Can Older Women Have Long Hair and Still Be Professional?

Glasses and long hair, originally uploaded to Flickr by Carutapera | PixelAlibi.Long hair on older women: the perennial question.  Despite our extensive oeuvre of hair-related questions here, I don’t think we’ve done this one* (and it was hotly protested among commenters in response to The Careerist’s recent diatribe against Hillary Clinton’s long hair, as well as among her own readers.  (Although looking back, we have done the “should I cut my hair for my first job” variation on the question.)

Let me begin by saying I’m biased: at 35, I have probably the longest hair I’ve had in a long time.  This is for a few reasons, I suppose:  first, the last time I did a major cut (donating 9″ to charity after my wedding), it kind of grew into a triangle shape, and now both my husband and my hairdresser protest heartily whenever I try to cut it anywhere near the top of my shoulders.  Second, it’s growing like a weed right now (which will probably change when we finish weaning). Furthermore, I look back on pictures from my early 20s to mid 20s, when my hair was at its all time shortest, and feel a sense of disconnect with that person.  So I think I’m kind of solidly in the camp of “I’m going to wear my hair long until I can’t.” (Pictured above: Glasses and long hair, originally uploaded to Flickr by Carutapera | PixelAlibi.)  

(Pictured below: First, a recent picture of me, taken in anticipation of writing a story on how to make a blow-out last for days.  This was Day 3, if you’re curious.  Second, a picture of me from when I was around 26.)

But when can’t I have long hair? At what point is the time for me to say, I’m going to pack it in and get a shorter cut?  There are some oft-cited reasons, I think:

– “Because shorter hair is easier.” On most people, sure, and I’m 100% for change if it makes your life easier.  But as I’ve mentioned before, my hair keeps getting curlier with age — so for me the easiest thing is to put it back, and in my estimation it’s easier to work with, and I have better results, when it’s longer. (Or, I can get a blowout, as pictured above, but I can do that with any length hair.  Although I’ll bet it wouldn’t last for quite so many days.)  When my hair is short I have to wrangle with it for far too long in the morning with blowdryers, flatirons, and styling products, and, well, at a certain point a woman would rather live her life than wrangle her hair.

– “Because it looks frizzy and frayed.”  I think of this with the aging hippie — the woman who won’t go get a hair cut or use conditioner because she, like, objects to The Man. Or something.  (I fully admit I am not an expert on hippie ladies.)  But if you’re getting your hair cut regularly and it still stays long, I say go for it.  (Also: use conditioner.)

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– “Because it looks too youthful.”  Does it? But if it does — so what?  I don’t buy the argument that “it creates a disconnect if you look young but don’t act young.”  I am an entirely different woman now than I was in my early 20s, when looking “youthful” was a problem.  I hold myself taller, I speak more authoritatively, and guess what, if I want something done you’ll know it.  I’ve learned how to manage subordinates, and I know how to impress clients.  If I lacked authority — and acted young — I can certainly see how long hair would contribute to the giggling/incompetent vibe.

– “Because everyone does it.”  Well, a), fooey on peer pressure.  B) Is everyone doing it?  Really?  I can think, in two seconds, of three older women I know in real life who have long locks, and amazing careers.  I happen to think Hillary Clinton looks great with her longer hair (and minimal makeup).  And hey: if reality TV stars are all wearing longer hair, shouldn’t we all be wearing longer hair?  (I’m actually thinking of a particularly well put-together broker on one of the property shows I watch, Selling New York, but come to think of it, pretty much every other reality star that I can think of also has long hair.)

I went back to Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office last night, which is one of the sources that people often cite when they say “women can’t be professional and have long hair.”  But her example in the book involves a woman with “waist-length strawberry-blond hair” who is told to “lose the Alice in Wonderland look,” which suggests to me her hair accessories (headbands, etc) may have made her look too young (in addition to having hair that was probably in dire need of a good trim anyway).

I don’t know, ladies — what are your thoughts?  Do you think long hair can be professional if you have the gravitas to pull it off? 

* And, drat, after writing this entire thing I’ve realized I have covered many of these points, as part of a longer post about whether platinum blond hair is professional.

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Comments

  1. brooch lover :

    How DO you make a blowout last for days? When does the article come out, Kat?

    • High ponytail when you sleep and dry shampoo. Also, you have to touch-up with a straightener. That’s my method.

      (although I never really make it days without working out, necessitating a shampoo).

      • Gooseberry :

        I dreadfully wish I had the problem of never making it days without working out. My motivation is so shot these days!

    • All I know is the author is sensationally beautiful with or without long hair.

  2. scarf lady :

    Something you didn’t mention is that many women’s hair thins out as they age, and simply don’t have enough hair to make long hair look anything other than scraggly and sad. A shorter cut can give the appearnce of fullness, and a very short cut can deceive other people into thinking that the reason they see the woman’s scalp is because of the short cut and not because of hair thinning/hair loss. Sadly, I’m not 30 yet and can already tell that I’ll eventually have to cut my hair short to camouflage hair loss.

    • Have you considered Rogaine or other topical treatments? I’ve had thinning hair for years, and I have had great success with 5% Rogaine foam. Just a thought. My hair is now longer and keratin-ed and I *love* it!

    • Two cents :

      This. I would love to have long hair (middle of my back) but my hair is thinning and very curly, so it takes forever to grow. And I’m preggers, so no Rogaine for me. I cut my hair last year to make it look more full and when I look at pictures, I don’t feel like “me.” My hair is now about 2 inches past my shoulders and I feel that it looks a lot better on me, personally.

      Any hair that is well maintained and healthy and clean is professional, irrespective of age. I think the whole “you must have short hair after 40″ is a fashion motto of the past and if you look at celebrities, no one follows that. I read a book called “How Not To Look Old” where the author recommends that women wear whatever haircut flatters them, whether that is short hair or long hair.

      • I take 500-1000 mg biotin supplements, and my hair is growing back–amazing results over the past 2 years! I have so much new hair growth, my hair feels twice as thick. I’m 40 years old and was a pescatarian for 15 years until 5 years ago, during which time I didn’t regularly eat a balanced diet, which I think led to my thinned fragile hair.

        FYI, for pregnant women according to Wikipedia, biotin deficiency is common, and dangerous: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biotin#Deficiency .

        I’m curious whether others have experienced similar success taking biotin or implementing other strategies.

        • Gooseberry :

          I started taking biotin recently, too, and the results are amazing (and fast!). It’s made it slightly more expensive to color the grays more frequently, but wow – what a difference in my hair and nails!

        • I took Accutane in my 30s, and it thinned my hair.

          When I started taking Iron in my 40s, my hair got thicker, but not as thick as it always had been.

        • Student4Life :

          I started to experience hair loss last year and learned my iron level was low in addition to other health issues I was having at the time. I was 38 at the time and freaked out when my hair went through 3 months of major shedding! My doctors recommended supplementing iron as well as taking 5mcg of Biotin. My dermatologist also inquired about my mom’s hair (which IS very thin), since this problem tends to be hereditary. I’m also using Rogaine 5% foam. To date, I have noticed my hair is growing faster, but not necessarily getting fuller. I still have a 1/2″ part in some areas! I camouflage this with a great product called Toppik Hair Fibers (available at Sally Beauty Supply). My dermatologist pointed out there are new hairs sprouting, but since hair grows in and sheds in alternating phases, it could take a couple of years for me to see more fullness. I’m sticking to the regimen because it’s not expensive and easy enough to adhere to.

      • This is SO funny!

        Just yesterday, Jim said that I look JUST like Britt Eckland. I still do NOT know if it was a compelement or NOT but he said it in a NICE way.

        But I am NO where even near 40 yet and he said she was alot older then me b/c she was VERY famous many year’s ago.

        So if ANYONE knows what she look’s like you can see what I look like, at least acording to Jim.

        • Seattleite :

          Huh. Ellen, I had you pegged as a brunette.

          • I havent’ been a brunette for a LONG time. And of course even tho my hair is long, it doesnt go all the way to my WASTE. I don’t think the Manageing Partner wood like THAT, even if Jim wood.

        • Kat, the fake Ellen who posted at 4:40 pm is unoriginal and is annoying to the kinfolk who I reluctantly admit does bear a fair resemblance to Britt. This is why it is so unfair. I am out of work while Ellen is able to get bonuses, clothing allowances, and a bevy of male suitors. I, on the other hand, am at least as cute, and my biggest mistake was not attending law school, and getting that silly tattoo 6 years ago.

          So please tell that unoriginal Ellen to stop with her silly stupidity. The kinfolk is not a rocket scientist, but the faker is downright boring! Please let this note serve to notify her to cease and desist trying to make the kinfolk look stupider than she is. Thanks.

    • Has anyone tried Viviscal? I’ve heard rave reviews, but wondering if it actually works.

    • Anonymous :

      Why do you assume just because a women gets older their hair thins out and looks scraggly,I mow of quite a few ladies over 50 that have long healthy thick hair including myself

    • Try MSM or Biotin which are natural herbs
      Also Fenugreek is amazing
      You dont have to have thin hair anymore sweetie.

  3. My hair is very wavy and the weight of wearing it long tends to tame the curl/wave. It’s so much easier to deal with when it’s long than when it’s short. I can’t stand to have my hair in my face, so a shoulder-length style (which would “shrink” 1-2″ as it dried) would be in my face all day long. Any shorter than that and I start to get weird cowlicks.

    I’m in my 40s and when I look around at work, I see lots of other women with long hair. So, I don’t feel like I’m the only one.

  4. Re: Hippie ladies. It’s not just long hair that can look frizzy and frayed. At a former job, a hippie lady in the C-suite was sticking it to the man with her frizzy gray hair worn well above the shoulders. “The man” eventually fired her, but it wasn’t about the hair…

    • For the record, I know some gorgeous older hippie ladies with really fabulous long hair that most people here and elsewhere would envy.

    • I think the problem there may have been the gray rather than the length… I’ve heard your hair can change texture as it loses its color, making it harder to manage and more ‘frizzy’.

  5. Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve had long hair my entire life (with no intention of changing it), but I think it is highly appropriate for the workplace. Amusingly enough, the more I think about it, the more I feel that long hair is actually needed in order to fit the stereotypes of women in the workplace. How do you get the librarian’s bun without enough hair to put into one in the first place? Also, how do you do all of the up dos, braids, and other uniquely feminine and stylized appearances for formal occasions without it? Then again, that may just be my style.

    You see, my idea of “long” hair is anywhere from your bra strap to your hips and medium hair from your shoulders to your bra-strap; anything above that is “short”. (So I admit my opinion may be skewed.) I also adore braiding my hair in various ways, and that itself could make it appear “short”, I suppose. But for every interview I’ve ever been on, I’ve simply blown out my hair, no matter the length, and gone with it. I feel more confident when I do, and I can’t imagine just pulling it into a pony tail or cutting it above my shoulders just to make someone else feel better about looking at me. I look at myself every day in the mirror and love it. There are too many other things to worry about beyond my hair.

    • sugarmagnolia :

      This is the most awesome comment I have seen here in a very long time. This kind of self-esteem cannot be bought with fancy clothes, expensive haircuts or designer bags, but is the ultimate compliment to every look:

      “I look at myself every day in the mirror and love it.” – NLMJ

    • I’m sad b/c I thought I had long hair and I just felt my back – I am about an inch from my bra strap!

    • I do think what counts as “short” and “long” can be pretty subjective – when I was a kid I had hair down to my ribs for years, so I tend to agree that shoulders to bra-strap is medium. Short is pretty much anything too short to pull back into a normal ponytail. So it would be interesting to know what these authors saying “older women can’t have long hair” actually MEAN by long. Obviously Hillary is an example, but I think part of what they mean with Hillary is the shift to long-er hair, because she’s clearly grown it out longer than she’d had it for quite a while. (And I don’t think most women politicians change their looks very often, maybe because people on the internet will snipe about how old they look!).

      I am 43, and have grown my hair longer – a couple inches below my shoulders – after wearing it in an above-the-shoulders bob for at least 5 years, and get a lot more compliments on it now. And yet all the “no long hair on older women!!!” naysayers do make me a little insecure. I kinda just trust my hairstylist to tell me if my hair’s getting out of control or unflattering. He is a tattooed hipster who wears Members Only jackets ironically, and I trust his instincts!

      (I do tend to find hair below the bottom of the ribs too much – but that’s on anyone, regardless of age, and some women can pull it off – I just think it’s often overwhelming – hair for the sake of hair, not an actual style. Plus, it’s not like anyone who likes their hair that way should care what I think!)

  6. It sounds like Kat’s really thought about this thoroughly. The problem is a lot of women haven’t, so it becomes a hairstyle of habit for some people, which inevitably tends to look dated and unkempt and then lends credence to the whole, “older women shouldn’t have long hair” argument. I think if you have nice hair and it works for you, go ahead and keep it if it makes you happy.

    But, as for the 2 pictures of Kat — Kat, you look really cute with your just-above-shoulder hair. It’s a good look for you!

    • Where did this “older women shouldn’t have long hair” come from anyways? This idea is such a FAIL.

      (1) Hair is so individual– different textures, different hair colors, and different skin/face types & body types are flattered by different styles. This “older women shouldn’t have long hair” is one-size-doesn’t-fit-all that it’s Fail #1.

      (2) Many cultures have, in myth and legend, archetypes of the three “ages” of women: maiden, mother, and crone. It seems that some people accept that women can only look a certain way depending on the life stage, and that seems rigid and sheeplike, too. As Kat puts so well, the idea of just succumbing to peer pressure is not a great one. Humans behaving like sheep or lemmings– Fail #2.

      (3) Most cultures associate vigor/s#xuality with hair, and it says a lot that here are plenty of people who try to police women’s bodies and appearances, that they want to deny older women something that has to do with their joie de vivre (if that’s how the woman in question wants to express it.)

      As I’d said when this topic came up, the people who say this generally want to pressure older women to conform to a certain look– that of a desexualized, neutered, and invisible person. These are likely the same people who then turn around and bash older women for not being “attractive” and for that, dismiss them as people altogether.

      • This. Your point number three was one of the first things that came to my mind — short hair (at least as a de facto requirement, to be “appropriate” as opposed to an individual choice) is part of the desexualization of older women.

        • As a young woman with short hair, I’ve noticed that extensively.

          • Cornellian :

            I actually had the opposite experience. when i’ve cut my hair short enough that you need a razor in back and parts just graze my ears, I get hit on a LOT. i think the long hair i have now makes me look more serious on the street. But, of coruse, I think it depends on bone structure, coloring, texture, etc.

      • Spot on.

      • I think it’s another part of the multi-faced “older women shouldn’t be seen”.

        God forbid people may think you’re 18 from the back and, *gasp* the front doesn’t match their expectations !

        I firmly intend to wear my hair long as long as I can … and then some.

      • I think you are right on this. Some cultures don’t want to accept that older women can still feel sexy if they are healthy and take care of themselves. I think it’s oppressive to deny women of any age from feeling sexy and expressing their feminity and sexuality. I think people who are more conservative and traditional are uncomfortable with sex in general and a woman expressing her sexuality, so they want women to wear clothing and hairstyles that are more conservative that decrease sex appeal, so these women don’t tempt their boyfriends or husbands. I think it’s oppressive to deny any woman her right to feel sexy and feminine regardless of her age.

  7. Also, for those of us with very curly hair, shorter cuts make my curls even curlier, so to avoid the frizzy super ringlets my hair is always to my shoulders or longer. But the frizzy super ringlets sure look adorable on my daughter!

  8. 1) Kat, I think you look gorgeous with either hair length & fully professiona.

    2) excellent use of “fooey”

    3) I’m splitting the baby and wearing my hair just at shoulder length. I’m 47. If it were longer, I’d feel compelled to wear it up all the time, and shorter – well, I had a chin length bob for almost 20 years and I just got sick of it. Plus Bradley says that is not my best length.

  9. Some of us just look good with shorter hair: when I finally cut mine short, after many years of an enormous mane, I was told I looked a lot younger.

    Something else to consider is that gray hair often has a different texture — it is coarser and kinkier than non-gray hair. Which can certainly change the way your cut appears, and might affect how you style your hair.

  10. kerrycontrary :

    My hair is also easier to deal with when it’s longer because the weight controls the curls/frizz. My face also just doesn’t look good with a short cut, so I’m keeping it long until I have arthritis and can’t blow it out anymore.

  11. I think hair is much like clothes in that what looks professional on one person may not work for another (a good example would be wrap dresses). I don’t think you can long hair definitively is or it not professional. It looks very professional on some people and unprofessional on others. Depending on your face shape, hair texture, hair thickness, color, hair style, etc. it works.

  12. MissJackson :

    I’m not giving up my long hair, maybe ever.

    Being able to pull it back (usually in a low bun) is a huge time saver for me. I have a ton of hair and even just blow drying it to wear down takes an eternity (I save this for only the *really important* days at the office), and I have just enough wave that I really can’t let it air dry and wear it down because it ends up looking ratty and I feel like the 12 year old version of myself. Even when my hair is substantially shorter, it still takes forever to dry (let alone style).

    Every couple of years I go insane and think that I’m suddenly going to become an entirely different person who is willing to spend 45 minutes on her hair every morning, and I get it cut in a bob. It looks great when I come home from the salon, and I manage the effort necessary to keep it looking nice for about the next 3 days, and then everything goes to sh*t. And then I immediately start growing it out again.

    (If someone wants to remind me that this is what happens the next time that I start wanting a “change,” that would be great.)

    • Sydney Bristow :

      I could have written this myself. I’ve had long hair for a long long time and it just looks better this way. I have a lot of fine hair, so it looks like thick hair. I don’t get it trimmed as often as I should, but it’s definitely between my bra strap and my waist right now. I normally take the time to blow dry and put it into loose curls, but if I don’t, I pull it back into a low chignon. I can’t imagine needing to spend the time to do it every day like I would if it was a lot shorter. I typically wear it down or in a low ponytail at work with the chignon as a backup.

      I also decide to chop it off every few years, but shorter hair just isn’t flattering on me. Anything above the shoulders just doesn’t look as good. I get compliments on my hair from time to time but almost only when it’s long, so I don’t think it’s just a matter of me not liking it shorter.

  13. Migraine Sufferer :

    I keep my hair long because then I have more options for styling it up (ie buns, braids etc) which in my personal opinion looks more feminine and professional compared to just short hair. But I’m biased that way.

    Also- could this be worn to work?

    http://shop.nordstrom.com/S/adrianna-papell-embellished-cap-sleeve-dress/3248169?origin=related-3248169-0-0-3-4&BaseUrl=HomePage&recommendationAttribute=

    Thanks!

    • Migraine Sufferer :

      Details on hair input: I’m 35, my hair is long but well cared for and shiny not frizzy.

      For the dress: I’m in Seattle, not Manhattan.

      Thanks! :)

    • No, I don’t think that should be worn to work. The sequins push it out of the work-appropriate zone.

    • Cover the sequins with a blazer and it’s GORGEOUS for work, and then even more gorgeous when you go out for patio drinks afterwards :)

    • lawsuited :

      I wouldn’t wear this to work because I think the neck line could be too revealing and I think dresses for the office should be more structured than blouson. Hilariously, daytime sequin is my jam and I have a number of gently sequined blouses and sweaters that make it into my regular work outfit rotation!

  14. Putting age aside, I find that between having a chin-length bob and longer hair, yes, the bob does take longer to “do” in the morning, but that’s because I don’t have the option of giving into the ponytail temptation. Comparing blow-out times, it takes me 10 minutes to blow out my bob and it used to take 15 minutes to blow out my shoulder length hair. However, when people think about short hair being harder, it’s often comparing against the 5 minutes it would take to blow it dry enough to make a decent ponytail. Forcing myself to spend the “extra” 5 minutes on some days can be annoying, but ultimately I think it’s worth the effort.

    On aging… if you’re lucky enough to continue to have full hair, by all means rock it and keep it well trimmed and conditioned. But I really must insist that we not use reality TV, um, personalities as a guide to attractive and professional aging.

    • Research, Not Law :

      It really depends on your hair. I have had my full, wavy/loose curly hair every length between only a couple of inches long to my lower back. When I have it medium/long with a good cut, I can literally step out of the shower and get compliments all day. So even the small time investment on a chin-length cut is relatively large.

      • I agree. When my hair is short (because, like someone above, I occasionally become a crazy person and think that THIS TIME short hair will work on me), I have to blow dry all of it and style it really carefully. When it’s long(er), I can usually get away with styling the bangs and then walk out the door. (I can never just walk out of the shower and go – I envy people who can!).

  15. Always a NYer :

    First, that woman in the top photo with this shades is such a Boss! I want to dress like that when I’m her age <3

    Second, I've had long hair all my life and feel it is such a part of who I am. Not only do I like long hair, I find it easier to work with. It can go up in a clip or low bun, I can pull it into a ponytail (which I rarely do b/c I don't like the look), or I can pull the front pieces out of my face and wear it down (I do this all the time).

    My hair is easy to manage and I like it long. When I start dressing like the office frumstank, then we can talk about my hair ;)

    • Totally!! That’s exactly what I want to look like when I’m her age, too!!!

  16. I’ve had long or long-ish hair most of my life (ever since the 7th grade pixie grew out!), never shorter than shoulder length. Now, at age 52, my hair is a few inches shorter than Kat’s current do and worn straight with a side-swept bang. I am not very dextrous, and I’m time-challenged in the morning, so I don’t do all the braids and updos that I suppose I could, but I can put it in a ponytail for the gym or up in a spider clip on a hot day. I have never felt any pressure to go short because of age or to look more professional (I’m an attorney in a small niche firm), and I don’t plan to do so.

    I actually do know a good number of aging hippie ladies, and they run the gamut from long and beautiful hair worn both up and down to more traditional short styles to spikey and dyed a nice cabernet color. (Okay, the one with gray dreads probably wouldn’t fit in at a law office, but she doesn’t work in one.) I say, wear what works for your hair, face and lifestyle, age be damned.

  17. I think part of the problem is that “long” isn’t a monolithic style. I’m not sure Hillary Clinton really pulls it off (not a fan of the headband look she wore to the SOTU). But I think Jessica Walter gets it just right.

    • Goosebumpy :

      Ooh, good call on Jessica Walter! She looked fab-u-lous on Arrested Development and continues to look amazing (albeit in cartoon form) on Archer.

    • But would you really call Jessica Walter’s hair long? Most of the pictures I’ve seen of her, I wouldn’t. I’d call it medium.

  18. I really don’t like my hair short, so we’ll see as I get older. I think it has a lot to do with taking care of your hair so it doesn’t look messy and ungroomed, above all.

    Threadjack: I have a lot of small veins close to the surface on my legs (I guess these are spider veins?) and hate how visible they are. I also hate the sun. Has anyone ever tried that self-tanning lotion (not true self-tanner, the gradual stuff) to solve this problem? I don’t want to look tan, I’d just like these veins not to be so visible.

    • Try the Sally Hansen spray stuff for legs in fair – it adds a little color but mostly diffuses light to make the spider veins less noticeable. It washes off with a good scrubbing in the shower and makes your legs look pretty good. The gradual tanner also works but then it’s the tan color that masks the veins; it doesn’t wash off (but if you work out really hard or sweat profusely, you may need to watch out); downside is your legs may look odd if you don’t use it on the rest of you.

  19. Cornellian :

    I just cut off 4-5 inches of hair and it’s still below my bra strap, so I obviously think I can pull it off. I’m in the “age be damned” camp, but also a little bit the “boss be damned” camp. I’m going to grow my hair back out another three-six inches before I think about bobbing it again.

    I have been getting lots of not so subtle hints about how great I look when I have a noticeable amount of make up, which is upsetting. I’m vacillating between “I WEAR WHAT I WANT, NO ONE UNDERSTANDS ME” and “omg I need to go get a 300 dollar makeover”, which is not productive. What’s interesting is that after resisting makeup for so long, I picked up a drug store “for [my] eyes” stick and spent 8 seconds applying it, and about 10 people complimented me. Maybe understated isn’t really what counts.

    • Are these hints from coworkers or from people outside of work like friends & family?

      I get these hints from family all the time, and I don’t get angry, because I know they mean well. I also don’t listen to them, because most of my beloved relatives also sport really dated hairstyles, makeup, and clothing.

      • Cornellian :

        female senior to me in the office, unfortunately. I don’t understand why female faces require make up to look “professional” and male ones do not.

    • kerrycontrary :

      I also get a ton of compliments when I’m wearing what I call my “bar makeup”, this includes foundation, blush, heavy smoky eyes, tons of mascara, and glossy lips. I assume that those people just like me to look like a stripper.

  20. Haha, I am trying to grow out my hair a little bit (past my shoulders) because I am 28 and I want to fit it in before I am 30! I had hair shorter than Kat’s for most of high school/college, and it’s been hovering between my shoulders/collarbone since then. I’m not totally sure that long hair suits me — my friends seem to like it, but I have hair that is somewhat difficult to maintain.

    • I also think shorter hair (as in, just above the shoulders) might have been more “in” around 2002/2003 – my hair then was about like Kat’s photo from the same year.

  21. Cornellian :

    I will say, though, that ultra-long hair is really off-putting to me. Sort of rich for someone who until last week had hair to her waist, but butt length and beyond screams “fetish!” to me. it’s like being a bodybuilder to me… it indicates that that hobby is really your entire life and the goal around which you make other choices. Even having hair below your bra strap can be sort of cramping, lifestyle wise (hello boats, car doors, windy days, incredible amounts of shampoo), and I can’t imagine how much work the really long hair is. Also, everyone has a point at which their hair really wants to stop growing, and for most people that is well below their upper thighs, so that hair often looks so unhealthy to me.

    • kerrycontrary :

      Yeh, very long hair is usually someone’s way of flying their freak flag. It’s telling the whole world “Hey I’m a little bit wackado!”.

  22. I think long hair on an older woman can actually be aging, as opposed to “too youthful”. It’s the visual effect of the hair pulling down the face. I’m wearing my hair longer than I should for my face only because it’s easier for me to be able to put it up, but my face definitely looks younger when my hair is shorter.

    • oh, and I *hate* Hillary Clinton’s hair longer. Not flattering in the least bit.

      • but what i love about it is that she’s decided she *doesn’t give a cr8p* how people think it “looks.” It’s easier for her to deal with, she feels good about it, and she will now use her brain power to think about her super, crazy, hard, JOB, not about her hair or her makeup. So, that’s what is exciting about it to me, I can care about my hair, or I can not care, and focus on my work. That is what feminism looks like to me.

        • Do you think that’s what she thinks? I thought this started as “wedding hair.”

    • This is the reason I’ve seen the most as well. As you get older, your face starts to sag, and having longer hair can accentuate the sagging. A shorter, more ‘upswept’ look is supposed to give a visual lift to your face.

  23. Mindy Street :

    I noted the article only bashes women. Yet aren’t older men in hot sports cars really the same thing?

    I am firmly in the camp of wear your hair in the way that is most flattering to you. But I may be biased; there are a LOT of gray, graying and would be gray if they didn’t color women in my area, from all walks of life with long hair. Not many hippie types, either (if by hippie we are talking long, usually all one length, and straggly). In fact, they are rare. Most of these women look HEALTHY and fabulous. I aspire to be like them. My hair was short through my 20’s – 40’s.

  24. Beating a dead horse :

    This topic is covered so often, and so pointless, and so often only by bloggers and journalists not in practice of their field anymore.

    I assume we all like to make sure our dead horses are dead.

    Signed,
    So sick of this topic, think up an original topic to debate/stir interest

    • If you’re so sick of this topic, why not take your own advice and think up an original topic?

      Or, you could continue to complain about a problem without being part of the solution. The ball’s in your court, dear.

  25. “Because it looks frizzy and frayed.”

    Even when my hair is shorter, and I use a TON of conditioners, it looks frizzy and frayed. My hair is coarse and has big curls. Does anyone have good product recommendations for thick, coarse, curly hair? Feels like I’ve tried everything on the market and am not happy with any ritual yet. My best results so far are with Kerastase Bain-Oleo Curl shampoo and masque, and my recent discovery is Sublimateur Jour leave-in conditioner which so far is leaving my hair softer and not as frizzy, but still a little frizzy.

    • I have very thick curly hair, and lots of it. I use Deva products, and like them. But whatever product you use, there are a few tricks – mostly “don’ts” I’ve picked up over the years: don’t brush your hair when it’s dry, and try not to touch it, either; don’t wash out all the conditioner, even if it’s not called “leave in,” and use much more than you think you might need; don’t use shampoo that often – it dries out your hair (just get it wet, scrub your scalp, and use conditioner); don’t use products with silicone or sulfates. A lot of “frizz free” products contain silicone. It may temporarily reduce frizz, but it actually makes it frizzier in the long run. But it can sometimes take a while to “wean” your hair off these products, and it may look worse for a little bit before it starts to look better. If you’re not already familiar with it, check out naturallycurly.com. The website has lot of reviews and comment boards on various issues related to naturally curly hair.

      • Second this advice. It sounds counter-intuitive, but just stop washing your hair (with products). The shampoos strip all the natural oils that could be keeping coarse/curly hair soft and sleek. The first month is the hardest, as your scalp is trying to adjust; but once you get past that you may never go back. (I used cornstarch as a ‘dry shampoo’ during that time to keep it from looking oily) Sure saves a lot of money on hair care products as well. naturallycurly.com

    • LOVE the Moroccan Oil Intense Curl Creme and the hydrating conditioner. They make my big, thick, coarse waves/curls (depends on the day and how much finger-styling I bother with) so much more manageable!

  26. Associette :

    Ooo good topic! I think that you can wear your hair at almost any length, so long as you maintain it and style it to keep an overall professional appearance. Is your hair past your shoulders? Well, give it a nice blow dry when you wear it down, or tuck it back into a neat bun when you dont want to blow it out. If your hair is short, same goes! A neat blow out is a must (or with those with lucky stick straight hair, I suppose they can just wash and wear). The problem comes in with people who do not maintain their mane, IMHO, that is when things start to look unprofessional.

    Mine is mid-length now, which I think is a good interview length, but I am growing it out again because I think a nice blow dry (a la P. Kate’s engagement picture) looks the most professional on me.

  27. WHEN I AM AN OLD WOMAN I SHALL WEAR PURPLE
    With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.
    And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
    And satin sandals, and say we’ve no money for butter.
    I shall sit down on the pavement when I’m tired
    And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
    And run my stick along the public railings
    And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
    I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
    And pick the flowers in other people’s gardens
    And learn to spit

    You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
    And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
    Or only bread and pickle for a week
    And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes

    But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
    And pay our rent and not swear in the street
    And set a good example for the children.
    We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.

    But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
    So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
    When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.

    Taken from the book
    When I Am An Old Woman I Shall Wear Purple
    Editd by Sandra Martz
    Papier Mache Press–Watsonville, California 1987

    • Cornellian :

      have read this before, but love it.

      • I love this.

        I just wish women of all ages would live boldly and not wait till they’re [older/more established/10lbs thinner/etc., etc…]

  28. Unhappily Married :

    Threadjack for a little rleationship advice, please.

    I have been with my husband for 16 years, married for 13. If I met him now there is no way I would have dated him more than once or twice. I was a very different person then and being with him felt familiar and comfortable in ways I now know were and are unhealthy.

    I have been in therapy for years and have improved my self-image quite a bit, but I have realized that my husband is not capable of changing to be the kind of partner I long for. I have been on the brink of divorce (lawyered up) twice, and both times he has talked me into staying with promises of change, and both times the change has been short-lived. I feel like we are now well into “fool me twice, shame on me” territory.

    The “stay” list goes like this:

    1. He loves me as much as he can and he would be devastated if I left.
    2. I’d take a significant financial hit including possible spousal support obligation.
    3. No guarantee I’d be happier.
    4. The thought of going through the process makes me quail.
    5. I may well end up a lonely old woman.
    6. When we are getting along, we have a good time.

    The “go” list goes like this:

    1. I am freakin’ miserable way too much of the time and I hate to live my life this way.
    2 Bottom line is he’s got no empathy or compassion for me and he doesn’t really have my back. He will always put his wishes and desires and feelings ahead of mine.

    Any thoughts? Any hints on how to enjoy the good parts without letting the bad parts ruin it? Anybody come back from being super unhappy in your marriage and ended up happy?

    • anon for this :

      How about a trial separation?

    • SF Bay Associate :

      Looking at your go list, how is this even a debate??? I’m feeling ranty, so please forgive me if this comes off as harsh. Other ladies here will be more kindly and sensitive, but you are selling yourself so short and valuing yourself so little (is that redundant?) that it’s blowing my mind. If this is you after improving your self image “quite a bit,” that makes me really sad, and also makes it apparent why you married this guy in the first place.

      This guy is not going to change, not now, not ever. He is getting a pretty good deal as it is, so why would he bother to change?

      Re: your stay list –
      1) who cares? if you’re unhappy, i don’t see why it matters at all that HE is happy. apparently he doesn’t care that you are unhappy.
      2) that sucks, but is it worth your sanity? you can always make more money, some way, somehow
      3) but you are guaranteed to be unhappy if you stay
      4) yes, of course it will be hard, but you know the outcome if you stay, and you have a shot of being happy if you leave
      5) the risk of that is better than being saddled to a man who makes you “freakin’ miserable” for decades? a man that has “no empathy or compassion” for you? “doesn’t really ahve your back”? “always puts his wishes ahead of you”? ARE YOU KIDDING ME??? you will make friends, and may find love. what you have now is nothing at all.
      6) yeah, so? so he’s not evil 100% of the time. that doesn’t mean that he’s worth staying married to.

      It seems to me that this stranger on the internet cares more about you than your husband does. If your list above is accurate, please, please get a divorce. You are worth so much more than this.

      • karenpadi :

        Not married but I agree. I’ve left 2 marriage-ready relationships for these reasons (except #2).

        Re: #3 and #5, take it from this cat lady who’s commonly mistaken for a lesbian due to haircut (not a bad thing–I just wish guys were more enlightened about hair not defining s*xuality)–you will be happier and you won’t be lonely. That’s not to say it’s immediate. It will take some time to identify real friends and to make new, solid friendships. But you will be in control. Having control over my life brings me great happiness.

      • LadyEnginerd :

        I guess we were writing at the same time. I agree.

    • Anon for this :

      Is counseling an option? Given your past experience, I would limit it to some amount of time (a year, maybe) so you don’t just use counseling as another stalling tactic.

      Otherwise, the simple fact of the matter is that you’re miserable now. I am currently mulling around similar feelings with my significant other (not married, but we’ve been together for 7 years). What I finally realized is that, for me, the possibility of not being a “lonely old woman” is not a good enough reason to be miserable every day of my life. It’s sort of like avoiding things you love in the interests of longevity – is that extra ten years worth it if you never get to eat your favorite pastry or whatever?

    • I’m so sorry you’re going through this. Honestly, I think your go list is as long as it needs to be. If those two things are true, then you’re better off separating. I’ve been married for 7+ years now, and I think the entire basis of our marriage might boil down to: we have each other’s backs and we put each other’s wishes and desires ahead of our own. If your husband refuses to do that, and refuses to permanently change, life is way too short to be miserable and unhappy.

    • Wow. You could be me. The lists are the same. When things are good they are fantastic. That is starting to outweigh the burden of me having to be responsible for about 96% of everything – tracking bills, cleaning, budget, saying “no” to things outside of said budget, keeping track of our siblings (parents not much help there), dealing with emergencies…you really said it – “he doesn’t really have my back.” I love him, I really do, and he loves me…but at what point does the burden of being the responsible party 100% of the time forever outweigh that?

      I don’t know. I’m stumped too. I’d interested in the responses.

    • LadyEnginerd :

      Let’s look at your list, thinking only about you:
      Stay #1: Does avoiding his unhappiness make you happier or just resent him more? Does he take your feelings into account in the same fashion?
      #2: Will your significant financial hit still allow you a comfortable, if downsized, life? Have you thought thru what that life would realistically look like?
      #3: Yes, but it also sounds like you are guaranteed to be miserable if you stay (read your go #1).
      #4: The prospect of being in an unhappy marriage for the rest of my life also makes me quail. Would you allow your decade-younger self to sign up for your life now?
      #5: Yes, but you could also become a lonely, old, AND married woman if you stay. Which is more likely?
      #6: This is the ONLY valid reason I see on your list. Do you, with the help of your therapist, see any way to spend more of your life getting along than not? If it requires work from the both of you, is he willing to do that work every day for the rest of his life? Are you?

      Go #1: No one should have to live their life in misery. You don’t have to be a martyr.
      #2: Why would you want to be married to someone who has no empathy or compassion for you and who isn’t supportive of you? You say this is the bottom line, and from what you wrote I must say that I agree.

      I know this sounds harsh, but I really don’t see from your post that you have much hope for it getting better. I know I’m young and foolish (I’m engaged, not married), but would you allow me to sign up for 50 years in the marriage you’re describing? If not, why are allowing yourself to sign up for 40 more years of the same?

    • That you’re so miserable so often makes me sad. *BIGHUGS* are in order, first and foremost.

      I think that if someone truly loves you, he will have your back, and have empathy and compassion for you….

      …so there’s a huge tension between your assertion that he truly loves you and his not showing a baseline level of empathy and compassion that normal people get from not-super-close acquaintances. He knows what you want and need and still doesn’t care enough to exert himself to give it to you– why should you care about his happiness if he clearly is showing (not by empty promises, but by his deeds, which speak volumes) he doesn’t care about your happiness?

      Dump him. Lawyer up.

      I’m a happily married person friends with a happily divorced woman who told me that she was so unhappy, that she realized two things when she thought about her emotionally withholding husband:
      (1)” I’d rather have half my stuff than all of you, because you mostly suck.”
      (2)” I’d rather be lonely and be by myself than feel lonely married to a schmuck that doesn’t support me or have my back in any way. ”

      Your story could be her story, except she pulled the eject button and escaped to save her own life. She learned to be happy while alone and then met a great guy a few years later. It all worked out well. I wish you good luck.

    • I left. It was the hardest thing I have ever done. Granted, I have Professor Bhaer now, which means that loneliness-fear isn’t an issue, but when I think about how unbelievably unhappy I was, I know it was totally the right decision. I used to think about leaving, and have all the same fears as you, and then have to stop thinking about it because the go-list was very similar (my ex had social anxiety disorder that he essentially refused to deal with, and hadn’t been a partner to me in years, as our whole lives revolved around accomodating his mental health issues) and I couldn’t believe I was going to have a whole lifetime of feeling that way.

      Now that I’m gone (and have gained back the 20% of my body-weight that I lost in the 4 months after leaving), I can’t beleive that I was seriously considering staying for another 50 years or so. I am so.much.happier. now.

      • Anon in ATX :

        OT but my 10-yr. old self is still upset that Jo refused Laurie. I think was the first time I encountered a character in lit. that did not follow the typical mold. Of course, that was what Jo’s motto was so it would not have been right for her character, but that 10 yr. old girl would have loved it!

        • But the Professor is SO MUCH BETTER for her, lol. Laurie would have driven her right-crazy.

          My ex is so not Laurie; the whole thing would at least have been way more fun if he were…

    • My Second Marriage Is So Much Better :

      I will tell you my bias upfront: I think you should leave. Immediately and permanently.

      I believe that if you make a thoughtful decision after careful analysis and your very best efforts many times over, but it still is not working, your best option is to leave.

      Anecdotes:

      I left my first husband when I discovered several years into our marriage that he was one year into an affair. I never looked back. The decision was very easy because I have a zero tolerance policy about fidelity. Our marriage wasn’t bad (not like what you describe), but there were issues. It took no courage to leave because of the affair. It would have taken more courage than I had to address the other issues and eventually leave. I think he did me a favor by forcing my hand.

      That was 16 years ago. In the interim:

      * I spent many years single. It was fabulous.

      * I had a one year relationship that sounded a lot like yours: high highs and low lows. After extensive therapy (individual and couples), I left. It was a very difficult decision for me to make, and the chaos that I let that decision cause in my life created problems for me professionally. Several months later, he came back. I had told him not to contact me unless and until he had worked on X, Y and Z. He had not, but I did it anyway. The resuscitated relationship lasted only a few weeks and was hideously bad. I wish I had not done it.

      * 2 1/2 years after that, I met my now fiance. We have been together 6 years this week. (I know; I call him my husband because we are all but married, pending his kids getting through college and their insane mother being out of our life.) I never knew how much a strong and healthy marriage could add to every aspect of your life. That sounds naive. I met him at 40, and I should have known that by 40, but I didn’t. When I think of all the time I spent not being with my husband, I am not sure what to think. On the one hand, I needed to go through all of that to be able to be having the relationship I am now having. On the other hand, I wish I could have had this relationship all along.

      Another way to think of it is this: you have X years left on this Earth. Do you want to spend them in a bad marriage? Or do you want to spend them happy, either because you are better off on your own, or because you find a better mate for you?

      One last (financial) way to think of this is: You are going to have to support him financially whether you are married or divorced (I assume this based on your post). Would you rather be giving him money AND be in a bad relationship and unhappy? Or would you rather be giving him money and be happy, either alone or in a good relationship.

      • My Second Marriage Is So Much Better :

        “I believe that if you make a thoughtful decision after careful analysis and your very best efforts many times over, but it still is not working, your best option is to leave.”

        I should have added that I obviously think you have satisfied this standard. And then some.

    • Seattleite :

      I left. And only after I left did I realize just how much energy living with him took, and how much better it is to be alone, but have energy to nurture myself, than to be coupled in a draining relationship.

      Please read “Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay.”

      1. Irrelevent. What matters is the quality of the relationship, not the level of love on either side.
      2. “I am making $X per year by living like this.” Worth it? yes/no
      3. No guarantees you’d be unhappier, either, so I’m calling it a wash.
      4. IME, making the decision was the hardest part of the process. I have children, and my XH pulled some financial shenanigans during the divorce. But it was still easier than the constant second-guessing and guilt for wanting a divorce.
      5. You’ll probably be lonely if you stay. You’re lonely now, aren’t you?
      6. If having a good time with someone isn’t a good reason to marry someone, it isn’t a good reason to stay married.

      Hugs to you. And do read the book.

      • I was in a very similar, very long-term relationship, and was so relieved once I finally got away. It is depressing and demeaning to be stuck in a relationship where you are not valued or treated with respect. When your wishes and desires and preferences and feelings and general well-being are treated as unimportant by your partner, how could you be happy or keep your self-esteem?

        I second the recommendation for “Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay” – it really helped me think through things rather than thinking in circles. A pro/con list is never going to help you make the final decision – I used to do the same thing, and that book make it clear that that approach is not the most helpful way to think about things.

    • Wow.
      ” Bottom line is he’s got no empathy or compassion for me and he doesn’t really have my back. He will always put his wishes and desires and feelings ahead of mine.”

      This is your future talking here: I stayed with a “no empathy or compassion” guy for years because I was afraid of going thru a divorce, afraid for the kids, what if I’m alone… all the crap you’re telling yourself to put off the inevitable. And the only thing I would do differently is get a divorce way, way sooner. And not be so damn nice in the settlement because “aw, I’m causing him so much pain”. He caused it himself because- remember- “no empathy or compassion.”
      Look- you tried. You’ve tried twice. If he’s like my ex, he can put up the caring facade for about two weeks. But it’s just that, a facade, and will come crashing down when you need it the most.
      And let me tell you as plainly as I can- the happiest day of my life was when I woke up and realized it was all over, all done. He was gone, settlement finished, and the day- the whole friggin’ DAY was MINE. I did not have to worry about him, hear his nasty attitude or feel awful wondering if I should get a divorce. It was done. That was 12 years ago and I still remember the joy of that day. I could go out and find what made me happy, what gave me a sense of living again.
      I am 55, and, along with myself, I have friends who divorced the kind of guy you describe. We are all happy- three of them met and married great guys. Not okay guys- great guys. We know what to look for. I date because after a taste of freedom, of doing what I want , when I want, I don’t think I could ever marry again. But never say never.

      ” If I met him now there is no way I would have dated him more than once or twice. I was a very different person then and being with him felt familiar and comfortable in ways I now know were and are unhealthy.” So you wouldn’t date him- but you think it’s okay to stay married to him????
      Look- you know what you have to do here. I have a feeling that like me, you’re a sensitive person and hate causing anyone pain. And that keeps stopping you. So you have to soldier up- reach down to your strong self, the you that would fight for a child being poorly cared for and let her do her thing. Get your girlfriends ready- tell them you need support and love and encouragement. If there are any who can’t muster that- check with them after the divorce is over. Get your finances figured out before you say anything about a divorce to him. Lawyer up. Take really good care of yourself. Cut him loose mentally so he can’t keep playing you. And quite thinking about divorce as the worst thing in the world. It isn’t. The worst thing in the world is being married to someone who “doesn’t have your back”.

      Good luck- and lots of love and strength.

    • I’m divorced and now happily remarried. The worst part is worrying about taking that final step, out of the marriage and on with the rest of your life. However, it’s not as bad as you fear. In fact, you’re probably not prepared for the immense relief you’ll feel once it’s done.

      Being in a marriage that makes you miserable is like being in prison. Even if the other person is really a very decent person (as was and is my ex), if he’s not the one for you, he does not deserve to eat up the rest of your life.

      Unless you believe in hereafter or reincarnation, this is it. This is your life. Live it in a way that you won’t regret.

    • Divorced after 16 years of marriage. Very happily remarried after 8 years of being single. I tried and tried, we did counseling for years but much as you’ve said about your husband, my ex just couldn’t see me as being anywhere on his list of important people in his life. It was so bad that when we went to events together, people didn’t realize we were married.

      I won’t tell you what to do. I’ll just say I’m glad I left. Alone the rest of my life would have been better and the financial hit was just money. It wasn’t easy, and getting over the whole mess took a while but it was most definitely worth it. I am so much happier, happier than I ever thought I could be.

    • i'm like this too :

      My mom went through this and left and deeply regrets it. It turns out that her freakin misery was not related to my dad – when she left and divorced, she found life even more miserable because she was unable to cope with the 100,000 little things that you have to cope with without a spouse (ie, no one with her at the hospital, no one to help her with simple errands like meeting the cable guy, financial pressure, etc.)

      It sounds like you have a history of mental health issues (which is the same in my family). My advice to you is 1) Good job on working with a therapist and moving forward on some of your issues. 2) Why do you think that your spouse has to change at the same rate that you are changing, and 3) Be as specific as possible about the concerns in #2 of your con list. To me, #2 is not specific enough.

      Also, remember that ultimately, divorced or single, only you are responsible for your own happiness. Read “The Happiness Project”.

      Also, you have more options that just divorce or stay. Why not get a separate place for a 6 month lease and try to engage in your own happiness project? Travel alone for a week to give yourself space to think.

      (In my own marriage, I did come back from a lot of the feelings you are dealing with – I got a separate apartment for 6 months and we still dated but I worked hard on me. Now I am wise enough to realize that my unhappiness was of my own making, and unrelated to my spouse. I am responsible enough to accept my spouse for his flaws and stop expecting him to be anything other than he is. But this is just my experience.)

    • “Bottom line is he’s got no empathy or compassion for me and he doesn’t really have my back. He will always put his wishes and desires and feelings ahead of mine.”
      Wow, life can be really hard, especially after you have kids and in the midst of the fights and stress sometimes the only thing that keeps you going is a genuine feeling that the other person has your back, despite them occasionally behaving badly. If you don’t even have that, what would be the point?
      Also, what if you get sick or injured or one of your future children does and you have to depend on this person to be caring and compassionate? I would seriously get out before you invest any more in this person.

    • I could have written this exact post (except I have kids and have been serving my sentence for almost 20 years). I am so scared of the process and the cos of divorce but I am making my plans and hope to get out in the near future.

      • I’ve been married 18 years and with my husband for 23 years. There have definitely been times when I’ve felt frustrated enough to start thinking about whether life would be better on my own. And I too have wondered whether I would choose to be with my husband if we met today rather than at age 21, and whether there might be someone out there who would be more compatible with the person I’ve become over the years. But we’re still together because we *do* feel compassion for each other and always “have each others backs.” Without that, our long history wouldn’t mean much and the ongoing effort it takes to work through our disagreements and keep growing our relationship absolutely would not be worth it.

  29. long-time lurker :

    Closing in on the big 40 in a couple years and I think I will keep my shoulder length hair. Its thick and difficult when shorter, and I wear it up in a twist 90% of the time at work. Few older female role models at my firm (what’s new) but they seem to take a variety of approaches. Only one has hair longer than mine that she regularly wears down (and it looks good on her). I do agree with some of the commentators that i.e. rear end length hair is a little odd on anyone not just an older woman. I think the goal is to find style that is reasonably neat (and works with your hair type) and keep it out of your face.

  30. karenpadi :

    I don’t know where you get the “everyone does it”. Maybe I’m wrong here but I only see women with long and shoulder length hair (which is long!). Babara Walters, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Condi Rice, Michelle Obama, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Sonia Sotomayor, Nancy Pelosi (sometimes), Olympia Snow, and Jan Brewer all have long hair.

    Really, the only powerful, over-40 women I can think of with short hair (shorter than chin-length) are Elena Kagan and Cecile Richards.

  31. Hahahahahahaha. Sorry, that’s the laugh of a 55-year old with long gray hair. Of course, I work in the Internet world, but even if I were a lawyer in Manhattan, if I’d reached this phase of a successful career, I’d still go long and gray.

    Who the hell decided women have to be So Thoroughly Bossed around our grooming? I get the clothing thing, and of course we all stay within general societal boundaries, but the no long gray hair on women I am still parsing out. The initial analysis indicates the root cause isn’t pretty.

    • Anon in Canada :

      “the root cause isn’t pretty”

      ISWYDT.

    • research lawyer in SV :

      Lisa,
      Love “privilege” and your insight into things.

      When I was in my 20’s I thought I would cut it all off at 30. Then I turned 30 and upped it to 35. 35 came and went and I thought, well, somewhere in my 40’s. I did have some various “shorter” cuts for awhile and my hair was harder to manage. Now at 50 I’m gradually letting some grey show ( much to my mother’s chagrin!) but keeping it long, well cared for, and neat.

      When is the world going to “grow-up” and recognize that diversity is a good thing – even when it comes to hairstyles?

      • Thank you. Thank you very much. I ask myself the same question.

      • Mindy Street :

        Thank you both.
        rl in SV, you said something very significant that I think needs to be restated: long, well cared for, and neat.

        Just because a woman is no longer very young, it does not mean she is trying to look that way. Thinking about this issue reminded me of the older women from when I was a child, with their elegant updos and how long that hair was when they took it down (mid back, some even a few inches longer). And it was healthy hair, not all damaged and straggly.

        On the diversity note: Ditto with the part or full gray Hindi ladies with the braids that nearly hit their waist.

        And as a corollary: long, poorly kept hair looks bad at ANY age.

  32. Of course. I started my career in my mid- to late-twenties after grad school and have always worn my hair long. The key is in not looking unkempt or disheveled. My advice: Invest in a good straightening iron and wear a blazer to work everyday. Has worked for me.

  33. Pet peeve alert – feel free to skip…

    Your bra has 2 straps. They go over your shoulders and are attached to the cups (in the front) and the band (in the back). Unless you mean “shoulder length,” the bra strap is not the appropriate frame of reference in hair length. That’s the band.

    Thank you.

  34. FunnyCoincidence :

    It’s funny that this was posted today. I got my hair cut at lunch today (before I got the e-mail!) and it went from a few inches below my shoulders to short (he cut at least 6 inches). I’ve had tons of compliments on it and the most interesting one (from more than one person) is that I look much younger with short hair. I’m in my early 40s and I think long hair is fine and so is short hair. For me, it’s easier to keep it neat and professional when it’s shorter. The nice part is that if I get tired of short hair, I can grow it long again.

  35. I feel like most women I know have medium to long hair and plan to keep it like that. Personally, I feel like I look much more attractive, get more compliments, and feel more confident with short hair. In the ’90s I had Gwyneth Paltrow circa Sliding Doors short hair, and I loved it! I think a lot of women have the misconception that long hair always equals attractive, and I think that can be false at any age.

    • AnthroMouse :

      How funny! I’m in my 30s and I feel like I’m about to buck the trend – I’m planning to cut my hair quite short (boy-short in back, with longer hair over the ears and bangs) from its current below-the-bra-band length. I’ve had it that short before and gotten lots of compliments along the line of ‘you’re so daring’. But I know that I’ll also get a lot of questions as to how my fiance feels about me cutting my hair, too.

      I really see how hair length & sexuality are entwined in our culture – to have long hair is considered feminine, sexual, deliciously repressed if pinned up, and so on. And I agree with an earlier poster that part of the discomfort with older women having long hair (unless pinned up) is that we also are, as a culture, uncomfortable with older women being sexual. I think that’s why it’s also fairly rare to find younger women with truly short hair (chin length and above) unless they are challenging societal norms – you’re perceived as unfeminine, unattractive, nonsexual by heteronormative standards.

      Of course, the only way to deal with this is to be aware of it – and do what works best for you anyway.

    • LOVE Siding Doors!

  36. onehsancare :

    Attended a depo yesterday with a young associate from Big Law. When we began (at 10:30, so not the crack of dawn), her long hair was damp and wavy, and not brushed. I thought, “Well, she’s not at home, traveling, just not at her best.” By the end of the day, her hair was dry, but never brushed. Even though she was in a lovely black suit, she looked like she’d just tumbled out of bed, fully made up.

    I was curious about how long she’d been a lawyer, so I looked her up on the firm’s website, and saw from her photo that the not-brushed look is her standard. It’s not age that matters–it’s whether the hair is actually styled and kept tidy and professional.

  37. This is so funny, because i was JUST talking to my hair stylist about this this morning! And even though she is not a fan of Hillary Clinton’s current hair cut, we agreed that this is a dumb, outdated and totally bullsh1t rule!

  38. Sorry to be commenting all over the place on this one, but I don’t think anyone has posted this response to the question yet, and it cracked me up: http://www.sweethotjustice.com/2012/07/27/the-truth-is-out-ladies-your-long-hair-is-killing-your-career/

  39. Hair is a lot like clothing with fit (enhance your face), quality (texture, color, product), and appropriateness for the situation (80s music video hair vs. Something less ‘hitting the club’ vibe).

    Add to that the changes in your face/body and hair as well as life as you get older…things may need to change. But it is very individual.

    Best defense: a great personal shopper/honest friend for clothing and a great hair stylist.

    I had four inches cut off last year. (still past shoulders). I look younger (not dated by the hair), more professional and when i want, just as sexy. Who needs fast fashion?

  40. Older women + under 40 = oxymoron [I know, it’s supposed to be only a total of two words].

    Hillary’s hair was adorable when she graduated from law school – longer and very curly – and looks good on her whether it’s down straight-ish or up.

    Don’t we live in a free country?

  41. My hair is finally thinning…which for me is a good thing. I could NEVER have long hair in my youth because there was far too much of it and I’m a small build with small features. Now it’s still thicker than average but at least manageable so dammit, I’m growing it, even though I’m in my late 40s.
    I figure as long as I keep it from being frizzy (not easy in the climate I live in) what’s the problem, I always wanted long hair and better late than never.
    I don’t shampoo my hair (just my scalp), don’t blowdry, don’t straighten, don’t brush – all of these things harm my hair. I condition, condition, condition, oh and I never let hairdressers near it. They don’t understand thick wavy hair and as I keep it in great condition, I don’t need to get it cut.

  42. WishfulSpirit :

    I really liked this article’s perspective. I think long hair can look very professional on a 35+ woman, but it does have to have some shape. The long, one-lengh, horsetail mane can be aging because it often conveys the “desperately holding onto your youth” vibe (the same way a woman dressing too young does).

    That said, my hair was mid-back most of my life, now it’s a curly bob and for me, it looks better that way. I have a square face and need some framing to balance it out.

  43. I have just passed the big 60 and have been wearing my hair down nearly to my waist for the last forty years. My husband calls me Rapunzel. That is good enough for me!

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  45. My hair is long enough to touch my butt, but none of my co-workers know. I keep it in a very professional and neat bun every day. It takes me less than 3 minutes (that includes the time to brush it out) to put it up each day. Long hair for me is a time saver, and no one can possibly argue that my librarian-style bun is unprofessional. I plan to grow at least 10 more inches of hair, and my colleagues will be none the wiser.