Joke Alesh, DMD, MPH, has designed a scrub cap for healthcare professionals with natural hairstyles or textured hair. The Headgear by Doctor Alesh line of satin-lined scrub caps and bonnets includes 19 colors, all produced locally in her hometown of Providence, Rhode Island.
Alesh’s journey began when she was a new mother and she worried that germs might be hitching a ride home from her office on her long, braided hair and pose a risk for her baby. When the COVID-19 pandemic began, the need to cover all of her hair became even more urgent.
But most scrub caps for healthcare professionals weren’t roomy enough for her hair, and the friction created by cotton caps was very drying. She doubled up, forcing her scrub cap over the kind of hair-protecting bonnet she wore to bed, “but that was not a clean or professional look,” she said,
“In dental Facebook groups, the question kept coming up. Does anyone know where to get satin-lined scrub caps in plain, solid colors?” Alesh said. “And when it seemed no one could solve the problem, I decided it would have to be me.”
Alesh launched her company in December 2020. Satin-lined headbands are on the way, she said. Also, designing what she wanted to wear was not new for her.
“I’m Nigerian, and in our culture, we make a lot of our own clothes,” she said.
For a big event, she said, it would not be uncommon for her to buy fabric and sketch out an outfit that could then be professionally tailored. She went through a similar process to create the scrub caps.
Alesh’s goal was to get them on the market by the end of 2020, and she made her deadline with days to spare. She also juggled working through the pandemic at a community health center and in private practice, all while her daughter’s daycare was shuttered.
Alesh said she sees nothing incongruous in being a dentist with an apparel line.
“It’s my personality. When I get an idea, it’s not, ‘This is not in my lane.’ I don’t feel I have a lane. I do whatever interests me,” she said.
In response to customer queries, she modified some of her cotton-broadcloth caps to include buttons for mask loops “to give the ears a break,” she said. Alesh also sells synthetic work wigs, manufactured by other companies, that align with her sense of personal style.
“If I have my scrubs on all day, and then need to break for dinner, or a meeting, my hair can still be protected,” she said.
“I’ve gotten really good feedback,” she said. “This project means a lot to me, as someone who has natural hair, textured hair, really long hair.”
While some satin-lined caps in print patterns already were available when she developed her caps, she likes that her solid colors present a professional look.
“It’s a really simple design. It’s my aesthetic. I didn’t want these to be loud. As a Black woman in America, I see so many things thing in their creation, did not consider me. The first time I realized that Band-Aids were called ‘skin tone,’ I cried,” she said.
A product designed by a Black woman, for other Black women, is powerful, she said.
“It is important to feel seen,” she said.