Open Thread — Ponytails at the Office: Yea or Nay?

ponytails at the office2016 Update: Check out our latest discussion on whether ponytails count as professional hairstyles

Recently, we were watching the trailer for the new Sandra Bullock movie, The Proposal, and were struck by the fact that, yet again, Hollywood portrays a savvy business woman wearing a high ponytail.  Which brought up a few questions in our minds — are high ponytails appropriate?  What about low ponytails?  Sweet Hot Justice amusingly called it a “welfare-mother ponytail,” and we’ve heard of some girls who have a limit on the number of days a week they can wear a low ponytail at the office — yet another, curly-haired friend of ours said she felt it made her hair look neater than if she wore it loose and always wears a ponytail.  Similarly, some of our friends insist a low ponytail makes them look older and more professional, while other friends worry the ponytail makes them look younger.

For our $.02, our dislike of the high ponytail has always been more about comfort — the elastic always starts to make our head and our hair hurt after a while.  Also, that’s our general look when we work out, which makes it seem too… depressing, given that working, working out, and sleeping are the main things we do, with a few nights of “going out” thrown into the mix, as well.

ponytails-officeAs for the low ponytail, we have no problems with it.  It’s certainly our look of choice after the secretaries have left for the day and we’re settling in for a long night of work (that or a very messy bun) — but that said, as long as the ponytail is neat we see no reason why women can’t wear it as part of their working wardrobe.  Personally, both as a way to deal with layers and as a way to add some volume to the look, we’ve been a fan of what we’ve always thought of as a half-Gibson Girl ponytail, twisting the hair back around itself, as better explained in this YouTube video by xFLYNNIEx (end look pictured at right).  But then we worry that we’ve looked a bit like John Adams or something .  (We’ve worn it with the ponytail in the back, not to the side, as she does.)

What do you guys think?  Are ponytails acceptable? Should there be a limit on days, or on timing that you wear it?  Is there an age limit on certain styles, in one direction or the other?  Are there any comfortable elastics you use?  What about the side ponytail — they’re definitely coming back.  Is it inappropriate to be worn at an office where people inevitably have actual memories of the ’80s? (Should we run a poll on this? Let us know in comments.)


  1. I try not to wear pony tails too often, but I look very young. However, when I wear them on the weekends, etc., the clear Goody elastics are the best. They’re not heavy, they don’t hurt my head, and they’re less likely to leave an indentation in my hair for when I take the pony out! But I think with the right hair and face, a ponytail is acceptable.

  2. No side ponytails in the office, ever!

    I have generally noticed that people respond better to me when I wear my hair down as opposed to a ponytail. But I have one in for at least part of almost every work day. My hair can’t always handle daily blowdrying and my second day hair sometimes is in bad need of the ponytail. But never in court, at a depo, etc.

  3. I have very thick, long, curly, blond hair and unless I shower every morning before work and blow dry (for an hour) a ponytail or bun it is. It looks polished and is pulled out of my face, which makes it less of a distraction for coworkers and clients. I get compliments on my hair from time to time, so a ponytail can’t be all that bad.

  4. For some reason, even though it is straight, my hair just does not look good down. It looks much more polished and pulled-together pulled back in a ponytail or bun.

  5. I’m a NYC lawyer and I wear a ponytail nearly every day – whether I start out with one or not. I have above-the-shoulder straight hair and bending over documents at my desk all day makes my hair fall in my face far too much. I don’t think I have ever had anyone remark one way or the other about it. Although I will admit it looks much better when I keep up on my haircuts and I wear it down. I’m just long past my last haircut and the ponytail is sleek and easy.
    As for favorite holders – I prefer the Goody Stayput collection. I have thick but fine hair which is generally very slippery. A lot of elastics tend to slide out but these do as promised and stayput – until they are stretched out. the headbands are good for working out but they tend to slide off easier but I think that is because my head is small…..

  6. I think a ponytail, when done correctly with a good elastic that doesn’t stand out, is perfectly fine. I have long hair and prefer a ponytail on days when I know I will be looking down at documents all day.

  7. Anonymous :

    I never realized that people put so much thought into this…now I feel like I’m missing something I should have considered.

    Anyway, I wear a ponytail more than half the time. I have thin hair, and spending the time necessary to dry and style it in the morning isn’t a guarantee that it will look good all day if I leave it down. Even when I keep up with cuts and highlights, there are some days when after a few hours of being down, my hair loses all volume and looks sort of scraggly. More often then not, pulling my hair back is neater and more professional looking.

    As for holders, I use the goody no-pull holders in brown. I tried the clear ones for a while, but found they weren’t all that gentle on my fine hair.

  8. Anonymous :

    Until I got my fabulous new cut, I had long curly hair. It was a ponytail or a mess. Ponytails work best when it is really just gathering the hair back, then covering the goody holder with a pretty barrette, or fabric or something. That way you look styled, not just scraped back into a ponytail.

  9. I’m a huge fan of the ponytail. That said, a ponytail is one thing–laziness is another. The higher the ponytail the sleeker it should be in order to maintain a professional look. Flyaways and sloppy or colorful hair ties should be avoided, and it’s always good to take a piece of your own hair to cover the band if you have a few minutes it the morning; it looks more polished.

    I take offense to the welfare-mother ponytail comment in the article referenced above. I’m not exactly sure what that is supposed to mean, but it sure sounds like it might be a personal style problem, not a ponytail problem.

  10. This might be a silly question, but what are some other ways to wear long hair at the office? Just down all the time? Is there something besides wearing it down and in a ponytail that would work in an office?

    I look awful with shorter hair, and I hate the maintenance involved – my hair is virtually maintenance-free when long but gets kind of halfway wavy (and not in a good way) when short. As a 20-something, though, I don’t want my long hair to make me look even younger by wearing it in a ponytail all the time.

    I usually wear it in a low ponytail, but I would love to hear some other suggestions!

  11. Anonymous :

    Another suggestion: half up half down. You can gather the hair by your temples and pull it back with a hair pin at about the middle of you head. This looks pretty professional and it solves the problem of having hair in your eyes.

  12. Alexandra :

    It’s definitely a tough call. Wearing a ponytail in the middle or low looks the best in a corporate environment. I would save wearing a high ponytail for Fridays or the weekend. It might seem silly to analyze the height of the ponytail to some, but it really does make an impression on others.

  13. I second J’s question at 5:16–can we have an article on styles for longer hair at the office besides down and ponytail? I feel like buns make me look like a librarian or a ballerina, but that’s about the only other thing I can come up with besides up in a clip.

  14. Like the other curly-haired girls here, a high ponytail (done right!) I think looks actually more professional than when I wear my hair down. In fact, I am suprised to hear people say that they felt more professional with their hair down since I always thought that women were supposed to wear their hair back – low ponytail, half up, etc. – if it was past shoulder length for formal situations like court and interviews. I personally think that younger women wearing their (long) hair down just looks like they are trying to be “pretty” rather than “professional” – not that we can’t do both but professional should come first.

  15. PS – to anon with the new great cut – please give me details!! What kind of a cut? Any online pics you could point to? thanks!!

  16. “welfare mother ponytail” isn’t “amusing” in the least – it’s elitist. I’m pretty sad to read that kind of snobbery here on my favorite fashion blog.

  17. tinylawyer :

    While we’re at it, if anyone could share tips on how to put thick wavy hair up in a ponytail without it looking lumpy, I’d greatly appreciate it! I have so much trouble with this.

  18. Anonymous :

    Yasmin: pics coming to my law firm website soon. I got it cut shoulder length but tapered. Shorter in the front, longer in the back. It is also layered to lose some of the weight that was literally making my neck and shoulders hurt with trying to hold all that hair up. It frames my face more since I have a bit of bobblehead look going if it doesn’t. That’s why ponytails didn’t work. It was the equivalent of short hair for me.

    The front is long enough so I can push it behind my ears if it bothers me. Since my hair is so curly, it is very curly on the ends now. I wash it, towel it dry, twist some of it with fingers if I feel like it and go. Long enough to prevent bobblehead syndrome, short enough to be out my way. I absolutely positively love it.

  19. tinylawyer :

    While we’re at it, if anyone could share tips on how to put thick wavy hair up in a ponytail without it looking lumpy, I’d greatly appreciate it! I have so much trouble with this.

  20. Delta Sierra :

    E at 4:49, I agree about the welfare-mother ponytail remark, it’s offensive. Nothing wrong with a tidy ponytail at work. It’s better than long, loose hair on your shoulders, which I think looks unprofessional – especially if you are leaving hairs all over the office. Also, for people like me with hair that will. not. stay. up. no matter what I do or what I use, it’s pretty much the only alternative. In France 2 years ago I saw a lot of seriously chic business women with not-too-high ponytails tied with a black oblong thin silk scarf, in a bow, not too bulky, the whole bow was about the bulk of a man’s fist. Lots of black suits with white shirts. Looked great on them for sure. How do some women do that? They really have that ‘effortless’ thing that people talk about. Makeup is simple but perfect. Their clothes never shift position. Their hair stays put. Sigh. Someone should teach classes in this. I guess that’s one reason we come to Corporette, hoping to achieve that, or our own take on it.

  21. Sorry to double-post, but I had a 20-something female boss who wore a French twist every time she saw clients, and down and straight otherwise. It was very flattering and looked amazing. I just can’t do a great twist on myself.

  22. It’s funny, because I was just noticing at my firm (I’m a summer associate) that all the women seem to wear their hair down all the time. Or I see a few wearing it half-up, and once so far (second week) I’ve seen a bun. It makes me feel self-conscious about wearing a ponytail at work, but I think that a ponytail done right looks professional. I like to part my hair toward the side like I normally do for wearing it down and pull it back into a mid-height ponytail. A ponytail straight back looks too athletic/casual on me, but I don’t think that’s the case for everyone.

    When it’s down, it’s usually tucked behind my ears, and I’m not sure how professional that looks. Plus, when I’m working at my desk, I constantly play with it while trying to concentrate when it’s down.

  23. How about comments relating to women of color and their corporate hair issues?

  24. I just cut 5 inches off of my very long blonde hair to start my new job at an LA law firm because I just didn’t think I could ever wear it down – it was near my waist. But it’s still pretty long and I would love some ideas of good ways to wear it up beyond ponytail/bun.

    • Braids are awesome, they make a pony or bun more fun and change things up!

  25. Hair pulled back looks more professional to me than worn down, as long as it’s pinned low. But the high ponytail? Maybe someone here can carry it off, but the super-sleek high pony tail reminds me of the salesgirl at the boutique or MAC counter. No thanks!

    I agree about the Parisienne look with a small silk scarf, it does look very chic.

  26. I think that even if there is something wrong with a ponytail at work it is obviously so necessary to many of us that we ought to band together and decide by fiat that it is OK.

  27. I heard a speaker once say that your hair needs to look like you did something with it…. i.e. that you took time to style it. If that’s a ponytail but done neatly.. then ok. Here in the midwest… our probably is with the women who show up to work with wet hair. YIKES.

  28. This has been a source of constant confusion for me, so thanks for posting.

    I tend to wear my long, thick, curly hair in a bun or a mid-height ponytail. The former feels too severe unless its a little messy, but then it is messy – and the latter can make me look even younger than I am (late 20s).

    There is no way I could wear my hair down (or even just half up) without looking like a mess. The thought of blow-drying my hair for 2 hours every morning (I have 2 hairdressers blow dry it at once when I get my hair done) is just horrifying.

    I also can’t go to a short cut – my hair is just too thick and curly (and I like the length) to be managable when short.

    In my ideal world I’d have a sleek ponytail tied with an Hermes twilly or something equally cute but somehow won’t look immature and unprofessional. In this world it’s whatever gets my hair out of my face without too much effort.

    So – help!

  29. I agree that ponytails at work are fine at the office as long as they are neat. And if I were going to court with long hair, I would always pull it back rather than risk subconsciously touching my hair. Having said that, when I had long, fine hair, I noticed I was ending up putting my hair up in a ponytail at work daily (even if I started the day with it down). The inertia/laziness told me it was time to change to a shorter, more professional, haircut.

    As for other long hair dos, I agree that the half up/half down works well — you can get some neutral metal barrettes that will do the job and lie flatter than hair elastics.

  30. Wow. I sure hope that there is nothing wrong with the low ponytail at work, since that is how I wear my hair at least 80% of the time. A low ponytail with a natural part looks professional. On me, the look is nearly identical to how I look with my hair pulled into a bun at the nape of my neck (and surely no one will argue that is inappropriate).

    I use the Goody elastics. I go back and forth about whether I prefer the clear ones or the ones that match my hair. The clear ones seem to last longer without getting stretched out and ruined, though.

    If I stay late into the evening, I have been known to switch to the high ponytail, or worse, the high half-assed bun, but only if I’m fairly certain that I won’t be running into anyone who might care.

    I think that the high ponytail can look professional, but only if you have the right hair for it (sleek, fine, and straight — or very curly).

    I wear my hair in very few ways at work: low ponytail, low bun, down and blown dry straight, or front half pulled back with a small claw clip.

  31. I’m a clerk and have noticed during court that the women with longer hair who have their hair tied back in a low ponytail, usually with a barrette or something nicer than a goody elastic, look the most polished. Hair can be a distraction, particularly when all eyes are on you.

  32. I had never thought that ponytails at work were a problem (assuming it’s not a side ponytail or really high) but last year when we interviewed summer associates one of my colleagues was horrified that an interviewee wore a ponytail. I still think she’s in the minority and as someone with thick curly hair, I sometimes have to rock the pony at work. And honestly I think a low ponytail in court is better than you standing at the podium or counsel table playing with your hair… I think you just need to go with what works for your hair/face.

  33. I think ponytails are the most professional way to your hair, especially when you are under 30. I am an attorney, and I would never go to court with my slightly below shoulder length hair down. For one thing, most people tend to flip their hair back without even noticing and it can become distracting. An easy way to prevent that is to wear your hair up. Also, it makes attractive women look like they are trying to be pretty (and you can still be pretty with your hair up). . . I think it can take away from credibility.

    With that being said, a good ponytail takes me almost as long as flat ironing or hot rolling my hair. Sloppy 5 minute ponys look just that, sloppy.

    I find that I look best when I slick my bangs to the side also. I usually do a side part with a mid to low pony. (I have a very round face.) I give my hair a bit of texture (to help with a good ponytail, I actually use a bit of cheap mouse,which is sticky, to help my hair form into the pony tail. . . I have fine hair, but it is very thick). Once it is gathered correctly, I secure it. Then, I take the edge of the comb and push the crown of it up a bit to give it a lift. Then, I secure the life underneath the ponytail with three long bobby pins.

    I have always worn my hair like this to interviews and court appearances and had both men and women tell me how professional I look. With that being said, I am 25 and look pretty young. So, the ponytail makes me look a bit older…

    For other hair styles (I wear my hair up twice a week so that I don’t have to wash it every day.) I wear a nice bun. Or, sometimes I get a little crazy and pull a Sarah Palin (hair up with some curl, with a lift). I also believe a clean, loose, side ponytail is okay for a business casual office.

    I hope this helps young females with long hair!

  34. What about banana clips? (not this is not a joke – black or dark brown of course) or Headbands?

    • Anonymous :

      We were having the discussion of headbands at work, and although we all love them, we can’t seem to picture them as being professional. I would love to hear what others think about this issue though?

  35. I’m surprised no one has mentioned a french braid, particularly the style with a tucked tail. I have just past the shoulder, thick wavy hair and that is my style of choice. It keeps things neat and tidy and is very feminine.

    I’m also a fan of the half-up/half-down look. It does a great job of keeping the hair out of my face, but is still softer.

    While a high pony can look professional on those with sleek hair, it’s a bit cheerleader for most. Additionally, there’s always the “mutton dressed as lamb” effect of a more mature woman wearing the style. I would think that a low pony looks best on those who are a bit older (40+) and shouldn’t be wearing such a young look.

    I also agree with those that have commented that your hair should appear as if you have taken the time to style it. (And wet hair at the office?!?!?!?!?! GASP)

  36. The era was great. I wore my hair wet to the office all the time. Sigh.

  37. We were taught that we should have our hair back at court. I was shocked that this suggested pony tails were less professional than down. Mine goes back and forth between all down, half up, low pony, higher pony, low pony in the center w/ the remaining hair over one shoulder [i guess modified side pony] and one of my faves just pull up in a pony but have the ends tucked under – is that called a chigon or something?

    I was also told that attractive girls have a hard time not coming across as flirty. Our body movements can often be interpreted that way. Hair down makes that more pronounced I think and hair tied back low helps.

  38. When I wear a high pony I’ve been called Barbie – I think they meant I looked goofy with my long blonde-ish hair in that style, but I think it looks fine on other women.

    I prefer a bun. I’m not sure why, maybe because its more comfortable with the heavy hair. I can’t do a real french twist, I just twist it back in a fancy france luxe clip when my hair is in my face.

  39. no side ponies allowed! i usually eschew the high pony as too gymmy, but a low or medium pony is good for work. wrapping hair around the elastic, or subbing a flat barette clip, or (my newest fav) a fancy jeweled ponytail holder from j.crew definitely dresses it up. i go for the high bun at the end of the day, since mine is inevitably messy. i also wear a braid a lot.

    i rarely start the day with a pony, but when i’m busy i feel like i’m as entitled to it as i am to low-heeled shoes– constantly wearing hair down is just punishment for being female and gives me angst.

  40. I wear my hair in a low bun or ponytail (with a side part) every day. And, I style it when wet and let it dry that way. You can have my damp low-bun when you pry it from my cold dead hands!

    But really, its the only way that I’ve found in my 25 years of live to make my frizzy wavy hair behave itself. And, I think I might be one of the rare(?) women that looks much better with her hair back than down.

  41. @1058: i do like an occasional headband at the office (in black or tortoise)– it goes well with business casual and keeps hair away from my face. i think banana clips are a no go, but it may depend on the person.

  42. NO banana clips. NO scrunchies. (Yes, I have seen it!). No french twists, you look like an aging beauty queen. Headbands are okay if you are younger than, say 35, anything else looks like Hillary Clinton circa 1992.

    Nice-looking high ponytails (like in the Sandra Bullock pic above) are fine. Low or mid ponytails are fine for pretty much everyone.

    Sephora makes a good silicone band (comes in colors that match your hair) for those of us with thin hair.

  43. is it ok to combine the ponytail with glasses? i find i can only do one or the other but not both!

  44. I agree with everyone else – a ponytail is essential when you have thick, curly hair. Mine is loose, and with styling and effort can look nice if down. I wore it this way for my first day of work as a summer associate at a London law firm.
    I can’t even do 1/2 up, 1/2 down without employing a chunky, huge clip which looks silly with the length I have.

    I just got a cut with lots of framing pieces for my face which is essential when pulling back in a ponytail since I can pin them and make it look like I have styled my hair rather than just pulling it back.

    Someone else mentioned it – what about headbands? I assume they are OK for casual Friday, but what about the rest of the week? I was thinking of wearing very thin, black or dark brown ones just to tame my hair.

  45. What about the Sarah Palin look with the clip on the back? That’s what I usually wear at work if my hair isn’t down or in a low ponytail

  46. As a straight guy…I think the pony tail looks credibly similar to a guy rolling up his shirt sleeves in the office. It has always conjured up the image that the woman was getting down to business and didn’t want distractions. Just as the man wouldn’t wear his rolled sleeves into court, I suppose that many women wouldn’t wear a pony tail. However, I noticed that one commentator mentioned she believes that she looks more professional with a pony. I agree, some women can pull it off anywhere and it allows a person to focus on their face rather than looking through their hair to find the woman’s face.

    Just the perspective from a guy…

    P.S. This site has such better decorum among the commentators than sites that appear to be dominated by male readers (e.g. Above The Law). Where did you all find your manners? … I like it.

  47. is it ok to combine the ponytail with glasses? i find i can only do one or the other but not both!

    Sure, but you can never be prom queen.

  48. Ponytails – when done right can be elegant and sophisticated…look at Audrey Hepburn photos – it’s simple, clean and with some gel..looks very professional…

  49. Sole Practioner :

    As my name indicates, i am a sole practioner and have the great fortune to work from home. So for me there are various types of work modes. If i roll out of bed at 3:00am do let my fresh brain chaw on some research project, then it is probably two loose braids (which is my preferred hairstyle for sleeping). If it’s a consultation with a brand new prospective client, then it’s definitely a low pony tail which is braided with the ends tucked under so it looks like a very nice bun. Rather matronly but even at my age i worry about looking too young especially as a first impression. If it’s a client i’ve represented over the years and have at least one major win under my belt, then it could be a high pony tail — might even be jeans and T shirt on a saturday morning appointment for signing papers, reviewing docs, etc. I almost never wear my hair out, even to court, it’s just too much hair and it tickles my face, neck…if my husband wouldn’t keel over and croak, i’d cut it off…but alas…

  50. Anonymous :

    I wish I could do a French braid but I can’t braid my own hair. I always wear my hair in a ponytail. For one thing, pulling the hair back makes you look longer. Hair worn down is aging and often gets in the way. A bun is also appropriate but can look too school marmish at times.

    Upon reflection, many of the women who appear in court wear their hair down and shoulder length. Hair that is longer is pulled back.

  51. I can’t believe someone said french twist was aging beauty queen! That’s all I wear for interviews/court/anytime I want to make a good impression. It’s sleek, pretty, etc. And if you have long enough hair with its own volume you only need ONE bobby pin. LOVE IT!

    I have a military background, so I wince when I see women in ponytails (that’s a gym-only style), but I gather I’m in the minority with that.

    And I’m NOT aging… late twenties!

  52. If you can wear your neatly in a low or high ponytail, then it’s completely work appropriate. I have very long hair and at times, when it’s too humid or my hair doesn’t want to cooperate, I pull it back. I always get compliments when wearing a ponytail.

    I use scrunchie elastics with no metal. They start to loosen up after a dozen or so wears, but they come in packs of 50 for $2.49 that it doesn’t matter!

  53. French braids are so pretty, but I never see them in NYC. I think maybe they are considered to be out of style here? Too bad.

  54. Anonymous :

    At the risk of starting another debate as heated as the bare arms debate, I do think this is something that depends on the person. Not exactly facial attractiveness, but face shape. If a ponytail looks good on you, go for it. I think that it’s best on oval faces. Ponytails tend to make rounder faces look immature and square/angular faces look severe and older.

    It’s unfortunate, but on some level it registers that if something looks attractive on you, your colleagues will assume that you took the time to look in the mirror and care. That gets weighed into the equation when people asses professionalism. Women especially tend to assume other women are concerned with their appearance and equate looking less than your best with being frazzled, tired, or overworked. Since the ponytail tends to be the go-to style for unwashed hair, or days when there isn’t time for styling, I would be extra careful that the rest of the outfit communicates some level of thought.

  55. I love both high and low pony tails. Though for work I soften the front of a high pony tail by using combs or clips to push some hair at the crown forward a tiney bit (not a “Big Love” compaund wife poof, just to soften the front and make clear that is’a hair style, not a gym-do)

    I think the pony tail looks less severe than a tight bun might. It’s great in hot weather and whenever you are having a bad hair day. I often use a pretty barret to cover the elastic and dress things up a bit.

  56. The more I thought about this pony thread I realized why my preference is for the bun: when I walk quickly, the pony gets a movement all of its own, similar to drill team camp – back & forth, back & forth. Juvenile.

  57. Anonymous :

    There’s nothing wrong with a pony tail at work, so long as it suits you and makes you look well-groomed.

  58. I have seriously thick, curly hair. The kind that is noticed and can be a distraction. It looks best wild and free, but I just can’t do that. The ponytail is the only way I can looked controlled, and I happen to look ghastly in the low ponytail. I don’t have a choice.

  59. I’m a professional and I wear low and high ponytails. I can’t be bothered with time-consuming hair styles. As long as men’s hair looks clean, neat and isn’t radical, we don’t judge them by it. I have the same standard for myself and other women. Aren’t there more important things to worry about??

    Another great option to dress up your ponytail (looks best with low pony) — (1) put your hair in the pony tail, (2) reach up and with both hands, hold ponytail where the rubberband is. (3) Then take your fingers (or the stick end of a tail comb) and work fingers/comb into hair closest to your scalp and located just in front of rubberband. With right and left index fingers pull hair apart creating a small gap/hole. The thicker your pony, the bigger the hole needs to be. (4) Next, with your thumbs holding under side of ponytail, flip ponytail up towards top of your head, and push base of pony through the hole you just made. Result will be a soft roll of hair at back of skull flowing into the ponytail.

  60. I’m a guy, so I don’t know any better, but I used to think that pony tails were pretty cool, but in recent years, I have frequently been told by women that whenever a woman is sporting a pony tail (at least in a business environment), it’s because she didn’t want to be bothered with going to the trouble of spending the time to fix her hair up that day. And to tell you the truth, it usually looks that way too, to my untrained eye.

  61. I wear a ponytail (high and low) at least three times a week. I live in SC where it is deathly humid anytime after April. The ponytail is the only way I look “pulled together” during the hot summer months. If I have to go to court, I ususally roll it into a bun.

  62. I’m an associate at a large upstate firm. I think ponytails are great. I part my hair on the side and sweep my bangs with a low pony for a very sleek look. Product is very important so that it doesn’t look messy. I agree that face shape pretty much dictates who can wear this look. I also do a low, loser bun for a more formal look that I would wear to meet with clients.

    I can’t stand the double standard espoused by “A Guy.” Creating a sleek, professional ponytail takes just as much time as “fixing up” my hair (whatever that means).

  63. I am a senior associate at a NYC biglaw firm. Pony tails are clearly ok here, but low ponies are much more common. They are almost uniformly held by no-metal, hair-color-matched elastics. Among the senior lawyers, ponies are less common, but then again, so is long hair. Curly-haired women don’t wear their hair down very often. Ponies twisted into low or “hanging” buns are fairly common too. French twists are fine, even if they’re held with “claw” clips if the clip is not very obtrusive. I seldom see french braids.

  64. On a bad-hair day, I slick my natural hair back and wear a wavy clip-on low ponytail to the office. Nobody knows it’s not my hair unless I tell them and it looks much more professional than the frizzies caused by a humid day. I have gotten nothing but compliments on it .

  65. I wear my hair in a ponytail a few times a week. Sometimes, it’s just a hot day and I want my hair off of my neck. Other times my hair isn’t doing what I want it to do, so up it goes. But I particularly like to wear a low, sleek ponytail when I’m going to court or an important meeting because I have a bad habit of playing with my hair, so if I tie it back, I don’t have to be worry about that and I can focus on doing my job instead.

  66. Ponytails bring to mind keeping a neck cooler, got up late, a mom with a lot to do, casual, utilitarian, high school.

  67. I’m a guy.

  68. I don’t think there is anything wrong with a ponytail at work, so long as it looks neatly done. I was particularly struck by the article’s reference to the curly-haired woman who feels the ponytail makes her look more professional. I certainly can emphasize. As a black woman who refuses to chemically straighten her hair, there are some days that my hair is just too big and too much to handle. The ponytail becomes the best option.

  69. The “welfare-mother” comment made me lose a lot of respect for this blog.

  70. Does anyone have an opinion on age-appropriateness? I’m 36 and wear my hair longer; often in a ponytail for work. Is there an age when a “grown up”/ shorter haircut is required?

  71. To my male eye, there are several things problematic about pony tails. But first let me note that men can also have style problems that detract from their intended image.

    Pulling hair together in back (for a tail, especially a high one) sometimes makes the face appear too spartan; it exaggerates angles. It can suggest a haggard
    look, and under unfortunate circumstances, actually produce a haggard look.

    Tails at work are not generally associated with gravitas–in the same way that certain facial hair configurations undermine gravitas. They are either juvenile in appearance, or they suggest that the wearer’s sense of taste may be out of touch with their actual situation in life. A switching tail (from head movements) is just not a plus either.

    I will readily grant that hair care is inconvenient. My own (now gray, wiry) hair is not very manageable unless it is short, which isn’t the way I prefer to wear it. But… when looks are important, short it is.

    Male hair problems? The fine line beard isn’t great when one has a slim face and the line follows the jaw. It looks bad if one has a chubby face and the line follows nothing in particular. The shaved head look (RIP, please) may be acceptable in some quarters, but if it looks better on an attractive smooth, bony skull than a bumpy or rotund one. The fat, round-faced shaved head guy is probably going to have too much of a baby-face Either wear a beard or shave daily. The rugged several-days growth has been done too much, and was never a good idea for some faces. For beards, expert trims are essential. If you have “holes” in your beard where there just isn’t enough hair, forget the beard. A beard running too far down the neck is not attractive on most men. Any weird hair or beard design is usually a bad idea in a professional office. Hair color makes a difference. Blond and red hair sometimes look good in ways that brown or black hair won’t. And visa versa.

    Pony tails on men? Its a RARE guy who has hair, face, and body to make a tail look attractive in formal dress situations.

    Women: You see, it isn’t just you.

  72. Carol in Colorado :

    Time was when the rule of thumb was “After 30, hair off the collar”; I think that should be “9 to 5, hair off the collar.” I’m an aged hippie, and perhaps I’ve become a fogey, but I’d much rather see women wear a low ponytail at work than wear their long hair draped over the shoulders of a tailored suit. (High ponytails don’t work for the office, IMO, because they swing when the wearer walks, or even moves her head.) For work, I used to put my hair in a high ponytail, then braid it, fold it with the end underneath, and pin it to my head — four bobbies. I could never master a French twist, which is the best look for long hair, I think. I wish more women would learn to do it instead of going around all day with their hair “let down.”

  73. I am surprised that out of all of the styles mentioned, chopsticks/hairsticks have been left out. If you can sleek your hair back for a stylish ponytail, taking the extra steps of twisting it into a sleek twist using hairsticks is simple and produces a sleek, professional style. Hairsticks work in thin, fine hair and thick, curly hair. This style also has a more feminine, sculpted look.

  74. Anonymous :

    If you ask me, low ponytails somehow manage to look both frumpy and childish at the same time. A high ponytail will accentuate your facial lines and show off your neck.

    And who cares if it’s a “working out” look? I don’t mind looking trim and healthy.

  75. I think a low, well-groomed ponytail is fine about once a week. Any more than that, and it seems like you’re not trying to look professional, in my opinion. Hairsticks are a great option, as mentioned earlier. With a little practice, you can have an updo repertoire, with each option taking a few minutes (at most) to accomplish. There are many options for tasteful, professional looking hairsticks that also allow you to show your own personal style.
    I’m not a fan of women wearing their hair completely loose in a professional setting. A half-up style would be fine for a more “casual” day (no formal meetings or going to court, etc). For ladies who are concerned with looking severe, side swept bangs or a small poof soften an updo nicely. On a final note, it’s nice to differentiate between “office time” and “personal time”; clothing and hair style choices should reflect this difference. When you are not at work, it’s a nice switch to wear a ponytail or wear your hair down.

  76. About six years ago I read in a career magazine that to look professional, women must wear their hair pulled back, and the wearing long hair down was completely unacceptable. (I found this article in a magazine at my university’s career services office.) After reading this article, at first I used to wear my hair pulled back in a low ponytail, even though I hated it. I always wore my hair down, so a ponytail was really irritating to me. So was this old article completely off the mark? Was wearing hair down every considered a work place taboo?

  77. I agree that ponytails CAN be appropriate for the office. I disagree that it has to do with the TYPE of ponytail.

    The appropriateness of ANY accessory, shoe or hairstyle, depends on the outfit and the environment. if you are wearing, like Sandra Bullock, a wonderfully tailored suit with a face shape that suits a ponytail, then YOU will lend the professionalism to the ponytail. If you work in an environment that allows khaki slacks or jeans on Friday, then when you wear a ponytail it will take the outfit to a more casual level. And at ANY time, if a ponytail tends to stretch the skin around your face, then it will make you look stressed, tired, or on your way to the gym, which is NOT helpful.

    I personally usually wear my hair in a bun or down, as it works with my face shape and my wardrobe. Or I tie a ponytail with a part in front to look more polished and don’t pull the end all the way through. I work in a casual environment though, so that also affects my choices.

    My rule of thumb is think “am I conscious of the hairstyle? Have I touched my hair ten times before leaving the bathroom?” Usually if the answer is yes, you look self conscious and thus will be perceived as such, which always makes you look less confident and thus less professional anyway.

  78. I think a ponytail (high or low) is fine, with nice earrings and an otherwise appropriate outfit.
    The French braid and the twists, however, are too Sarah-Palin-like. She is an attractive woman, but the hairstyles were too old-lady and dated for her. A ponytail is a much more clean and elegant look.

  79. Anonymous :

    Recently I went to a Moot Court Competition in SC, and all of the women were told to wear low ponytails. We all thought they were crazy, but every female (judge or participant) all had low ponytails.

  80. Ok I am a big fan of the pony tail- I tried the Clever Clip you mentioned a few weeks back and that is all I use now. My hair looks so professional yet takes about a half second to do…..much better then a cheap elastic. Thanks for the reccomendation.

  81. I wear my hair up almost every day. In fact, I recently wore it down and was asked by no less than 4 people if I had gotten a haircut/told my “new” haircut looked nice. It hadn’t been cut at all, but it was such a change of pace to see it down everyone assumed I had done something new to it. My hair is too fine and easily tangled to wear down all the time, plus it tickles my face if I am trying to read, and I play with the loose strands. I have kept it long most of my life and have quite the collection of hair bands/clips/claws/sticks etc, so I can always make it look professional if need be. For others with long hair, or thick hair that causes headaches when pulled up all day, I recommend a loose braid, starting low on the neck. It keeps the hair back and tidy, but with less pulling on the scalp.

  82. I think that this article is evidence that Corporette should have an article about what we SHOULD be doing with our hair. I am a 30 year old government attorney with a LOT of long, thick, semi-wavy hair. (Stylists make me book extra time for the cut and style). I have a two year old and workout in the morning and simply do not have the minimum 1 hour (really) it takes to do a blowout. Even when I cut my hair shoulder length it took forever to make my hair look smooth and polished. Typically the semi-wave kicks in after a few hours and it looks messy again. The only solution is the flat iron but for that my hair has to be completely dry … and again it takes about 30 minutes for that. The ponytail has been my savior. It’s quick and polished. So if that is off the table … now what?! What is a young professional working mother supposed to do?! How about a powdered wig?

  83. I prefer ponytails, low, with all the hair firmly secured away from the face, with no obvious accessories including: scrunchies, bows, clips (large or small), or chopsticks. High ponytails can do that swinging back and forth thing that reminds me of Jan Brady. A french twist where all the hair is secured away from the face (and where no accessories are visible) or a bun is okay too. Generally speaking, I just hate it when women have hair all over the place, whether her hair is up or down. It looks sloppy!

    Also, am I the only one who thinks bangs look really sloppy and unprofessional? I know they’re in right now or whatever, but I hate seeing them, especially considering so few women wear them well or keep them from being all over the place!

  84. Not too many guys jumping in so I guess I will. High tails seem fitting for young, active lifestyles, careers or activities. Low is more professional or formal but certainly not indicative of older or slower lifestyle in my opinion. I also believe high tails look best on slender neck lines.

  85. ChicagoLawyer :

    I think low and high ponytails are perfectly acceptable for the office. There are a variety of styles that are all perfectly acceptable. I worked at BigLaw years ago and some of the associates (who were well regarded) had very long hair that they wore down loose. Long hair down is definitely not a problem in many (if not most) firms. Sandra Bullock looks very professional with her high pony and also very current and younger than she would look with a bun. She personally looks more attractive with the high pony that she probably would look with a shorter hair style. I do not want my hair falling in my face when I am working because it is annoying to me. I do the pony or the front half up/back half down style. The low ponytail is probably a bit more conservative so perhaps better for formal meetings. Several commented that the problem with the high pony is that the tail moves. I have thick, curly hair that does not really move at all when it is in the high ponytail so the swishing of the tail is a non-issue for me. I think some swishing on straight haired women would be fine too — especially if you are dressed professionally and carry yourself with confidence.

  86. I have no problem with pony tails (either high or low), as long as they look professional. For me personally, a pony is only an emergency option because my shoulder-length wavy/curly hair doesn’t lay smooth.

    My usual hair style is a french twist held with a variety of combs, pins and chop sticks. I will, on occasion wear a banana clip, and let the curls go in the back. I don’t wear it loose for work because within a few hours, I look like a refugee from the summer of love. At a minimum, I’ll pull the sides back with some combs to reduce the volume.

  87. About two years ago, I went to a business leadership conference where we specifically had a seminar on women’s workplace attire.

    We were taught that women with hair longer than 2 inches below the shoulder should always pull their hair back, as loose hair was considered unprofessional. I was used as an example for appropriate hair – I was wearing a high pony with my hair looped around the elastic to cover it. I’ve kind of stuck to that ever since, and I feel that as long as your hair is neat and out of your face, it shouldn’t be a problem.

  88. I ride a motorcycle and work in an office so I wear ponytails when I ride to work. I really don’t see anything wrong with it. My hair stays out of my face and looks neat not wind blown.