Delaware workplace hairstyles: Can wearing you hair long hurt your career?
You’re over 40. Can long hair hold you back? More important, should it?
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Flow it, Show it. Long as God Can Grow it, My Hair.
(From the musical “Hair”)
The nerve of Hilary Clinton. She’s 64 years old and she’s wearing her hair long! So long it’s making its way into the below-the-shoulders territory. And there’s not a scrunchie, barrette or headband in sight. Quite a radical move for a member of Washington’s distaff power elite for whom short hair has always been the status quo. Leave it to Clinton to blaze yet another trail for the American woman.
Clinton is proof that women past the ingénue phase of life do not have to kowtow to societal expectations about what an intelligent, mature woman should look like. Conventional wisdom advises that after a “certain age”—say 50—women should cut their hair—no exceptions. No one knows who issued the rule but for generations it has become an accepted rite of passage into the advanced years. Some women do continue to wear their flowing tresses well into their senior status, but they do so knowing they’re going against convention. And if they don’t, comments and sideways glances will let them know.
Why are these women criticized? In our cultural lexicon, long hair signifies vibrancy and sexiness. Not something society expects—or even wants—to see framing a face that is showing the effects of gravity. How dare a 60-year-old woman think she’s still desirable and capable of a decidedly flirtatious head toss?
But more and more middle-aged women with guts are making a statement by growing their hair out. They’ve even earned the qualified support of some respected stylists. Long hair can be smashing if: you have super-healthy hair; you have the right face shape for it, i.e., the much-desired oval; and you keep it well-styled and in good condition.
“I don’t believe it’s just a matter of age,” says Michael Christopher Hemphill, owner of Michael Christopher Salon and Day Spa in Wilmington. “As long as the hair is healthy and it’s appropriate for the person wearing it in terms of height and weight and everything.”
Great news for wannabe Rapunzels who weren’t born yesterday. But Rapunzel was lucky. She just had to snag a prince—not a job. In the professional world, image is everything. And while hairstyles may not be accurate predictors of personality and performance, stereotypes can influence the way we are perceived and can easily work against an iconoclast in the workplace. Would Clinton have risen to such a lofty position if she had started out with hair like Kim Kardashian?
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