Long hair at the office

Originally Published: September 15, 2000 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: August 3, 2007
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Dear Alice,

I am a twenty-one-year-old college male considering growing my hair out. I am a very organized and somewhat conservative guy... but I have always been curious about what it would be like to have long hair and I am already starting to grow it out. There is only one thing stopping me:

I am worried that people will judge me because of this. I am not talking about friends, peers, parents, or teachers, I mean, if I go get some type of job. There is a certain type of image associated with long hair for males. I will be applying for jobs in some sort of office environment where everyone looks neat and clean cut, and I'm worried that it would hurt my chances of getting a job or make people view me negatively. I'm not worried about long-term impressions, just first impressions.

I haven't thought much about this until now. I guess my question is this: Is there actual real prejudice against males with long hair in certain fields? How widespread is this prejudice? Would it affect me?

Dear Reader,

Longer-than-average hair could, unfortunately, shorten your chances of landing a job in workplaces where cropped coifs are the norm — even the expectation — for men. And yes, you may be tagged by some with stereotypes you would rather not be associated with you. However, you may also find open arms for a self-confident individualist who takes risks and stands out. The workplace is loosening its collar these days with casual dress codes — even at quintessentially conservative mega corporations — so, unless you're military bound, you might be surprised at the lack of reaction that long locks bring.

You mentioned your concern about first, rather than long-term, impressions. If you suspect that your dream job is simply unattainable with long locks, and you are willing to part with them temporarily, you may consider cutting your hair to get in the door. Once you're in, you can demonstrate your responsibility, style, and organizational skills, not to mention your other talents, and grow your hair back at the same time. 

However, in thinking about your appearance and getting a job, you may find that your identity is deeply rooted in your long hair. Instead of parting ways with your mane, maybe keeping it well maintained (washed, combed, possibly pulled back) is all you need to do to fit in. If your hair ever starts getting in the way of your success on the job, you'll decide then whether to change it... or your line of work.

Alice