Update: We still stand by this advice on whether long hair makes you look younger, but you may also want to check out our more recent discussion of how to be taken seriously when you look young. You may also want to check out our best advice for office hairstyles.
Reader A has an interesting question about the perennial problem of looking too young…particularly, she wonders, does long hair make you look younger?
I’ll be spending this summer in my Michigan hometown working as a student ADA. They’ve even promised to let me try some misdemeanors. My problem is that I will be working in a very small town where many of the people knew me as a child. Furthermore, despite my conservative and classy attire (thanks for your help on that!) people still guess I am a mature 20 year old, rather than the 26.5 year old I really am! I’ve decided that the problem might be my long hair, which falls approximately in the middle of my back. My boyfriend, like most guys, doesn’t want me to cut my hair into an “old lady hairstyle.” Can you recommend an appropriate place between sorority girl and dowdy matron? How long is too long?
Hair is a highly personal thing — it really depends on the woman, her stature, how she carries herself, and more. Most will tell you that a length somewhere between your shoulders and the top of your bra strap in the back is acceptable. Some women look great with it longer than that; some don’t.
(For this author, for example, hair that reaches the bottom of my bra strap makes me look as if I’m headed to Woodstock.)
We would also suggest you consider your makeup carefully for the summer — a bare face can look just as young as an overdone face, as readers have noted previously.
(Pictured: Long Hair, originally uploaded to Flickr by madaise.)
If you really don’t want to cut any of your hair, we would advise you to learn how to put it up in a way that is professional yet flattering.
For example, we’ve written before of our love for the low ponytail tucked-into-itself, and we recently(ish) saw the blogger at I Am Style-ish describe how she did a big bun.
Real Simple also recently described how to do a “quick” French twist and YouTube is filled with women talking about their hair, in depth. Even just a big claw can help you pull your hair up in a way that’s flattering.
If you do end up deciding to cut your hair, please consider donating it — you have to cut at least 8″, but it can make a difference in someone’s life.
Readers, how long do you think is too long? What are your favorite up-dos for the office? Where do you fall in the “does long hair make you look younger” debate?
I say, ignore the boyfriend and find a good hair stylist. Having a good hair cut will save you hours of styling time each week and boost your confidence. I know – I’ve had a good hair style and now have to grow it out for a wedding. It’s killing me. Find a stylist whose clients include professional women, especially professional women under 35; in fact, ask a professional woman whose hair you admire for a stylist recommendation.
Just curious: grow it out for a wedding? Very generous of you to agree to do so.
Wait, someone is dictating your hairstyle for their wedding?
I imagine growing out for her own wedding — many women do (to have it long enough to put up)
I’m in the midst of growing mine out for my wedding, and I’m remembering why I got it cut short in the first place. The longer it grows, the more I want to shave my head after the wedding.
Almost all of my friends did the same — the “post wedding chop” is the tradition no one tells you about! Feels great :)
I loved my wedding, but was also pretty excited about the haircut after it was all over. I had grown my hair out to the middle of my back – the longest it’s ever been – and man, it drove me nuts. I think I cut it all off less than two weeks after the wedding.
I tried to grow my hair out for my wedding, but it was a really hot summer and I had to take the bar at the end of it. I just couldn’t make it. I justified it by telling myself that I’ve worn it short since college, and I wanted to look like myself in my wedding pictures. It was still long enough to curl and pull off my face, and, as a bonus, I didn’t chop it all off myself the week before the bar.
I know at least one bridesmaid who opted to grow her hair out for someone else’s wedding – she wanted to put it up and it was too short to do that. The bride couldn’t have cared less what the bridesmaid wanted to do with her hair. Since we don’t know the details, just another perspective before everyone goes off on bridezillas :)
Exactly. I was the maid of honor at my best friend’s wedding and she didn’t care whether I got my hair done or how I styled it but it was in the south in June and I knew I would be cooler and more comfortable with it up so I grew it out over the spring to make sure I or a stylist could put it up and off my neck securely. I told people I “had” to grow it out but I had to do that for my own comfort, not hers.
Donating your hair is a great idea, but they’re fussy about it not being treated, lest it be too brittle to be made into wigs.
Apart from that, I’m looking forward to reading what people have to say on this topic. I’ve gone back and forth all my life. Long hair; tired of long hair, cut it short; tired of short hair, grow it out; tired of long hair… etc etc, round and round.
Ideally I’d have it long and put it up, as Kat suggests. But it slithers out of pins. I need to get my hairdresser to give me some demos/lessons.
They are a bit fussy – and honestly, they need financial contributions more than they need hair (assuming we’re talking about Locks of Love here).
Interestingly, while long hair can look juvenile on a woman in her 20s, it can age a woman in her 30s or older just by the contrast, the thinning that occurs as we age, and the lack of style that most long hair has when it just hangs…
I’m a fan of the french braid personally when I have longer hair (right now I have an A-line bob that’s above my shoulders)
Locks of Love doesn’t really make many wigs at all. And their numbers for administration dollars v. actual dollar used to help people aren’t great. I donated my hair to Pantene Beautiful Lengths, which makes wigs for adult cancer patients. Much better program than L.O.L’s in my opinion.
They are *very* fussy. I recently read a few articles about how most hair that’s donated from the U.S. is never re-used.
I mean this in a constructive way — referring to what I can only assume you mean is a bob as “old lady hair” (and using a .5 on your age) makes you sound much younger than long hair will ever make you look.
If you want to keep your long hair, I recommend learning a few of the “put it up” tricks. Only a handful of women at my firm have hair to their bra strap, and they tend to be the older, didn’t change style after HS types. Please ignore your boyfriend. Men don’t seem to really care so long as YOU feel attractive!
Yes, ignore your boyfriend.
And FWIW, I have elbow-length hair with bangs (usually wear it up) and am a partner at my biglaw firm.
I agree with Cat’s comments in her first paragraph. If your attitude in person leaves the same impression to people that you meet that your email left me, then your hair is not the issue.
While this sounds snarkey, I don’t mean it to be – just something to consider.
-33-year-young woman with short sylish hair
I agree with Cat! The tone of your letter made you sound terribly young (not hair length). I’m 35 and have a pixie that suits me.
I don’t care about old/young issues with hair (and funnily enough, this seems to be an American thing, no one in Asia bothers as long as the hair looks good).
Polished makeup, the tone of your voice, your demeanour, etc go a long way. Avoid words like “awesome”, “cool”, etc – I vaguely recall similar advice doled out by corporettes in an earlier reader letter.
Could any of you post a link to examples of short stylish hair? I have hair slightly longer than shoulder length and usually wear it back, but I honestly have no idea what a short stylish hair cut looks like, the only ones I’ve seen are very short ones, around ear length, that look great on some women but would look awful on me.
EK – once you do find a cut you like, and are ready to take photos in to your hairdresser, try to find the same cut on wig-selling websites. The reason is that they show back and side photos as well as just the front, which of course gives your hairdresser more info.
A couple inches longer than the sholders is ok if you are going to be wearing it down around the office and are concerned you look a little too young. I wouldn’t go any longer than that. I agree with Emily, you need to ignore your boyfriend’s preferences and do what is right for your career on this issue. I have long hair and have always worn it up in court and in depositions and meetings with opposing counsel.
I need a gift idea for a female friend who turns 30 tomorrow (I just found out.) She graduated from lawschool in 2009 and took a buyout from a big firm to pursue her goal of getting a job on Capitol Hill. She may soon take a job on a campaign across the country. Given the time-crunch, online ordering is obviously out. I would spend as much as $100 on the right gift. Any ideas? Thank you, ladies!
A cold bottle of good champagne.
Something useful from Tiffany’s, like a business card holder.
Oh, goodness… Just order some Tired Old Ass soak from Vermont Country Store!
If you knew for sure that she was taking the job, you could get her some awesome fancy toiletry kit, since she’d be traveling, with some fancy pants toiletry products in airplane friendly sizes.
I’d got for a spa gift certificate; campaigns are dreadful and when it’s over, all you want to do is have time to yourself to do things you couldn’t do at a leisurely pace b/c you were at someone else’s beck and call. Perhaps you can say, when you get back in town, I want to treat you to lunch/dinner and a day at the spa.
I can sympathize with Reader A. When I first starting practicing bailiffs thought I was the client and my client was the attorney, despite being the one in the suit (the running joke in my office was that I was to wear a sign around my neck that said “I’m the lawyer” to court). When I filled in for other attorneys at the firm on court appearances, although being informed that another attorney would be filling in for the partner, the clients thought I was one of secretaries (one of the firm’s clients actually called the partner I filled in for at a status conference and complained that the partner sent his secretary to court in his place!). I too had long hair; it was bra-strap length. Regardless how I styled it I still looked young-believe me it wasn’t like I was wearing it in pigtails (it is stick-straight and fine). My hair stylist helped me pick a professional shorter look and I ended up cutting it to chin length. It made a huge difference and now that I have 6 years under my belt (and the stressed-look of a litigator engrained on my face), I think it is safe to grow my hair back out.
I hope the partner gave the client an earful.
I’m about your age. I have hair that goes a couple inches below my bra strap. I get it straightened with the keretin stuff, but when it air dries it is still somewhat wavy (just not frizzy). I also currently have the side-swept-bangs thing going.
I wear my hair down every day. Seriously. I wear it up a handful of times a year (except when at the gym) – it’s too thick/heavy to wear up and it hurts my scalp. Sometimes I just let it air dry, too (and just do the bangs).
I don’t think it’s ever been a noticeable problem. In fact, my practice area tends to be very “old boys club” and it works in my favor, since they don’t expect as much from me as they end up getting, so they aren’t as prepared. Now, of course, that’s starting to change the longer I’ve been practicing.
All that said, unless you are wearing your hair in pigtails, it isn’t going to make you look young (unless you have a young-looking face), assuming you are dressed appropriately. Just make sure your hair isn’t styled in such a way that it is always in your face. It’s your attitude and how you carry yourself that would make you seem younger than you are. I don’t think you have anything to worry about.
All that said, if anyone has any haircut suggestions, feel free pass them on, since I’ve had basically the same haircut for as long as I can remember (bangs excepted). I have a very round face so I can’t do a bob, and I don’t want to cut off all the length, anyway.
Another young attorney here who usually wears my mid-back hair down.
Honestly, I think it’s more a matter of poise and attitude than hair length. If the rest of your outfit seems maturely conservative then you should be fine. Just make sure that you keep your hair brushed through the day, and if your hair tends to frizz or tendril then put in some well-placed pins the same color as your hair to keep it under control.
I may be the only one who has a problem with this, but I’ll say it anyway. No professional woman should let her boyfriend’s opinions dictate her work appearance. I don’t let my husband of almost 11 years – the father of my child – tell me what I should do about my hair, the way I dress, or anything else, for work. I think most men would prefer to see their romantic partners with long hair, makeup, boobs out to there, tight/short/sexy clothes, etc. all the time. However, a man you are romantically involved with is not the best judge of what is appropriate in the workplace.
I think any length of hair can be “professional” as long as it’s shaped well, clean, styled nicely, and doesn’t overwhelm the rest of the person’s look. What’s not professional – or mature, or acceptable for any independent woman – is to let a man tell you how you should look, and then do what he says. Grow a backbone.
RIGHT ON!!!! I am so shocked that in 2010, with exposure to short haired goddesses like Halle Berry, etc. ANYONE would say short hair=old lady. Just a step up from calling it ‘mannish’, etc. A is right, and I stand with her ! :)
Ditto. None of the boyfriend’s business what you do with your hair. That said, I know a lot of attorneys who pull off long hair (including one with very long hair) and make it look professional. Consider the style, consider the ponytail or other updo (I’m a fan of the bun), and wear your hair in a way that makes you feel good, professional, and powerful.
I disagree A. I think when two people are together they should care about each other’s appearance. I wouldn’t want my husband growing a long beard or getting a beer gut.
Hair is different from clothing. You can still have tight clothes and big boobs showing on the off hours and dress professionally daily for work. But once you change your hair, it effects your personal life and not just your work life.
I contemplated dying mine once b/c I felt I wasn’t being taken as seriously as a blonde. But I love being blonde and I am willing to have to work a little harder to be noticed rather than going through life as someone other than who I am.
If the OP wants to know if she has to cut her hair, no she doesn’t. Will it make her look older? Probably. That is her choice to make and she gets to weigh the consequences. As progressive as I am, I still care about what my husband thinks of me and I want him to find me attractive. If he finds a certain hair style unattractive, I don’t plan on getting it, just like he shaves regularly to keep me happy.
I was just about to write this and am so glad that you said it so eloquently. My husband and I love and respect each other, and I often give him advice about his hair/clothes and he does the same for me. He knows my physical attributes so well at this point that he has a really good idea for what looks great and what doesn’t look great on me. I appreciate his comments and he’s almost always right. I don’t see how giving each other constructive advice about what looks good on you is somehow demeaning or less progressive.
Constructive advice is not a problem. But not cutting your hair when you want to because your boyfriend tells you not to seems wrong to me. My husband likes my hair long too, but he doesn’t have to carry around a thick, heavy, unruly head of hair. And he still LOVES me no matter what the heck I do to my hair. Because he loves me – what’s inside – not just the package. He’s allowed to have an opinion, but his opinion doesn’t trump mine.
This, totally. Thanks for saying it.
Totally agree. Having a spouse/partner tell you what you can and cannot do regarding your appearance (or anything really) is a problem. But what is the problem with considering, as one factor in your decision-making process, that your partner loves you with long hair? (I’m assuming he made these comments light-heartedly and isn’t actually a controlling jerk/wouldn’t try make her feel undesirable if she does cut it.)
Isn’t this entire discussion about altering your physical appearance to take control of other people’s perception of you? Isn’t it equally valid to consider what will make you feel desirable to your spouse/partner as what will make a complete stranger not prejudge your competence because you look young? Ultimately she should do what she wants based on her own priorities and preferences. But I’m with Blonde Lawyer – I just don’t think it’s regressive or weak to consider your appearance in the context of your personal life as well as your professional life.
My boyfriend had the same concern when I wanted to cut my hair over a year ago. I did it anyway and he ended up loving it.
Me too! I went from shoulder-length curly hair to a crew cut. My boyfriend never told me I couldn’t, but clearly wasn’t excited about it. I loved the short hair, and he ended up loving it too. Guys often can’t picture what you’d look like with shorter hair, so they respond to other women they know with short hair, which often is their grandma. If you cut it and he hates it, hair grows back. If you cut it and he loves it, you’ve just created a little more room to be yourself in that relationship.
I completely understand your problem. My hair when I began my last year of law school was longer than waist length. I had a solidly conservative wardrobe but wore my hair down and pulled away from my face. I got lots of compliments on being very professional but everyone also commented that I was “hippy-trippy”! I finally decided to cut it off but only to about mid back (which was still 15 inches cut). I donated it and never heard “hippy-trippy” again. I say, just get a good modern style, learn a few easy up-dos for important events, and don’t worry about the length.
Cutting your hair is unlikely to make a difference. I am a 7th year associate for a very large firm. It does not matter how short or long my hair is or whether it’s down or pulled back; I routinely get asked about my age or how long I’ve been out of law school. Regularly, people assume that the junior associates with me on a project are more senior than me. I’ve been able to use these assumptions to our negotiating advantage (opposing counsel has been known to keep talking if I’m around). I’ve learned to take it all in stride and jokingly, always thank my mom and grandmother for their good genes. Do good work – earn everyone’s trust and respect that way. Really, that’s the only thing that will overcome young looks.
I’m the same way. While I have long hair right now (right around my bra strap), I routinely get told by partners, other attorneys, clients, and even partners’ spouses that I look about 20 years old (I’m 30), no matter what my hair looks like. Frankly, I’m not willing to let my work dictate how I look. I know how to make myself look “professional” by pulling my hair into a bun or otherwise pulling it back. Luckily I’m not in court on a regular basis (litigator, but civil litigation), so I don’t have to worry about what juries think of me. I’ve learned to use my youngish look to my advantage, as opposing counsel frequently understimates me…this used to bother me, but doesn’t nearly as much anymore now that I’ve been practicing for 5 years and I feel confident in my skills and abilities. And in 20 years, I’ll be thankful that I look so young! (Assuming my stressful lifestyle doesn’t erase my good genes!)
I have mixed feelings. I had elbow length straight hair upon college graduation (oh it was that 1970s look). at that time, I was going for a Ph.D. and entering grad school. When I would talk about “graduation,” people (including someone who now is my DH) asked “What high school do you attend?”
I had my hair cut – gave the hairdresser (my now mil’s) free reign after explaining the problem and ended up with a bob. It was grand. Even after some longer, collabone experiments in grad school, it’s short. Even with my Scilian hair thinned from medical issues and now more “salt” than “pepper,” I look younger than my age.
Do what you feel comfortable with and confident in bearing.
Allow people’s doubt to be dispelled by your communications; it doesnt’ take long for that to occur. I’m still asked quasi age related questions by my patients and they do peer across the room to see my graduation dates. Nonetheless, I don’t have to have their experiences to help them. If you are subtly worried about that … my final arrow in the young looking quiver is:
I don’t believe that Dr. DeBakey needed to have a heart attack to be a famous cardiac surgeon.
Stick up for yourself – you may have this “issue” for a long time.
Oh, I forgot —- again, in the late 1990s I was “letting it grow long” and needed a haircut. Popped into a place I spied in Barcelona, gave them free reign…and ended up with a bob, longer in front, stacked/shorter in the back. Basically the same thing. It must be my face/head which dictates this. Nonetheless, I would say it’s how one presents herself.
Awesome shout-out for DeBakey! Whoo!
To Dye or Not to Dye?
I am very seriously considering dying my hair a funky (ie not-natural-looking) color for my senior year in college. I’ve wanted to do so since I was sixteen and I’d like to get it out of my system now. A good friend who has lots of experience with bright pinks, blues, etc., has suggested that, rather than the bright streaks I was considering (think highlights only thicker and more unnatural), I get the tips done. Thus, it will still be funky, but it will grow out quickly, I won’t have to worry about retouching the roots, and if I hate it, I can cut it off and still have hair left.
What do you think about this advice?
Also, my hair is dark enough that I’ll need to bleach it. My friend suggested that I have a professional bleach it, but that she do the dying herself (yes, I trust her). What’s a reasonable price range for bleaching in a salon? Dare I trust a beauty school student with this?
If you really want to get it out of your system, the “ends only” sounds like good advice. Just be ready that you may need to go in for an emergency trim when it’s interviewing time…
Eh, why not? You’re in college. Might as well do it now. The only “adult” woman I know who has funky dyed hair is the woman who teaches the pole dancing class at the gym. For what that’s worth.:)
If you absolutely must dye your hair, get the tips. If you get the opportunity to meet recruiters on campus or go to a career fair or alumni networking event, you’ll be able to get rid of the “funky” without too much fuss.
Depending on how thick your hair is, you could also get a streak or two in the bottom layers. The color would then disappear underneath a low ponytail.
I like your friend’s advice. I think having a professional bleach it is also good if you’re going for that really bright effect. As for rates, they would like vary by yoru location. Just call a few places in the area to get some idea of range & pick someone.
Do it! You can always just dye it back dark if/when you need to. You have a whole year to rock your new do. As far as I remember, in undergrad you don’t really start looking for a job until after graduation anyway.
Unless you’re a business major, at least at my undergrad, especially accounting and finance.
A million years ago I worked in concert promotion, and for about a year my boss and I would each come in on Monday morning with a different lollipop highlight color on our hair. For those who are into it, it’s a kick to have a bright color for awhile. The key is getting it done well, so that it doesn’t fry your hair, because those bright/bleachy/intense dyes can really damage if they’re not applied correctly. They also don’t last that long (even permanent dyes) so you have to get your hair colored more often, which is damaging. I also agree with keeping it to the tips, because then if you get tired of it (it does happen) or if you need to unexpectedly, you can get a good trim and the color’s gone. This may be the last time you can do this, if you end up in a conservative career – so go for it, and have fun.
Do it! I thought about doing it in college, didn’t and kind of wish I had (just for kicks). Another reason doing the tips would be the best option is that if you need to look professional in a pinch a bun or french twist would very likely hide the tips color.
DO IT! I wanted blue hair in college; never did it, and now it’s a lot more difficult. Though I have considered dyeing the tips blue lately; in my job it would be totally fine, I’d just have to cut the blue part off before moving anywhere else.
I had bright purple hair for a while in college, and it is a great experience. It was so much fun, and most days I wish I could dye it back to purple (I can’t for work reasons, obvs). I bleached it and dyed it myself. I don’t understand why you would go to a professional to bleach – all you’re doing is sitting there and waiting for the bleach to work. Your hair is going to get fried regardless, just use a penetrating conditioner a few times afterward. part of the fun is doing it yourself – if you’re going to go to a salon, it’s just like getting your hair colored, except instead of a natural color you’re getting an unnatural one.
one day i went in for a job interview and they told me i was hired, but the hair had to go. so i went to a drugstore that day and bought hair dye that matched my original shade. it was easy and worked perfectly. if you want to go for it, go for it. if you hate it or need to change it you can always dye it back within 2 hrs.
Are you planning to interview for jobs in a conservative field during your senior year? If not, I think you should do whatever you like with your hair. If you don’t like it, you can always wait a couple of months and then cut it super-short.
I’ve had very good experiences at Aveda schools in several cities. I’d trust them with bleaching. They’re heavily supervised. I’d also consider having a professional do the dyeing too, so you can talk to her about what possibilities would exist for covering it up if you end up hating it.
I think you can go either way. Pinned up in a neat bun or a low, sideways part ponytail can go far in making you look professional. So can a haircut.
I say go with what makes you FEEL more professional – what is going to come through is the confidence, so that the people who saw you as a kid can wonder at how well you’ve turned out rather than seeing you as that kid still :)
Congrats on the job, too!
Ignore your boyfriend, first of all. Do you want to cut your hair? If so, go nuts! If not, then I would put it up for work, fancy ponytail is fine but do a bun if you are worried that a pony will look too young.
I have long hair for me right now – a couple inches past shoulder length – and I wear it up for work most of the time. A good short haircut that works well is longer in front, shorter in back – about chin length in front. (assuming your hair is straight to wavy) I think cuts that are asymmetric in length like that (eg with a difference from front to back, or lots of layers) will keep it from looking old-lady. I have a friend with gorgeous dark blond curly hair, but she always gets it cut in this one-length style, and it looks terrible, very aging – it would look much better if it had more layers throughout.
I’m 23, I just finished 1L (thank god!), and I could easily be one of those actresses who plays a 15-16 year old. I also happen to be 5’2″ and extremely petite, which does not help. My sister who is 13 and about 7 inches taller than I am gets mistaken for my older sister when I’m not wearing makeup. I have found that wearing a mid-jaw bob (a couple of inches shorter than my chin) and keeping it extremely sleek works wonders. The longer my hair is, the younger I look. It’s not a look that flatters everyone, but it has definitely helped me out. I also try to dress as professionally as possible.
Side note: interestingly, I have found that higher heels don’t make that much of a difference with regard to age perception; I’m so short that it really doesn’t help. (I’m referring to 2″ versus, say, 3″; anything super-high looks too young on me.)
Oh, Reader A, I’ve been there (complete with the boyfriend, even). My first year or so of practice, people routinely asked me where my father was, assuming I had come to work with dad (my father is not an attorney, and I was not in my hometown or anything). I did cut my hair for awhile, but it didn’t make a difference. What did make a difference was gaining confidence in my work. The more competent and assured I felt, the fewer “oh, is it take your daughter to work day?” sort of comments I got. I still look young–but no one at work, or in court, takes me to be new/inexperienced, and no one asks where my dad is. Do what you want with your hair. Negotiate whatever with your boyfriend–that’s your business. What you’re really going for here is appearing competent and capable, and confidence in your work will get you there in a way no haircut can.
You know, I’ve meet some really young-looking guys but I’ve never heard of a man being asked where his father is. I think that takes the cake.
Personally, I feel my long hair is my best feature, but I have an older sister who is *constantly* harping on me to cut it. Yet I constantly receive compliments from others on it. So this topic is near and dear to my heart.
First of all, I am 26 (and a half!) and in law school. I have hair that approximately midway down my back. I feel I look more professional (don’t know about older or younger) with it tucked neatly into a bun, or at least with the front half pulled up. In a bun, no one knows precisely how long it is. I think the professional look is about neatness, not length. I don’t want to spend the money or effort to straighten my hair and it is naturally wavy which I think makes it look less neat. Some have called it “bedroom hair” or “ffh” (see urban dictionary) for you saltier types. However, if it were shorter it I think it would automatically look neater (except that I’d have to make more effort to tame the waves/curls in the morning, another reason I am not cutting it).
Also, for what it’s worth, about 2 years ago in Boston I had to testify as a witness to an assault. The Assistant (?) District Attorney who interviewed me had some of the longest hair I have ever seen. It was a long, skinny, braided ponytail that reached almost to her bottom. Overall you could tell she was fairly young but it wasn’t really the hair; it was her face, demeanor, etc PLUS the hair. I think if she had wound the braid into a bun it would not have been nearly as noticeable. But for me, the issue was that her hair was so unusual some might consider it distracting, not that it made her look young.
Finally, I am curious how you know that a significant number of people think you are “a mature 20 year old.” Did you do a poll? I’m truly sorry that you are self-conscious about looking young, but maybe it is your discomfort that makes you think it’s more of a problem than it is?
Finally, I would say, focus on making sure people who need to know your “status’ (ie, law student not high school intern) are aware of it. Focus on the status, not the age, but only when it’s relevant (when meeting a new client or another attorney, as part of introducing yourself; “Hi, I’m Sally, I’m a law student at ____ , and I’m working as a student ADA….”)
oops…that first “finally” was just a tease.
Gentle reader A
Ms. 41 year old litigator can no longer percieve the difference in looks of anyone between the ages of 17 and 33, let alone discern what is meant by being treated like a mature twenty year old instead of a matronly 26.5 year old. Might I suggest that hair is not the problem?
Agree with this, 100%.
Yes, yes, yes! They all look young to me now, and I’m only 39.
Sad, but true. They are all fresh-faced babies to me.
Yes. Anything after about 25, it’s all a blur to me, as far as your looks go. Your behaviour, that’s something else.
I actually think those French twists and buns that are referred to in the original article are incredibly dated and unflattering. Sarah Palin is / was an attractive woman, but she looked ten times better when she either had her hair down or pulled just the sides up, versus when she put it into those horrible updos. That whole French twist / bun thing screams either tacky-high-school prom, Little-House-on-the-Prairie, or old-schoolmarm. I think a simple, sleek ponytail is much better-looking.
I don’t think a sleek bun looks Little House on the Prairie at all, and I think a French twist minus the beauty queen poof that Palin gave it is fine.
I should add that – on me – pulled back hair is very flattering. I also have crazy wavy/curly hair so a bun calms it all down so I can focus on work instead of futzing with my hair. Worst case scenario, I thought it might be too much ballerina vibe.
French twists and buns have been around for approximately a zillion years. Let’s not get ‘classic’ and ‘dated’ mixed up. Really doubt that many people are going to associate them with proms and tv shows.
I’m not getting classic and dated mixed up. Houndstooth and gingham are both patterns that have been around for approximately a zillion years. If I wore houndstooth, I’d look classic. If I wore gingham, I’d look dated.
All of the above: it depends. An Ivana Trump-style French twist is going to look overdone/80s, as would many a houndstooth (does anyone else remember Scottie Dog as quite the look for a few years??). A bun is a bit harder to make look “dated” unless you’re going American Gothic style or something that would fit in It’s a Wonderful Life. Whatever flatters!
And Sharon, I know you were just pulling out an example — but gingham is actually back. :)
I just think it’s a little insulting given that people said they wore buns. I mean, I guess I want to know what others are thinking about my hairstyle, but I also really don’t think I look “tacky high school prom,” “Little House on the Praire,” or old schoolmarm. I just in general wish we could keep the dialogue above catty insults. Or at least be funny in insulting people…
Well, I am 29 and am a big fan of short hair ON ME. I have fine hair, and a lot of it. It’s naturally wavy. In fact, I LOVE my hair and I think it looks good all the time. That being said, because I have so much hair it takes FOREVER to dry AND it can tend to look stringy and frizzy on humid days.
So, one summer, I just decided to have it all cut off in a sort of long-ish pixie. And you know what? I love it. I love the style, I love how easy it is to care for, and I love the way I look. Even though they often tell plus-size ladies (of which I am one) not to wear their hair short to avoid the “pinhead syndrome,” I STILL love having short hair. And I sorta-kinda-maybe take offense at the statement that only older, unstylish women have short hair because it’s just not true.
Anyway. I happen to think that age-appropriate hair has a lot more to do with how you style it than how long it is. Yes, longer than your bra strap is pushing it. But aside from that, I think looking polished, mature, and professional is about having a style the works for you. And if you want to cut it, then cut it. Just because your boyfriend/father/husband/mother/girlfriend thinks you look better with long hair doesn’t mean that it’s the “right” cut for you, and it’s YOUR hair.
So I say, go for it. Cut it short. It’s the summer, it will grow fast, and if you hate it, it will grow out. I consider hair to be the ultimate luxury accessory because women can do basically anything they want with their hair (within reason, of course…).
I’m 26(.5), larger, and I couldn’t agree more. I think I look mature, but not old. My hair hits the top of my jaw in the front, and is a little shorter and layered in the back (but not spikey like Kate Gosselin).
Honestly, the only women in my office that have long hair are older, so I simply refuse to believe that short = old lady. I think short looks and feels practical.
My husband hated when I decided to get it cut. But when he saw it, he liked it. And he loves that he can run his fingers through it without them getting caught, and short hair makes for really cute bed-head.
I forgot to add – I live in the DC area, and I think the summers may contribute to the short hair. Hair gets gross and sweaty to and from the Metro, and it’s impossible to tame in this humidity. Wet, frizzy, out of control hair does not look professional, and it’s easier just to cut it all off.
Just got back from the doctor where I found out I broke the side of my foot yesterday walking to/from Bronx Supreme in the wrong shoes. Sadly, those were my new commuting shoes (flats, obviously very poor choice).
I now have a lovely walking cast that makes me feel like robocop. On the bright side, maybe I can finally get a seat on the 4 train during rush hour. Sigh.
Ok, whine over.:)
You broke your foot just by walking??
Yes, sad I know. I clearly need to come up with a more interesting story/excuse for the break.
Whoa, what kind of flats BROKE your foot?!
I think it was probably more me than the shoes. I am, however, throwing them out.:)
Oh man. I am so sorry. I broke my foot in elementary school. It actually is not as difficult as people think – all you have to do is come down on the side of your foot at the wrong angle, and boom – hairline fracture.
I remember it was pretty painful and the cast was a pain also. I hope you heal quickly. :)
I wish you a quick recovery. I had foot surgery and spent the longest 4 weeks of my life in a walking cast and cane. The worst part was having to take the bus/subway because walking to work from the UWS to midtown (which I normally do) would have taken hours. This part is highly anecdotal, but: the only people who ever offered me their seats on the bus were middle-aged African American ladies. Have fun conducting your own experiment.
Interesting! I’ll def report back.
My friend took the train in from Scarsdale to Manhattan every day during her pregnancy – she noticed a similar thing! The only people who gave up their seats for her were middle-aged women and blue collar men of any age. She said the least likely to even acknowledge her presence were professional white men of any age. Totally interesting.
Feel your pain – broke my leg this winter when I slipped and feel on my way to work. I had no idea it was broken (thought I just sprained my ankle) and ended up walking the rest of the way to work. 6 weeks in a cast – 3 weeks on crutches. Be thankful you can carry coffee to your desk.
I thought the worse part was only one pair of pants I owned fit over my cast! Since its summer this will prob be less of an issue for you – but Hue tights don’t rip easily and fit over the cast and at $10 it wasn’t the end of the world when one pair finally got a hole after a lot of wears.
Also be careful not to over due the walking – even when you get the cast off. I ended up walking a lot further than I intended one day and the next day it hurt worse than when i broke it.
Ha! Good luck with the train seat!
Like a lot of people have mentioned, I think you should first decide if you want long hair, or if your boyfriend wants the long hair.
If you want the long hair, then I agree with Kat’s advice, generally above the bra strap is fine. I’m sure longer can look just fine, too, it’s just that I can’t recall seeing a professional woman in real life recently who had hair longer than that.
If you decide that you want to go shorter, go to a good stylist. I have very short hair (a pixie cut), and it’s not “dowdy matron” at all. If you find a stylist you can trust, you can even go in and give a general idea of what you’d like “chin length, professional, easy to style, blah blah” and the stylist can recommend something that would look good on you.
I had a similar thought – lots of women who say their man doesn’t want them to cut their hair are just using it as an excuse because they don’t want to. If you don’t want to cut your hair, then don’t! Find a stylist who can help you make long hair look professional. It’s possible.
This is excellent advice. I really think it’s more about the style than long v. short. If you want to wear your hair long, just make sure you have a polished, professional looking style, and not “high school hair” , which I think of whenever I see all one length, very long hair.
And also, the OP will likely just need to accept that she looks a bit young for her age. When I first started practicing, I found myself constantly explaining that yes, I was actually a lawyer. This was despite a shortish (but cute, not “old lady”!)haircut and dressing very professionally. It can get annoying but most people really aren’t trying to insult you and as long as you try to keep it lighthearted when correcting people, they are usually very apologetic for making the mistake in the first place!
I completely feel the OP on this one. I’m 25, a recent law school grad, and have hair to about mid-back/bra strap length. I’m quite aware of the fact that I look younger than I actually am, but that’s also partially due to the fact that I’m short and have chipmunk cheeks. My guess is that your longish hair is not the only thing that makes you look younger than you actually are.
Personally, I think the key is making sure your hair is neat, groomed, that it is NOT getting in your face, and that you are NOT playing with it. Otherwise, do what you feel comfortable with.
I have struggled with looking too young for years — I was still getting carded at rated-R movies until about a year ago (when I was 28 and a 2L). And I have a petite frame, only stand 5’4″, and have small facial features. Here are a few things I did that helped me seem (if not look) older:
1. Working out/muscle definition – Most little girls don’t have guns, some strong women do. I was not an athlete before law school, which I mention only because it IS do-able for people who think they will never be athletic. I think it’s especially important to look physically strong even though you are a tiny female, because it’s a subtle visual cue that counteracts the natural tendency of others to assume that you are meek. Take a cross training class at a local gym; get a personal trainer; learn to lift weights properly and find a physical activity that you enjoy. Give it at least 2-4 months to see results depending on how in shape you are already. Feeling physically strong and getting good at things outside of law school can really boost your confidence, which will make you seem older. Getting into shape takes some time and dedication at the beginning, but once you build a base, you can ease off and just maintain without nearly as much effort.
2. Posture – pay attention to how you carry yourself: straight back, shoulders back, lift your chin. You will seem taller and more confident.
3. If your voice tends to be naturally high (like mine), focus on “speaking from the diaphram” to make it lower and try to project your voice more if you are soft-spoken. You will sound ridiculous to yourself at first, but it can make a huge difference. I started practicing this a couple of years ago and I still forget to do it a lot of the time, but it is becoming more and more natural.
4. Finally, this sounds corny, but focus on the energy you project to others. Caesar Millan’s book “Be the Pack Leader” talks about how humans and animals subconsciously pick up on energy from others (which is also a theory discussed in Dan Goleman’s “Emotional Intelligence”). Millan advocates the use of “calm assertive energy,” which the book describes. I think you will notice a real difference in the way people treat you. (Having control over the energy in an interaction is a subtle form of dominance, and no one will be worrying that your hair is too long.)
100% support books by Millan and Goleman – especially if you feel insecure about age!
Dunno Millan’s book, but Goleman is excellent. Still in print after 15 years, which is impressive, most books get one or two print-runs and then are never heard of again.
Agree also about paying attention to your voice. I teach ESL, and my first advice to students is to slow. down. and give yourself time to enunciate properly. Nothing more annoying than people who gabble when they talk.
Layers, layers, layers. The length doesn’t matter nearly as much as whether the cut and style are up-to-date and mature. Spend the money on a good hairstylist. The $50-75 is absolutely worth it, and can give you a cut that’s still longish, and professional-looking, and versatile enough for fun in the off hours.
(Attitude may make you seem competent, but in front of clients, it never hurts to dress like a woman 5 years older than yourself either.)
Where are you finding a good stylist for $50-75?
In my town. She’s great. (I’m in a medium-sized city on the West Coast.) I had to look around, though.
Regardless of the price wherever the original asker is from, it’s still worth it.
Wow…I never realized $50-$75 was so inexpensive for stylists. I grew up in a town of a couple hundred thousand, went to undergrad in a city of 1 million+, studied abroad in a French city of several hundred thousand, and now go to law school in a city of several hundred thousand. I have never paid more than $40 for a shampoo/cut/style, not counting the tip, which I am generous with. I’ve always gotten my hair done at salons and spas, and never gone to a chain haircut place.
Absolutely. I go to a fabulous, fabulous stylist, did I mention fabulous, and I let him do whatever he wants. He decided that I should go long for a while, and suddenly my hair is just an inch or two over the bra strap in back and I think it looks great. It is very layered and definitely looks 1000x better than the long hair I sported back in college. Anyway – with my long hair I still look in the mirror and see professional – maybe others disagree. I don’t get all the comments that short hair is so much easier – my hair takes about 5 minutes to dry/style and I’m done.
@afl – My guy is the owner of a chicago salon and books up about 6 weeks in advance, which is actually a good thing as it makes me have regular appointments scheduled way in advance, and his fee is $75 (for just the cut/shampoo). Didn’t realize that it was such a steal, seemed on the high end to me!
And, to Lola’s comment – Tim Gunn agrees with you. In his Guide to Style, he says that there are a few things that you should spend money on, and you should always go to the best hair stylist you can afford.
fully agree. I’m 36, have long hair past my bra strap & keep it regularly cut & colored and “fresh”. Sometimes wear a bun, polished ponytail or down. Long hair just looks bad when it’s left alone. Keep it maintained and it doesn’t matter professionally.
speaking of stylists, does anyone in NYC have a recommendation for a good one where I can get a hair cut for under $100? I hate, hate, hate trying to find a hair stylist and always just end up getting frustrated trying to find one (because they seem absurdly expensive) and walking into astor place haircutters for my $25-30 haircut with whoever is available at the time. I think it’s time for a real hairstylist…
Try MV Salon on the UES.
marc at delilah’s salon (if you’re willing to come out to brooklyn).
Try Giulia at http://www.stylony.com, she’s $80 and excellent, used to work at Ted Gibson.
I feel you on this one… my story… I’m a couple years older, 29, and had the same issue of looking younger with long hair my whole life. After B-School I told myself I’d cut it shorter in stages. Again as with you, I had the boyfriend (now hubby) who swore up and down he doesn’t like short hair on girls. After having enough of the mop, I came home from the salon, minus 12 inches, with the shoulder length bob and he couldn’t stop playing with it. I have since kept it at an asymmetrical bob (very short in the back, longer in the front) style. I get many more complements on it and it fits my active/work life.
My advice, if you’re thinking about cutting it, work related or not, go for it. Such a great experience and it will always grow back if you don’t like it.
FYI, if you ever go to another hairstylist and want the same cut, it’s typically known as an angled bob. An asymmetrical one is usually longer on one side.
I gotta pose a question.
So what if you look young?
I am constantly mistaken for being younger than I am. I’m in my late-20’s and sometimes people think I’m as young as 19. I’ve gotten the “you’re the lawyer?” question before. I dress professionally but I put my hair up in a messy bun and don’t wear makeup. I’m sure I could look older if I wanted to, but….meh. It just doesn’t bother me that much. I used to think I should look “older” by wearing makeup and fixing my hair, but then one day I just thought to myself, who cares if I look young?
Am I missing something? Am I doing myself a disservice? Should it bother me? Why does it bother some people?
I think the risk is that you won’t be taken seriously and you won’t be treated with the respect you deserve.
No offense to those whose job duties include making copies, but I worked pretty hard for my law degree, and don’t like being asked to make copies.
Agreed. I got so tired of people assuming I was the partner’s assistant that I started putting “ATTORNEY” in my e-mails, in my voicemail message, on my name plate, business cards, etc. It’s less of a problem now – I think as I’ve gotten more confident, I don’t exude the “I’m just here to carry his bags” vibe anymore.
I go between two hair styles: (1) very long (which I wear tied up or in a bun) and (2) short stylish bob.
Shorter hair, if it is cut well and healthy, can keep you looking young! I get a lot of complements on my shorter hair cuts. . . more than when it is long.
PS. BF prefers short hair. He thinks long hair is often dirty and gross (I am starting to see his point – too many American women have long, burnt out, mistreated hair).
If you’re still measuring your age in half-years, then maybe the problem is you? Just saying.
I also have the “problem” of looking much younger than I actually am. A year ago (when I was 21) I, per my sister’s request/insistence, went to visit my sister’s office. She introduced me to her superiors, one of whom expressed genuine shock when I mentioned that I was 21 since apparently she assumed I was 12. Yes, TWELVE.
As I do have long hair (it falls about three inches past my bra strap), I resigned myself to the fact that I would have to cut off at least six inches once I graduated law school and was searching for a position, if I hadn’t already cut my hair during the course of law school in order to interview for summer positions.
Although I am willing to cut my hair in order to secure a position, I would much rather not. Not only do I prefer the way I look with long hair, I also feel more comfortable when I have longer hair and, surprisingly, I find longer hair easier to style/otherwise take care of than I do shorter hair.
Corporettes, given the above pros and cons, would you still suggest, when the time comes for me to commence my job search, that I cut my hair or that I stick with what I am comfortable with and keep my beloved long locks?
If you really love your hair, then I say keep it! As long as it is cut neatly and you don’t touch it or play with it, you should be fine.
Just ask your hairstylist to help you style it so it looks professional. Long hair does look younger, but no one can tell how young it is if it’s pulled back. Develop one go-to “older-looking” style and use it when you’ll be meeting people for the first time.
Styled long hair also looks more mature than hair that just hangs there. You could consider getting layers or blowing your hair out if you want to wear it down.
How LONG it is, not how young. Ugh, I think it’s time for bed!
Be careful about why you feel more comfortable with long – do you hide behind your hair? For instance, is your hair often covering part of your face, or do you find yourself purposefully ducking your head in uncomfortable situations so your hair covers your eyes? If it has become a protective defense measure, you need to do something about that. Even try just wearing it back for several weeks, to see how your behavior changes.
Amber, Erin M. and Emily:
Thank you for your input! I never really thought about the “playing with hair” issue. It looks like I’m going to be keeping my long hair…but my side bangs will have to go.
Also, Emily — I think the reason why I feel more comfortable with long hair is twofold. First, I feel more attractive. Granted, I know that I should not be focused on being attractive at the workplace but feeling more attractive *does* help me exude more confidence in everything I do, work most definitely included. Second, shorter hair tends to either tickle my back or neck, making me feel more uncomfortable. I seem to be more aware of my hair when it is shorter — then again, that may be because I’ve had long hair for most of my life.
Thank you again!
NB, I know the job market is insanely tough out there, but the only employer who might feel that your hair is “unprofessional” would be a jealous woman who has already cut hers, and has bought the limiting short-coif canards. Actually, attractive long hair may well give you an edge with a male interviewer. That’s being honest.
I had long hair, nearly waist-length and wavy, reddish-brown, for years. I remember thinking the exact same things, that I would feel less attractive in some way. Then, I realized that I hadn’t been “styling” my hair, I had been simply trying to get it out of the way with brains, buns and ponytails; it wasn’t as though I curled and styled my long hair.
I cut it off in two stages: first, to just below my collarbones, and then to shoulder-length when I realized how amazing it felt. I actually felt more confident, which is the first thing that affects how attractive you seem. Long hair doesn’t work for everyone; it didn’t frame my face well.
Good luck in your decision, and if you want a small change, try cutting four or so inches and see how you feel.
That’s weird. Every time I cut my hair, people kept saying I look younger. And I already look younger than my real age so I kept my hair long.
I’ve never been accused of looking younger than I am – when I was graduating middle school, the local librarian wondered if I would be needing literature on choosing the right career – she thought I was graduating from high school…
But I’ve had the same hair-do for a long time, and that was long hair, that just kept growing longer. (Strange, right?) Every time I would go to the hair dresser, I would end up with a similar hairstyle as the one I’d had when I came in, only a few inches shorter.
So on last Wednesday, I ended up going into the salon, telling the stylist that he could do what he wanted but that I wanted a change from my old style.
It’s quite a bit shorter than what it used to be. Now it barely covers my neck, whereas before it was a long way down my back. But what he did, that I love, was cut it up in layers, so that it is not a sleek bob that looks like something my mother would wear. Instead I can now play with it – make it look rougher when I’m going out with friends, and sleek it down and make it look professional when I’m going in to work.
Despite being able to put my longer hair up, or in a pony tail, or pig tails, or whatever, I feel like I have much more versatility with my new hair, without stressing much about it. I look thinner, taller (not so much hair dragging me down) and the age that I am, instead of younger or older.
“shaped well, clean, styled nicely” – I’d add – not in your face. You should be able to do your work without flipping it around or needing to brush it out of your way.
Leave the issues of boyfriend/self, short/long, young/old alone and just be sure that’s it meets the above criteria.
I think the shorter hair you see on many older women is more an issue of time to spend on it.
Notice how much longer Mrs. Clinton’s hair has gotten lately now that she’s not on the campaign trail daily?
Good point. If I had long hair, I’d pay close attention (or ask a close friend/co-worker) to make sure that I am not twirling my hair, excessively playing with it, etc. That’s what is going to make you look young. To answer the original question, yes, i do think that chin to shoulder length hair looks more professional and less “young” (or stated another way, I don’t know of any lawyers whose hair is longer than that, except for those who are just out of law school.)
Wow, this is such a common problem! I got asked by the cafeteria check out woman last week how old I was and she told me that I looked too young to be working here. I was wearing a gray pencil skirt and black sweater – looking quite professional, if I do say so myself. Being 5’1″ doesn’t help.
I had the same problem when I started working after law school a year ago; at the ripe old age of 27, I still looked 20. Long California-blonde hair down to the middle of my back. One day a gentleman in the elevator in my building asked if I was “going to visit my dad at the office,” and that’s when I knew I had to make a change.
I got this haircut, and it worked like a charm: http://www.hairfinder.com/celebrityhairstyles/jenny-mccarthy.jpg
Slightly longer in the front than in the back, it is a bit more modern and angled than your typical “bob” and it is flattering to most face shapes. It’s easy to take care of and I get compliments on it constantly. The best part: I look like I know what I’m doing, which helps at the office. :) Best of luck to you!
That wouldn’t have ever happened had you been wearing your hair up. Anyway, there is no shame in looking young. I wish that I still did. As short haircuts go, however, that one looks good.
I am finding a good sylist for $22. She is actually a barber (licensed) and is the best haircutter I have ever had. Long hair does not make us look younger or older. (If only.) Hair of any length can be great if styled well. 1% of all women have truly beautiful hair and should not cut it. As for the rest of us…if the boy fried squawks, he will soon get over it.
It’s hair. It grows back. A slightly shorter, more professional looking cut for your summer gig will grow back into long locks soon enough.
can anyone point to some decent websites with haircut photos of cuts you could actually wear to the office? I am looking for a new style and I the sites I find on google are a total nightmare.
Try searching Google Images (http://images.google.com/ ) for pictures of the style(s) you have in mind. Type in “haircut” or “hairstyle” and Google will suggest various search terms (e.g., “short hair” “round face” etc.). I find it’s easier to scan the Google results than to look at styles on the typical hairstyle websites.
I’m from the old school, so I think that virtually ALL women should wear long hair. And usually the longer the more beautiful and youthful. My wife and sister are both in their 50’s. My wife hasn’t had a short haircut in 12 years. It’s at her hips now. My sis was coaxed by me and a male friend to grow out her 2-3″ pixie cut two years ago. She tried it, and now she and her hair look so pretty it’s staggering. She LOVES it!
For younger women, hairstyle is not AS important, but my honest opinion is that a Norah Jones, Katherine McPhee or Hayden Pantierre looked twice as hot with longer hair. Very few women look better with cropped locks, but they do exist. The time will come when young women WISH they were mistaken for being much younger. Don’t rush time…
NEVER EVER CUT YOUR HAIR UNTILL YOUR OVER 40! .
youll look like a rugby player. Hair styles are for oldies who have hair loss.
While I agree with you that younger women are usually more beautiful with long hair, this over 40 opinion is WAY off base. SOME women are wise to cut b/c of extreme thinning, but for those with normal hair, short cuts often exacerbate age. I’ve literally seen women who look much more alluring, and 10 years younger, thanks to a hair grow-out. I can name my wife, sister, SIL and many others in my immediate circles. If the woman feels that pulled-back hair is too “severe”, change the part or add face-framing FRONT layers or light bangs. Never lose the tantalzing length in back.
The problem I have with long hair is it buys into gender expectations and stereotypes of beauty. I’m in technical sales, and every female account manager under the age of 35 looks the same. Boooring!!! Check out Vogue Oct 2009 for pictures of Michelle Williams – adorable! I cut that out and gave it to my funky fabulous hair stylist. No frump for this 43 yo professional!
I look younger than my age (it’s those Asian genes!) and sound older when I speak. After working at the same company for three years, I’d like to think that my reputation for competence and excellent work has transcended my age and/or my appearance. Sometimes my managers exclaim “I forget how young you are”–always a great compliment.