Can Long, Platinum Blonde Hair Be Professional?

long blonde hair unprofessional.indexedThis is a perennial question:  is long hair professional?  Reader K wonders:

I’m a law student with upcoming fall recruiting, and want advice for doing my hair for interviews. I have naturally platinum blonde hair (which is long – about 4″ below the shoulder). It makes me look younger than I am, but I don’t want to dye it or cut it short. How do I make it look professional and say, “I am not an airhead” for interviews?

I’m curious what the readers are going to have to say about this one, because we haven’t talked about long hair for the office in a long while, and I don’t think we’ve ever talked about platinum blonde hair.  (Pictured: If you’re not watching HBO’s Game of Thrones yet, I highly recommend it — the first season just ended.)

First: Is Long Hair Professional?

I know a lot of other sources say that long hair is unprofessional — it makes young women look younger, and older women are too old for long hair. Here’s my strongest argument for why long hair is totally fine:  Long hair, for some women, is the EASIEST.  It’s easiest to pull back into a professional-looking updo (French twist, bun, low neat ponytail), and it’s easiest to maintain in the morning without too much styling.  Personally, I prefer to wear my hair below my shoulders because when it’s shorter, it’s natural shape creates a “triangle head” look (which, trust me, is about as flattering as it sounds) and it requires 15+ minutes of styling in the morning (versus the 5 minutes I can get away with for longer hair, where the length and weight of my hair keeps it from creating a triangle shape).  Furthermore, I know several very established and accomplished lawyers who look gorgeous and professional with their long hair, and I can think of a lot of others in the media spotlight — in the real world think Maria Shriver or Huma Abedin; in the fictional world think Dr. Lisa Cuddy, Veronica Palmer, or Jane Bingum.

That said, there are some limits and rules to “long hair.”  My rules would be:

  • You are never, ever, ever allowed to play with it.  No twirling, no repeated smoothing of it, and certainly no absent-minded chewing or braiding of it during meetings.
  • Your hair shouldn’t be overly long.  I’ve said before that I think hair that approaches your bra strap (in the back) is too long.  I’ve gotten some pushback on that from readers, and even though I agree that longer lengths can look professional on some women, I would still use the bra strap benchmark as the “it’s time to question whether you should get a hair cut.”  For reader K, 4″ below the shoulder sounds like she might be approaching the bra strap.
  • Long hair must be maintained well — the ends should be trimmed and shaped regularly, and if you have frizziness issues you should be taking steps to combat them (conditioners, etc).

Second:  Is Platinum Hair Professional?

For my $.02, as long as it’s natural, rock out with your bad self.  I would even say that platinum highlights on dirty blonde hair are fine — I have one friend whose hair has changed from platinum to dirty blonde as she’s gotten older, and she does upkeep to keep it blonder.  On the other hand — I think it’s the rare woman who can change her hair color entirely and go platinum blonde.  Furthermore, I’d say that any dyed hair that has that crunchy, “if it’s pulled too tight it might break off” look is not professional.

Third: How Should Long Hair Be Worn for Interviews?

For the most part, I think long hair can be worn long and neatly parted for interviews.  For all those JD and MBA students going into an intense interview week, you might consider getting a blowout if your hair looks better with one — nothing too bouncy, but just simple, straight, silky hair — and then rocking that for a few days.  For interviews, I think an “I intended this” updo or half-updo is fine — think a French twist, a bun, a hair-pulled-half-back-and-bound-with-simple-barrette, maybe even a very neat ponytail with your hair wrapped around the elastic.  My only caution would be that you should avoid the “I suddenly got hot/tired of having long hair and yanked it back into a sloppy ponytail/bun with this elastic that has lived on my wrist for the past two months.”

OK — that’s my advice.  Readers, let’s hear it — what are your thoughts on long hair?  Platinum hair?  Interview hair?  Is there an age limit for longer hair?  How long is too long?

Comments

  1. Even if it’s not your natural shade, go ahead with it. The stereotype that blondes are ditzes will never be dispelled if all professional blonde women dye their hair. At any rate, so long as it’s well maintained and looks healthy and polished (not dried out and overprocessed), keep it whatever color you like.

    If you’re concerned about looking like a valley girl or whatever, pull it back into a low ponytail or a neat chignon. Problem solved.

    • Anonymous :

      Spin clips. They are wonderful.

      • Seconded. Love.

      • Sydney Bristow :

        Thirded. I love mine!

        My hair is just about to my bra strap and I don’t intend to cut it any shorter. I always pull my hair back into a low pony or use the spin clips. My hair just doesn’t look right when it is shorter and I think I keep it very tidy during work. Plus it is out of the way so I never play with it.

      • How long would you say your hair has to be for these to work?

        • I think basically long enough to pull into a bun without a lot of little ends sticking out.

          fwiw, I think these are awesome but mainly for ladies with thicker hair. I bought them last year when my hair was about as long as Reader K’s, but it’s also very fine, so the best I could do was a rather severe, ballerina-esque bun and not the easy but pulled together ‘dos from the commercials.

          • operaghost :

            I don’t know – I have thick hair and the spin pins don’t work correctly because I have TOO much hair.

      • Spin clips are amazing!

    • I’ve been curious to try the spin clips. I have and love the Modern Updo Maker, maybe I’ll give these next hair do-dads a try!

    • These look like a massive tangle waiting to happen. Can anyone with long, fine, and/or tangle-prone hair convince me otherwise? (please?)

      • My hair is the knottiest hair known to mankind (as my campers used to brush it, it would knot up again, like something out of Greek mythology) and I love the spin pins (mine are goody), and got a TON of use out of them when my hair was long (bust-length or so). The trick is that you really are screwing them in and unscrewing them out–where your hair is is sort of immaterial.

  2. It it were me interviewing with that hair (very jealous, btw) I would part it on the side, pull it back into a low bun at the base of my neck. That way the hair is just a non-issue, and you won’t be able to tell how long it is.

  3. My hair is long (just above the bra strap, usually). I can’t really do a neat bun or french twist because it’s layered and the shorter layers tend to poke out or fall out, so for interviews I wore it either in a low ponytail held back by a barette (does that even really count as a pony tail?) or half up, half down. Product was key to make it not look frizzy, and I curl the ends under so they don’t look messy if it’s been too long between trims. Would it possibly look more “professional” cut to my shoulders or shorter? Yea, maybe, but it looks fine how it is, and hair length is one part of my life I refuse to let my job dictate.

    As for platinum blonde, if it’s your natural color, go for it (I say this as a natural blonde–though it hasn’t qualified as “platinum” since I was a small child and it was basically so white it would turn green if I swam too much. Though it still gets pretty light in the summer. Hurray for natural highlights from the sun). If it’s not your natural color, I’d really have to see the person. Depends on what shade of platinum exactly and their overall coloring. If it looks really fake then yea, I do think it looks a little unprofessional. And I think dyed platinum blonde rarely looks good on people–as opposed to darker shades of blonde–especially when your eyebrows are glaringly a different shade from your hair, such as Dany (the Game of Thrones character in the picture)–that literally distracted me the entire season. It’s just a hard shade to pull off if it’s not your natural color.

    And finally, yes, if you haven’t watched Game of Thrones, go do so:-)

    • Such a good show! Just started on the books, which apparently the show followed very closely this season.

      Just wanted to note that not everyone’s hair and eyebrows are naturally the same color – mine sure aren’t. Red red hair; brown eyebrows. I’ve been asked many a time whether my hair color is natural. Actually had a woman come up to me once and very bluntly ask “what bottle did you get your hair out of?” and then roll her eyes when I said “none!” Some people are so rude.

      • True, but usually they’re sort of related–red is close to brown. It’s when someone has platinum blonde hair and really dark eyebrows that it drives me crazy, like Orlando Bloom playing Legolas in Lord of the Rings. Maybe this really only bugs me in tv shows and movies, now that I ponder it…

        And yes, the show did follow the books very closely–the books are great! And it adds a lot of depth to the show, I think.

        • Actually, there are people who have naturally light blonde hair and dark eyebrows! My sister is one example–her hair is naturally a very light, yellow blonde, and her eyebrows are almost black (like the rest of our mostly-brown-haired family). It can happen!

        • Correction: red red hair; not-red-at-all-in-fact-almost-olive-green brown eyebrows … not related. Any, my mom has light/medium blond hair and dark dark eyebrows … it happens!

      • Same here! And blonde hair on my arms and legs. And some people don’t believe my hair is natural – very annoying, although I’ve never had anyone be that rude.

        Amusingly, my dad has black hair but a red beard! So it must run in families. :)

        • I have a friend, half Japanese half German, with jet black hair and a red red beard. He looks a wee bit goofy, but he rocks it at work.

      • I had blond hair as a child, and now it’s a very dirty blond. My eyebrows have always been a very dark brown, though. I don’t think there is anything on earth that could convince me to dye my eyebrows. That goes into my personal list of things that are too much for the sake of fashion.

        • I’m the same way! I am way too scared to even think about attempting to lighten my brows. I know they don’t match my dirty blonde hair, but that’s better than having my brows turn out… orange?

    • I would just like to say that I naturally have very light blonde hair and dark brown eyebrows. People often assume I dye my hair, sometimes even (I think rudely!) commenting on it to me. I refuse to dye my eyebrows or my hair though to make it look “natural” according to some people’s standards. Some people have dark hair with light eyebrows, some have light hair with dark eyebrows. Not a big deal.

  4. I am a Khaleesi of the Dothraki. I am the wife of the great Kahl and I carry his son inside me. The next time you raise a hand to me will be the last time you have hands.

  5. As a natural platinum blonde myself, I would add that anyone considering dying their hair that color should really consider whether she has the right complexion for very very light hair. Most people with fair hair also have fair complexions. It’s a trade off – you can envy my hair and I can envy the fact that in the dead of winter you are a 100 times more tan than I’ll ever be.

    • This. There is a woman in my office who is a natural brunette but dyes her hair bleach blonde. I think it would suit her so much better if she just warmed up the shade a little.

    • S in Chicago :

      You are so right. I have fair medium (not simply fair skin tone) and no matter how much I would fight it, my stylist kept making me way too blonde (she’s Latina with platinum hair). I finally just switched stylists since I was so tired of continually asking for darkening with glosses, washing with blue malva, etc. to try to make it less bright. My new stylist has me in a dark blonde with highlights (sort of like my childhood color) and I it looks so much better. I find I’m not struggling with finding the “right” lipstick color, etc. as much now, too. It really does make a difference when you’re in the right shade for your skin tone.

  6. This is the second time I’ve grown out my hair to waist-length; I cut it to a more “typical” length and promptly hated it. If/when I end up in a conservative professional office, I plan to just wear buns all of the time. I have very low-maintenance straight Asian hair, so my morning routine with bun only takes 2 minutes.

    • I have a friend who has worn her hair waist-length for years. She’s Japanese, which has a lot to do with pulling it off IMO, but I’ve always thought it looked chic and professional.

  7. Legally Brunette :

    I absolutely love long hair and wish I had it. If it’s neat, go right ahead.

    Reposting in the hopes of getting a response:

    I just bought my first true wrap dress at an amazing discount at Banana. Yay! Two questions about tailoring a wrap dress:

    1) Can the slit be sewn together without looking odd? This dress is of a jersey material but it’s not too thin.

    2) Is it possible to remove the wrap part of the dress all together and sew it so it’s just a faux wrap dress?

    TIA!

    Read more: http://corporette.com/2011/06/30/thursdays-tps-report-bella-cashmere-mix-jumper/#ixzz1QmuqUuHl

    • I’m not sure you can sew together the slit without sewing together the whole thing, and if you want to sew together the whole thing … why buy a wrap dress? …. because of the amazing discount? OK i get it … but you may wind up spending all the savings in alteration fees.

      Jersey is by nature flimsy and wrap dresses take a lot of sewing to be made into non-wraps. So you’ll need (i think) a good tailor to sew long, strong, even seams that will be sturdy and not start gaping/looking uneven after a few wearings. The other issue is that you’ll lose the inherent flexibility of a wrap dress, which naturally adjusts/gives a little as you wear it. So be extra careful when you work with your tailor on the measurements and where you want to seams sewn.

      Good luck!

    • That should be possible, Legally Brunette :)
      Talk with your tailor when you bring the dress in. He/She might have to add some fabric to the ‘wrapped-over(bottom)’ half of the dress front, and then sew the side edge of that bottom half to the seam on the opposite side of the dress (say you wrap it right over left, then the side edge of the left-hand front panel would get sewn to the right-hand side seam of the dress. the additional fabric would be hidden and give you more mobility when walking).

      I think it’d only look funny if you tried to limit how much the top flap of the faux wrap skirt is allowed to move; the tack points in the front of the skirt would be visible when you walk bc its jersey fabric. You could try having a dress weight dews into the bottom seam of the top ‘flap’ of the dress so it doesn’t move around so much, but still flows more naturally.

      I hope that all makes sense and is helpful! I must say though that it makes me sad that you’re altering your first true wrap dress, I’ve been looking for a nice wrap dress for a while now bc of their versatility. Too many faux-wraps out there and not enough actual wrap dresses…

    • Maddie Ross :

      To add to KD’s comments, my first thought when I read that this is your first wrap dress is — don’t alter it until you’ve worn it once as a true wrap! I love wrap dresses and despise the faux wrap. IMO, they are very easy to wear. I do keep an eye (and a hand!) on the flap when I’m walking outside, but I find them to be the most flattering and forgiving style.

    • If it’s the dress I’m thinking of, the jersey may not do well being altered. I agree that you should wear it a couple times as a true wrap before deciding.

  8. I have crazy Mediterranean hair that I can wear in only a few ways: (1) bobbed very short so it piles up on top of my head (think Annie Potts); (2) cut in a grandma style (think Barbara Bush or the Golden Girls); or (3) long enough so that it weighs itself down. Since short styles on me require a lot of inconvenient maintenance (frequent, expensive haircuts in salons that know how to handle my hair), I really prefer a longer style. That way I can put it in an updo or controlled ponytail for interviews/court/clients or let it hang loose, without sticking straight out, on days when I don’t have to look so smooth.

    I haven’t owned a hairdryer or curling iron since the early 1990s. F*** blowouts; I have bobby pins and know how to use them.

  9. Diana Barry :

    I would wear it up for interviews in a bun, twist or something else that’s not a ponytail…long hair worn down does tend to make people look younger when they’re already young, so wearing it up mitigates that problem. Also, it is hard to play with your hair when it’s up in a twist, so that’s another plus. I found it much easier to ignore my hair when it was safely up. :)

  10. anon-oh-no :

    I think its fine, as long as its neat. I have blond hair (closer to dirty blond) that was down to the bra strap until two weeks ago — i now have a bob. I’ve gone long and short my whole life. I very much miss the long hair and wish I had not cut it. I think i look younger now and its much more difficult to do in the morning. With two kids, i need easy.

  11. I used to wear my hair short. Then one day I looked in the mirror and saw my mom. That is OK if you are 60. Not so much when you are 35. So I grew it out. It is much easier to deal with. I almost always have it in a ponytail or pulled back. It is naturally curly. Sometimes I flat iron it. Mostly I don’t. As I have gotten older, I am going more natural with my hair and not fighting against what God gave me. That is mainly because once I had my son, I simply do not have as much time to screw with my hair.

    In that vein, I have a co-worker (one of my partners in the lawfirm). She has natural platinum blonde hair. Wears to shoulder length. I have never throught for a second that it is not professional. The color is obviously natural because it goes with her skin coloring. She may help it out a little, but not so you would know.

    • Speaking of moms — I got my crazy Mediterranean hair from my mom, who has been blowing out her crazy Mediterranean hair daily for about 30 years. And she has a creeping bald spot in the front to show for it! Let it go natural, I say.

  12. And for the love, make sure your hair looks as though it’s been brushed! I feel like I see way to many people interviewing with lots of fly-aways and such, it makes you like you have hippie hair when combined with the long length.

    I also think a side-part is more professional than straight down the center. I don’t know why, but I think the center part looks hippish too.

    • Not a hippie :

      Unfortunately, some of us can brush our hair and five minutes later it looks like we just slept on it. I’m sure there are products out there that would help, but I’ve tried a million and never found anything that really works, so I just wear it in a ponytail every day. I wish I looked good in short hair but I don’t.

      • Fashion Faux Pas :

        NAH– me too, and it drives me crazy! I’d love product suggestions that will keep my hair looking brushed. I have very fine, straight hair, but tons of it, if it matters for product recommendations.

        • Try After Party by Bed Head. I loved it when my hair was longer. It made my hair look really sleek and more “finished.”

          • MaggieLizer :

            Is that the pink one? I can never remember what it’s called but it’s a very distinctive bottle. If that’s what you’re referring to, I swear by it. I have very fine hair that is prone to a lot of flyaways and it helps keep them under control throughout the day. I also use some mousse and a touch of hairspray to set it.

        • I’ve had that problem, and found that Garnier smoothing milk makes a world of difference.

          • Love this stuff. It’s the only product that allows me to get my second-day curls into a ponytail instead of a frizzy mess.

        • John Freida 3 day straight and a little biosilk to top it off after its dry.

  13. This question immediately made me think of Portia de Rossi’s character on (much missed) Better Off Ted. Veronica always looked so professional! See: http://corporette.com/2010/03/08/better-off-ted-interview-with-veronicas-stylist/

  14. I have just-past-my-shoulders curly (brown) hair, but it’s very thin so buns don’t look right on me. When I want to look professional, I wear it pulled back in a low ponytail with a brown barrette, or french braided with the ends tucked up and under the braid. I can’t wear it down because I will play with it all day.

  15. Vent =Speaking of hair, I just got a haircut that I totally hate :( And I was kind of liking my hair after the haircut just prior to the last one (two cuts ago)? But I tried a new stylist because I know my current stylist is going to be moving. I guess I’ve learned my lesson … again, unfortunately.

    My paralegal sent me this this morning: “When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground.” I can’t wait for next season.

  16. found a peanut :

    >>“I suddenly got hot/tired of having long hair and yanked it back into a sloppy ponytail/bun with this elastic that has lived on my wrist for the past two months.”<<

    Ah. I finally figured out what to call my everyday hairdo.

  17. I have longish blonde hair. I think I look worse when I try to pull my hair back because I have all this breakage around my face so that I have lots of sticking out hairs that look like antennae. On me, hair down looks more professional than hair up because any kind of up-do or pony tail looks like I’m heading out to the gym.

    I also think that if a particular look is more attractive on you, in the professional setting. Not that I’m saying you should look like a skank at work, but that you don’t always have to go with the dowdier option because it would be perceived as more “professional.” It’s ok to look “pretty” at work!

  18. Ugh, hair. I say the long blonde hair pulled back can look as professional as short. I too have blonde (not platinum) hair and wearing it long is a ton of work for my texture (thick, frizzy) but if your hair is smooth or smoothish and looks nice when put up, not sloppy (like mine) there’s no problem with long blond hair in an interview.

  19. A friend of mine has too die for gorgeous blond long (mid back) hair and did her callbacks with her hair down and gorgeous as always. She also has almost straight As… Got callbacks and offers from the most selective firms (think Sulcom, Cravath, Kirkland, etc). Just make sure you don’t look crazy.

  20. My hair is long (definitely hitting bra strap) and I wear it down because 1) I look younger when I put it up, and 2) I look younger when it’s cut short, and looking young is already a problem for me in a conservative corporate environment. That said, I do worry about it for interviews, important meetings, and similar situations – any advice on keeping it out of the way?

  21. Another Sarah :

    Ok, I’ll bite – what is all this Thrones stuff that everyone is talking about today? Is it a TV show? Can I catch it on hulu (cheapskate roomie won’t go halvsies on cable)? Is it a book I need to start reading?

    • Game of Thrones, it’s an HBO series (the picture in the post is of one of the main characters). It’s based on a book series called Song of Ice and Fire, completely have forgotten the author’s name!

  22. I think long hair is perfectly professional as long as it’s styled neatly and is not extremely long, like waist length. I also think color of hair should complement one’s skin tone, otherwise it’s not good.

    Shoulder length hair looks best on me; I have worn it much shorter before and when I look at pictures of myself with that style, I cringe.

    I am really bad about playing with my hair though. I know that is so not OK and am consciously working on leaving it alone.

  23. I have long (probably 3 inches past my bra strap) dark brown, naturally curly hair. Most of the time I wear it either in a low pony tail with some sort of curl-defining gel in it, or in a “sock” bun (but I have enough hair that I don’t need the sock part to fill it out.) But I really prefer my hair blowdried straight with the ends curled under. However, it takes me at least 45 minutes to do that, and with 3 kids (and I’m too lazy to wake up that early), there is no way that gets done everyday.

  24. Hair Twirler :

    I am such a hair twirler! I can see why it would be perceived as unprofessional, but it is so tempting. I try to only do it when I’m alone in my office. There is something so soothing about it. I’ll try to stop, but I’m not sure if I can. Wearing my hair back definitely helps me resist though, but that’s kind of a blah look for me.

    Anyone have any tips for stopping that habit?

    • I have the same issue! I only do it when I’m alone and really focused on something, but I still do it. I find wearing my hair back or curling it & hairspraying it (thus making it harder to twirler) helps a lot, but I don’t have time to do those styles everyday.

      • Any kind of habit can seem unprofessional. I have male colleagues who tap pencils, let their phones vibrate against the table instead of hitting the side button (which will stop the buzzing!!!), click the pen in and out, bite nails, etc. I’ll say it: I think it’s ok to hair twirl in the privacy of your office when you’re deep in thought!

    • Charlotte :

      I don’t know about any tips, but I have twirled my hair since I was at least 8 years old. You’re right — there is something very soothing about it. My husband even has learned that when I am doing it, I might be feeling stressed. I just have trained myself not to do it in front of anyone at work or in public, and I really try to resist even in front of friends, so alone in my office or at home is totally fine, in my book.

  25. “For all those JD and MBA students going into an intense interview week, you might consider getting a blowout if your hair looks better with one — nothing too bouncy, but just simple, straight, silky hair”

    And…the idea that long curly hair is less professional just refuses to die. *sigh*

    If you happen to like your hair blown out, sure, blow it out. Don’t do it because the alternative doesn’t look “simple.”

    • DammitJanet :

      She says “if” your hair looks better with a blow out, and she says “simple” to contrast “bouncy.” Nothing there seems intended to denigrate curly hair. Actually it’s perfectly couched and disclaimed.

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