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Career Advice

Is Long Hair Unprofessional? A Weighted Answer

man with long hair at the office

When it comes to the work world, appearance has quite a bit of meaning. After all, most people judge others based on looks without even realizing it. That’s how our mental biases work. That said, there is no way to truly judge if that man riding a motorcycle is a careless miscreant, or if the man wearing a 3 piece suit in the middle of the day is truly a professional. 

We tend to judge those around us based on how we feel that the person in the position they appear to be in should be. This can go as extreme as seeing a person wearing bright and colorful clothing and thinking that they work with children, to as mild as seeing a teenager who just happened to dye a portion of their hair purple and assuming that they are goth. 

This type of judgment can also be based on a number of other items, such as speaking voice, race or ethnicity, clothes, hair color, and of course, hair length. 

Is Long Hair Unprofessional? 

The short answer to this question is no, long hair isn’t seen as unprofessional in most industries. Or at least it shouldn’t be. In practice, however, some places of work may have specific rules or guidelines in regard to long or longer hair among male and female staff.

Yet, what’s far more common, is that long hair can inadvertently create a negative perception among employers and professional recruiters because of some inherent biases. 

Many people, including hiring managers tend to hold to a “conformity” bias. This is an unconscious preference to assume that other people should behave like those around them, rather than rely on their own judgment. In other words: If a manager is used to having all male staff wearing short hair, no beard, and no visible tattoos, they may be naturally opposed to hiring someone different-looking. 

Your race, unfortunately, can be an issue too.  According to NAACPDLF Natural hair discrimination is a part of systemic racism which prohibits the natural hairstyles of black people. This discrimination only exists to try and ‘preserve’ white spaces and has been used as a reason to justify the removal of black children from their classrooms as well as black employees from their jobs. 

Hair racism still affects people of color in the workplace today. A study, published in the National Library of Medicine, found that black women with natural hairstyles were often seen as less professional, less capable, and less likely to be interviewed than Black women with permed or straightened hair. 

The bottom line, long hair isn’t seen as unprofessional by most progressive employers. Yet, some biases do exist in this regard. 

Is Long Hair for Guys Unprofessional?

No, generally, longer hair is seen as acceptable for most male employees. As long as it’s clean, neat, and well-kept, it shouldn’t be an issue. However, there are certain industries where it can be viewed as a health or safety hazard for yourself or others. In general, jobs, where you are working with equipment, machinery, or food, may pose a risk to the health and safety of yourself or others. In these cases, you might be asked to maintain another type of haircut. Though this is an exception, rather than the rule. 

How Do You Choose a Professional Hairstyle for Work? 

If you’re like most people, you’ve probably spent more time thinking about your hairstyle for work than you’d care to admit. After all, first impressions are important, and you want to look polished and professional, especially for a job interview

If there is one good thing about long hair it is the fact that there is a lot you can do with it! You can try new hair-dos, instead of just wearing it down. Or experiment with different haircuts. Below are some options you can consider. 

Professional Work Hairstyles for Women

Women have a long list of potential styles that they can adhere to in the professional world. These styles tend to be sleek, uniform, clean looking, and of course feminine. Here are just a few examples of styles that a woman with long or short hair can use in the workplace. 

  1. The Sleek and Stylish Long Bob
  2. Loose waves
  3. Pixie cut
  4. Side ponytail
  5.  Bun
  6. Top knot
  7. Straightened hair
  8. Ponytail
  9. Box braids 
  10. ‘Locs
  11. Afro puffs
  12. Cornrows

To choose a professional hairstyle for work, first, consider your hair texture. If you have fine hair, you’ll want to avoid styles that will make it look flat or greasy. Instead, opt for a style that will give your hair some volume, like a loose braid or gentle waves. If you have thick hair, on the other hand, you’ll want to avoid styles that will make it look frizzy or unruly. A sleek ponytail or topknot is a great option for taming thicker hair.

Second, think about your face shape. If you have a round face, you might want to avoid hairstyles that add width to your face, like a chin-length bob. Instead, go for a style that will help elongate your face, like a sleek ponytail or bun. If you have an oval face, you’re lucky – pretty much any hairstyle will look good on you!

Finally, don’t forget about your wardrobe. Your hairstyle should complement your work attire. So take into consideration the colors and silhouettes of the clothing you typically wear to work. For example, if you often wear tailored suits in neutral colors, a sleek updo or chin-length bob would be a great option. Or if you tend to wear business casual looks like printed dresses and blouses in bright colors, softer waves, or loose braids would be beautiful choices.

Professional work hairstyles for men

Men also have several options for styling their hair for the office or any other work site. Here are some excellent work hairstyles for long hair and short cuts: 

  1. Fade
  2. Afro
  3. Slicked back
  4. Ivy League
  5. Tapered
  6. Quiff
  7. Locs
  8. Buzz cut
  9. Crew cut
  10. Flat top 
  11. Pompadour

Think about the image you want to project. Are you looking to be seen as serious and competent? Or are you hoping to come across as more approachable and laid-back?

If you’re going for a traditional look, a classic cut like a crew cut or side part may be the way to go. On the other hand, if you’re hoping to add a bit of personality to your style, consider opting for a textured cut or a trendy style like Caesar cut. 

Whatever route you decide to take, just make sure your hairstyle is clean and well-groomed – nothing says “unprofessional” quite like hair that looks like it hasn’t been touched in weeks!

Author

  • Elena runs content operations at Freesumes since 2017. She works closely with copywriters, designers, and invited career experts to ensure that all content meets our highest editorial standards. Up to date, she wrote over 200 career-related pieces around resume writing, career advice... more

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