Greetings, kittens, and welcome back to another roundabout session of Ask The Editors, where we dive into the ethos of the Persephone question game. This week, we are talking about a subject that most ladies seem to deal with once they move into a certain sphere of life: hair–what’s professional? How will we answer? Who knows? Seek the answers you wish to find below, as we expend our collective knowledge on frizz, pigtails, and what the hell “professional” hair means. (Frankly, we still aren’t all that sure.)
I am about to graduate with a Master’s degree and the thought of entering the “professional world” has led me to wonder: what are the best hairstyles to look both good and professional but that can be done quickly and easily. Is it appropriate to keep your hair down or should it usually be up in some way? Does length ever have its own issues? Thanks!
Sally J: My answer: length doesn’t matter as much as tidiness does–if it’s short, keep it cut in some sort of style, if it’s long, keep the ends trimmed. If you’re in an awkward phase growing-wise, figure out a way to tame it with accessories. Basically, most work places are more professional than most classrooms, so make sure your morning routine includes more than a headband in wet hair (my hair style of choice during my college years).
SaraB: Keep it neat and keep it out of your face and you will be fine.
Michelle Miller: It’s perfectly acceptable to wear your hair down, but try to keep it swept off your face and tidy. If your hair is particularly long, you may want to consider whether it will get caught behind you when you sit in an office chair–that used to drive me nuts when I had long hair. Some professional-looking up-dos also do not take much time. You can do a sleeked-back ponytail or a ponytail with a teased crown so that it looks “done.” You can also do the sock bun method to bring some curl into your hair that will stay all day and take almost no time in the morning (Google it!). Once you’ve got curled hair, just about any sort of pinning up or half back will look great and professional.
Coco Papy: I’ve got a huge head of frizzy hair (think Malou Airaudo) that looks “unprofessional” no matter what I do. I don’t think length is an indicator of professional-ness, nor the look of it, but as they say, don’t hate the player, hate the game, I find that having your hair up always looks very nice–a quick French twist, a bun, ponytail, or even something a bit more playful, yet still about being pulled back. For short hair, I think it’s about maintaining it so that when your cut grows out, it doesn’t look askew. One thing I learned that can be of benefit to you is: what’s more important, how you want to look everyday or where you work? Hair is valuable and personal–sometimes it’s an indicator of who we are and what we deal with. Personally, I go running for the hills if I ever go somewhere and the vibe is not friendly to any hair outside of a few choice of stark options, but I also have worked in very casual environments. In a way, it makes me feel like it relates to the rest of the place. However, this is one of the worst economic times and what one lady’s conservative is, is another lady’s “freak out!” Look to your mentors–what are they doing? Look at those already in your field–how are they styling themselves? And more importantly, what is comfortable for you?
QueSarahSarah: I agree with everyone else … keep it neat and out of your face.
Meghan Krogh: Length is not really an indicator of professionalism, though some professional circles will have people who note to themselves whether you keep your ends trimmed or not. (Trufax.) Your basic guidelines are: probably don’t want to do any cuts that are TOO edgy, though it depends on the professional sphere you’ll be entering. By “too edgy,” i mean stuff like shaving half your head or cutting designs into your hair; feather extensions are probably out too unless your master’s degree was in Graphic Design or Marketing, in which case you do what you want, girl (no, seriously). In terms of up versus down, there’s no guideline, but hair that is down should be clean, combed, and dry when you come into the office or into an interview. Hair that is up should probably avoid stuff like Princess Leia buns or side ponies. Nothing too cutesy. Regular buns, pony tails, braids, and so forth are all considered pretty much de rigeur and you’ll see them everywhere, but people mostly pull their hair up in professional spheres so they have cooler necks and can see their computer screens. As far as ease, short hair dries faster and can be fairly easy to style (and you can talk to a stylist about giving you a cut that is easy to style, professional, and suits your personal style and look well). Long hair is certainly within the professional wheelhouse, though. You really have a lot of freedom. Choose something you like, take out rainbow colors or dramatically asymmetrical styles, and you can pretty much do what you want. Best of luck in your post-academic career search.
Hattie McDoogal: I think it depends upon what kind of working you’re doing physically, as well as how often you are going to be around people (particularly outside your office). I spend a decent amount of time leaning over papers and I find that a two small clips or bobby pins can be your best friend in this case. You can keep those front hairs away from your face while still having it mostly down, if that’s what you prefer. Even when my hair is up, I keep the pins on standby in case there are too many frizzies or stray hairs that come down. If you have a lot of face-to face time with clients or outside people, it’s important to make sure you have a simple, neat hairdo–it’s not terribly important what exactly it is. But it should be something that doesn’t command any attention. You can relax a bit around your day-to-day coworkers in the sense that, as long as you set a precedent of being put-together most of the time, you don’t need to fret about the occasional “off day.” People don’t notice these details as much as you may think, but they *will* notice if your hair is often messy or disheveled.
Slay Belle: I think that the rest of the editors have really good comments, but I thought I’d chime in as someone who hasn’t always worked in traditional industries. I’ve been very lucky to work in several fields where the color, cut, and freakiness of my hair hasn’t ever been an issue (comics publishing, libraries, desk jockey). My hair has been every color under the sun, most of which do not occur in nature, been shaved, been long, and for a while I had that unfortunate spikey backed hair that was popular in the early aughts. However, shit like that is always a post-interview, post-hiring, post-feeling out office culture. Always err on the side of conservative as you’re looking for a job. Long hair is ok, really, just keep it trimmed, use product, and AGE APPROPRIATE hair accessories. I can not underline that last part enough. If you dye your hair, keep on top of the roots. The basic french twist is a classic for a reason and super easy to do. Invest in some of those Goody hair spin-curl pins if you have any length to your hair at all–it makes up-dos super easy. Master the sleek ponytail and the not-too-severe bun. You’ll go far with them.
Sally Lawton: Professional hair is really just neat, tidy and put together with nothing crazy. I happen to have a pixie, which is great because I can smooth it down for the office, but make it a little more funky on the weekend. Of course, you have to have the paycheck to afford frequent trims (or be okay braving your cheap-haircut place). I’ve also had a bob, which can be a great option, but again, it will need frequent trimming (though not as much as a pixie). Regarding long hair, I was never too fussy when mine was long, usually just blowing it dry and occasionally curling it (I have stick-straight hair).I’d say for sure to stick with natural hair colors and nothing too edgy, though I’ve worked in offices where pink hair was totally okay. Regarding ponytails: a low, tidy ponytail is sleek. Anything too high might feel to sporty in a more conservative office. Honestly, most haircuts are fine, and many offices these days encourage individuality, so feel it out your first few months and see if you can go a little crazy.
pileofmonkeys: I think it all depends on your workplace’s culture. If you work in the fashion or beauty industry, you can get a way with a lot: purple hair, mohawks, whatever. In a more conservative environment, I think it’s less about specific styles and more about making sure that your hair is neat and professional looking, and, most importantly, that you aren’t constantly touching/playing with it. If you have awesomely huge, curly, out-of-control hair, that can absolutely still look professional. It’s all in how you present yourself. It doesn’t need to be back or up or tamed or relaxed. If your overall look is professional, your hair is just part of that: long, short, wild, tame, whatever.
Slay Belle: I refuse to believe that crazy lion hair is not a professional look.
Stephanie: I believe it is okay to wear your hair down in professional settings if it looks neat; this doesn’t happen naturally for many people, so if you don’t have the time to spend on styling your hair, here are a few quick ideas that I tend to go with. If you have longer hair, a sleek ponytail (as in brush the hair, apply serum to the tail to prevent frizz) is always good, as is a simple bun. Both are pretty easy to do; make sure you give it a light mist of hair spray to keep it in place, and so the part that’s slicked back stays that way. If you’re good with your hands, a French braid is also professional, and it’s great for disguising dirty hair. If your hair isn’t manageable enough to pull it back in a bun or ponytail, pull it back with a barrette, preferably something in a neutral color and in a neutral style. A simple black clip will do. Short hair is often easier to maintain and style. A pixie cut really requires no work. If you have a longer bob, the shorter length still only takes a few minutes with a flat iron to make presentable. If you do have short hair, try to avoid too much teasing. This is all assuming, of course, you’re in a more formal business environment. Some workplaces are more laid back, but in my opinion, it is better to start more conservative and then get more casual as you get a feel for your workplace’s culture. But for goodness’ sakes, don’t put your hair in pigtails. It’s never appropriate (unless you act on children’s shows, I guess).