#WorkIt: Color, Length, Texture, Parts AT WORK

Today’s #workitwednesday piece is an excerpt from ELLE Magazine’s discussion about hair styling and the professional world. The discussion is led by the findings of psychologist, Midge Wilson and the expert opinions of stylist. 

The original article was written in 2010… however many of the same views still exist.

Read and tell us what you think on their take on hair and the work place.

“Though policies on what hairstyles are acceptable in the workplace have loosened, hair can still signify certain levels of professionalism,” says Midge Wilson, PhD, professor of psychology at DePaul University.

The question is what sort of messages are your tresses sending? Is your hair helping you rise to the top—or holding you back?


Blonde: Marissa A. Mayer -CEO & President, Yahoo
Brunette: Indra Nooyi- Chairperson & CEO, Pepsico

Experts agree that blonds tend to be seen as more fun than brunettes. “Of course they have more fun,” says a L’Oréal Professionnel INOA colorist. “They’re radiating light everywhere and beaming energy.”

And dumb-blond jokes still have a way of creeping into conversation.

But now there’s evidence that blonds are beginning to get a more serious rep. While a 2002 survey by Clairol revealed that of the 1,000-plus women interviewed, 76 percent believed the first female president of the United States would be a brunette, a similar survey by Clairol in 2008 yielded split results between a brunette and a blond.

“Today blond women are the new brunettes, and they have Hillary Clinton to thank for that,” says a senior NYC stylist. “She’s a powerful woman, telling it like it is, sitting down with heads of state from all over the world. I don’t know how much fun she’s having, but she’s being taken seriously.”

Interestingly, if you’re in a creative or artsy field, says Wilson, it could be to your advantage to go either superblond (think Agyness Deyn’s platinum phase) or superdark (note Nicole Richie’s deep brown locks), rather than choosing an au naturel hue, which tends to send a neutral message.

“While a natural-looking color fits in better at more conservative offices, bold color can be an asset in the creative workplace.”

Blond or brunette, a strong statement that doesn’t bode well is grown-out color.

“If you attend an interview and your roots are blatantly showing…”

The majority of women surveyed by Clairol in 2008 said that if they could change their hair color for a day, they’d go red—and it’s no wonder: Think the True Blood ladies, Julianne Moore…

In the workplace, those with Moore’s fiery hair color are seen as “strong, passionate, and goal-oriented individuals who get the job done.”


Hilary Clinton- Former Secretary of State, Senator, & First Lady


“I cut it when I was working in defense in Washington, D.C., and the male reaction was pretty chilly. There were maybe one or two male law-enforcement agents who were complimentary and said they preferred short hair, but the rest were openly perplexed. I found the majority of men preferred women to appear traditionally feminine, and they didn’t get and certainly weren’t drawn to any androgynous bent—be it hair or dress or whatever.”

“A lot of men in the workplace make assumptions about a woman’s sexual orientation based on the length of her hair,” acknowledges Wilson, who says that fellow female employees tend to be more embracing.

There’s an implied confidence about a women who wears a shorter cut.

“It always seems that in a group, it’s the girl with short hair who comes off as the most confident, youthful, fun, and flirty. It takes a lot of self-assurance to pull off a short hairstyle, but as long as you love it, you can rock it.”

Regardless of length, Wilson says the key is giving the impression that your hair is low-maintenance: “Short and manageable or, if it’s long, pulled back into a chignon or low ponytail—so that you’re not shaking it out of your eyes, tucking it behind your ear, and wrapping your finger around it,” she says. “These kinds of things can be very distracting and can send the message that you aren’t task-focused.”

“Straight hair reflects more shine than curly hair, feels more groomed, and can be slimming,” says a Kérestase celebrity colorist and stylist, adding that in the workplace, women with straight hair are often perceived as being more serious than those with curls.

“Curly haired women are thought to be carefree and approachable.”

But while those with sleek strands might convey steadfast efficiency, “women with curly hair are seen as risk-takers—people that are prepared to go out on a limb for the company.”

The one rule of thumb when it comes to curls: Keep them well-coiffed. “If you choose to wear your hair curly for an interview, make sure it’s under control and doesn’t upstage you and your talents,” says Erin Anderson.

In order to have “consistent, not frizzy” coils some styling is necessary.

BANGS Blunt bangs are often interpreted as trendy and bold—perfect for creative workplaces. “You will definitely give off a high-fashion, strong, and secure message with blunt bangs.”

“It gives you a very definitive look.”

Side-swept fringe accentuates eyes and cheekbones and complements a wider variety of hair textures and face shapes. Side-swept fringe is also regarded as softer and better suited for conservative office settings.


The verdict on middle versus side parts: Like blunt bangs, a middle part is considered a bolder, edgier statement than the side-swept alternative, which Javier calls “more preppy and sophisticated.”

For a job interview, Vides suggests a side part or no part at all: “It’s less distracting and frames your face in a softer way, so it puts more emphasis on the total image you are presenting.”


Alex Wagner- Political analyst and host of MSNBC’s Now with Alex Wagner

While the impact of a side part might be less severe than its center counterpart, don’t discount the more subtle message at play, say siblings John and Catherine Walter, whose 1999 “Hair Part Theory” garnered considerable interest from the media (The Atlantic Monthly printed an article about the study upon its release). In matching the hair parts of U.S. congressmen, state governors, and presidents against key success factors, the Walters found that a left part draws unconscious attention to activities controlled by the left hemisphere of the brain—i.e., logic, problem-solving, linear thinking, etc.—and that politicians with left parts historically fare better. In a 2001 New Yorker article, the Walters even supposed that Al Gore’s right part was the reason for his losing to the left-parted George W. Bush, pointing out that only three elected American presidents had a right-side part.

Outside of political circles, the right part fares more positively—especially if your aim is to become the next Elizabeth Gilbert or Lady Gaga. The Hair Part Theory purports that unconscious attention is drawn to activities controlled by the right hemisphere of the brain—i.e., visual, artistic, and musical skills, nonlinear thinking, etc. “The best writers, eggheads, and artists tend to part their hair on the right,” noted Washington Post writer Henry Mitchell in 1979, who hypothesized that Jimmy Carter—a president plagued by unpopularity—switched from a right to left part midterm in hopes of separating himself from this elite and regaining a “populist image.”

No matter how society, employees, or potential employers may perceive certain hairdos, experts say the most office-appropriate coifs are ultimately the ones that make you feel most comfortable and confident.

Women should to tailor their hairstyle to their office atmosphere without compromising their personal aesthetic: “You should be respectful of your work environment but still be able to show your true personality traits through your hairstyle.”


Ursal Burns- Madame Chairman & CEO, Xerox

Striking a balance is important, says social psychologist Wilson, because wearing a do that’s outside the realm of your comfort zone can result in a lack of confidence.

To read the full article visit ELLE

NOW… We want to know what you think. Do you agree or do they have it all wrong?

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