policy under discussion?

  4. It should be one standard for all. One hair length restriction for all. Whether it loc or not. Backwards people worry about that

    • At last I got a response….exactly Soyini therefore we must set a set standard for attire etc…next step…who sets the standard bearing in mind the coming is dealing with the public and the success of the company is dependent on sales.. I don’t have to go further. Standard in attire and presentation of ones self is important, some people want a job but also want to dictate their conditions of employment…simple…RUN YOUR OWN COMPANY and set your own standards, other than that just cool yuhself and don’t deliberately try to rock the boat.

    • I know of cases where people dress ‘properly’ to get the job but feel once they have it they can do as they please, especially if there is a union . If there is a uniform, respect it. Different companies have different levels of dress requirements for their staff, some more relaxed than others so people should look at that. I know CLICO was fairly ridiculous in its requirements but if you wanted to work there, you fell in line. We will see how this eventually ends.

    • Nah Judy-ann, CLICO’s dress code had nothing to do with its eventual failure. You walk into their offices and the service is top class, the Head Office is the closest thing to 1st world in this country

    • Savitri, I am not claiming that the dress code caused it to fail. I just used it as an example of a more extreme dress code. Also note that no matter how talented you are, visible tattoos will prevent you from getting a job in many institutions.

    • Of course I understand your point about the tattoos and dress code Judy-ann and I have said as much to the younger ones I know. It might be fun now, but not when its time to pay your bills.

    • Judy-ann Stewart…as well, many ppl fail to understand the impact of their footprint on social media, even how email addresses like ‘sexygyal’ etc looks. We handing out diplomas but not common sense, and our adults are failing us by not sensitising us to the realities of life. Sometimes it’s less of a poor me as opposed to putting ur best professional foot forward. Not necessarily related to the discussion tho lol.

    • Nerisha, have you tried telling a young person their email address should not be ‘sexygyal’? Try it and tell me what the response is

    • Nah, I wouldn’t lol. Picture this…someone with an remail address like that speaking to you about a sexual harassment issue. It does not detract from such a serious thing, but it was a real smh moment. Worse when u emailing job applicants. I would really hope, though, that our tertiary level institutions would have career guidance sessions and speak to future graduates about resumes, responsible use of social media, dress and deportment, soft skills etc. Take away the guesswork for them and teach them the standard pls.

    • Tertiary? It has to start at home and in secondary school. I told a teenager once about swearing on fb and got unfriended..and I was really nice about it eh

    • Sorry for butting but, with all due respects, sometimes us more mature people, not necessarily older, would like to intervene in discussions and attempt to change the topic/ conversation or even state a different opinion, it’s amazing the reception you will get, so the option is to keep out and just..according to the younger ones…grind. With regard to the “nice names”, it is considered the “in thing”… What else can I say.

    • I think that it is an issue of guidance. My first email address contained my nickname (which wasn’t a bad nickname), when I finished university and was sending out resumes I created a second email address that contained my name.

    • Savitri Maharaj in these parts swearing is an official language…it sickens me to hear the youth here. I avoided most of them like the plague. Even if I don’t say, my face will register disgust

    • Camille Winchester Its part of everyday language here too, but for young people looking for jobs, trying to carve a path in life, it should be discouraged

    • Nerisha Mohammed I monitor the ‘young’ ones I know on FB and let them know when they should delete entries or are crossing the line. It is too serious and as you say, can affect their ability to get future employment.

  5. I am going to MY extreme here, which may or may not be the norm for some people. Let us say some of those who are questioning ANY company’s dress code. Your company involves interfacing with the public and depends on sales and profitability from the very public.. One of your employees follows the growing trends….he comes to work with untidy dread locks and wearing a pair of Designer jeans down below his hip with his underwear showing, appropriate or not. I say inappropriate…so what should be the norm…if any, and if so, who sets the standard…when I get a reply, we will take it from there.

    • Earl Best

      There is no doubt that you are reaching for a valid point about a company’s right to determine its standards but I don’t know that moving from the particular to the general is really helpful in this instance. Seems to me the issue is not whether Colfire has the right to set the standard but whether its interpretation of what constitutes that standard is defensible.

      “Colfire issued Maurice Ramirez a warning letter which described his hair as “unprofessional” and a violation of company policy which states that: “Hair should be kept clean, neat and well-groomed.”

      Look again at the photo of Mr Ramirez. Is it your view, Mervyn, that IN THE PHOTO his hair is not “clean, neat and well-groomed”? One assumes, of course, that this is Mr Ramirez’s consistent hairstyle and, if it is, from where I stand,Colfire does not have a leg to stand on.

      But I was 19 years old when Duke sang “black is beautiful” and 20 when the Black Power marchers filled the streets of Port-of-Spain in 1970. I concede that I am not likely to be sympathetic to anything that seems to suggest that black is NOT beautiful, including the use of BLACK Friday in the headline of yesterday’s installment of Raucous in Rio.

      No apologies.

  6. Do they say “no natural hair”, ” no dreadlocks”, “no braids”?

  7. What does COLFIRE’s hair policy say, exactly? Can anyone copy and paste the relevant paragraph(s)?

  8. Seriously COLFIRE, how backward is this?

  9. I don’t think if one company is in the 19th Century it’s a reflection of society on the whole,

  10. Texture discrimination. Everyone must have straight hair or no hair and preferably light skin. How can anyone with sense see this and not say hold up?? The brainwashing is real

  11. Yes it does.When I go to pay a ticket at the courthouse and they tell me I have to tuck my jersey into my jeans waist,that also demonstrates our lack of progress.