are unnatural hair colors getting more acceptable in professional jobs?

In this Minneapolis Star-Tribune article, I say yes.

With caveats. Lots of caveats.

If you don’t feel like clicking through, the gist is this: The world is changing. But different parts of the world and different industries change at different paces. There are still plenty of places where green or blue hair isn’t going to fly, but there are increasing numbers of companies and jobs where it does.

As always, you need to know your industry, the norms in your geographic areas, and what trade-offs you are and aren’t willing to make for an employer. And also as always, the more in-demand you become, the more leeway you have to do things your way.

{ 178 comments… read them below }

  1. Clever Name*

    I’m a technical staff member at a consulting firm in the mountain west, and I had purple hair for over a year. Well, it was partially purple. I just dyed a quarter of the bottom part of my long hair purple and the rest was my natural color. I loved it, and I got so many compliments from my coworkers. I only stopped doing it because the maintenance was pretty hardcore.

  2. Wonder Woman*

    Hah. I’m in Minneapolis myself and I’m currently rocking some blue and purple highlights in my brown hair. I’m in my 40s and at this point in my career, pretty much don’t care what people think. I get alot of compliments, and only one coworker made a comment about my being in a punk band (?!).

    1. Wonder Woman*

      Oh, and I should comment that I’m a project manager working for a large manufacturing firm, not a “creative” type as outlined in the article.

    2. Lindrine*

      I am sporting purple highlights on dark brown hair. It was a lot of fun to go more pinky-purple in October. It has been a lot of fun and I’ve had not negative comments so far. I am a creative working in-house.

    3. Colorado*

      Love, love this comment…”I’m in my 40s and at this point in my career, pretty much don’t care what people think.”

      I’ve just reached this stage and I have to admit, it’s liberating and I find myself dreaming about extending my “hidden” shoulder tattoo down my entire arm :-D

    4. Connie-Lynne*


      I’m 45, and I’ve had multicolored hair since 1987. I’ve had it nigh-continuously since the early 90s. In my teens and 20s, I had a “normal” wig that I wore for court appointments, funerals, and job interviews. Since my late 20s, I’ve just made sure it looked fresh and not faded for job interviews.

      For the last five years, I would swear to you that it actually *improves* my chances at getting a job. People read me as much hipper than I actually am, because of the hair. I’m not the only person I know who feels this way about funny-colored hair.

      I’m a systems engineer, but the hair hasn’t held me back from progressing to senior managerial roles. I was just at the annual flagship conference in industry and at least 50% of the women there had fanciful hair colors.

      I wouldn’t work some place that would complain about my hair.

  3. Allison*

    Makes sense. Sort of a know-your-office thing.

    Earlier this year I started getting my hair dyed red. Not like a natural-looking auburn, but a dark shade of red that is by no means natural. It wasn’t until I came to work with my new ‘do that I realized I’d never checked with my manager that it would be okay, but I’d just assumed, what if it wasn’t?? And no one said anything about it, so I wondered “oh no, do people hate it??” But no, it was totally fine. BUT in hindsight, it probably would’ve been a good thing to run by my manager before going ahead and getting it done.

    1. Red*

      I did exactly the same thing, lol! Almost everyone I meet (including both my managers) love it :) The social workers nicknamed me Red.

      For reference, I work in a fairly large teaching hospital, taking care of patients.

    2. Just another techie*

      I can’t imagine running my hair color by my manager. I can just see his face as he squints his eyes and goes “Why on earth are you asking me about your hair?” Definitely a know your manager thing! (I’m not customer facing, and work in product dev for a pretty huge multi-national consumer electronics maker.)

      1. BenAdminGeek*

        Definitely- I can see some managers getting that “Oh no, why am I being asked to make this decision? Is there a legal issue here? Is this a protected thing?” look on their face as they desperately try to solve the problem.

        As a manager, I would just establish an arbitrary color system- All colors but Turquoise or something similar.

      2. Jazzy Red*

        Your hair belongs to you, and you can do whatever you want with it!

        There was an episode of Murphy Brown (look it up) where she found a clause in her contract restricting how much she was allowed to change her physical appearance. She had arguments with several people who told her she couldn’t change her hairstyle, which just set her off. So she came in to work with a really cute short hairdo (it made her look 10 years younger), and the producer just about had a heart attack. She dared him to fire her and when he finally capitulated, she took off the wig she was wearing. She made her point.

        These days, colorful hair is so not-unusual that I don’t think many people would blink twice. I have white hair (I’m old) but I colored my hair for so many years that I’m never coloring it again. I might get some colored hair extensions, though. Or feathers. Yeah, feathers, definitely!

        1. Connie-Lynne*

          There was a woman I hired who was all grey … when she saw I had blue hair, she went out and got glitter extensions put in. They looked great, and she loved them (so did I).

    3. Amber Rose*

      I do the same thing. I like the brilliant shades of in your face red. But since red is technically a hair color, nobody says anything. It’s kind of a grey area. I’d love to dye my hair purple but that is not a grey area and I’m not sure how that would fly.

      1. Turtle Candle*

        I’ve noticed that too! Fire engine red is not a “natural” hair color (as far as I know) but it gets fewer comments than blue or purple nonetheless.

        (I would go for deep blue-purple all the time if I could handle the maintenance.)

        1. Schmitt*

          Deep blue-purple fades nicely though, depending on the brand; over about 3 weeks mine goes to a pale blue that is also really pretty. I rinse every day (it sticks up otherwise) and wash it every fourth day with color-treatment shampoo.

          1. Chrissi*

            My blue streak fades into a really nice turquoise, then light blue, (and eventually light green, which is the point at which I touch it up) but I have to admit, I wasn’t expecting the maintenance when I got it done.

          2. Sparkly Librarian*

            I go with Violet from the Jerome Russell Punky Colour line. Fades to blue, not pink. I re-up at home maybe once a month, or when I have the time. No problem going to 6 weeks between touchups. I also recommend oVertone color-depositing conditioner to keep the color longer, because it DOESN’T come off on sheets or clothes (or even my hands during application, but you can use gloves if you like).

          3. Connie-Lynne*

            Yup! Drugstore color has gotten so amazing in the last five years or so — I’ve used a ton of salon brands over the years but my current favorite is Splat.

            My hair starts out deep blue-purple, then fades up to light blue or purple, at which point I re-dye it. Sometimes I let it get green/blonde because I don’t have time to fix it.

            This is about 3 weeks in:

            This is about 8 weeks in:

        2. kimmyontheinternet*

          For maintenance, the color-depositing conditioner Overtone has changed my life! I’ve had purple hair for 5 years now and upkeep is so easy now. I wash my hair once a week and use it then.

          1. Jazzy Red*

            I use purple shampoo, but that’s just to keep my white/gray hair from taking on a yellow tinge (I’m a senior citizen, and I EARNED my white hair!)

    4. Emily K*

      I asked my manager casually, “So, what if I came to work one day with like, purple hair?” He made some sort of, “Pshhh” type noise, shrugged, chuckled, and said, “I don’t care!” So a few weeks later I did! I change it every few months and I also seem to have started a trend in my office as a few other women started dying their hair all colors of the rainbow not long after I went purple.

    5. Al Lo*

      My hair has bright purple streaks right now, and some that have faded to a pretty bright pink. I love it, and have gotten nothing but compliments at work. I work in the performing arts, and our performer dress code has always stated natural hair colors (has to grow on someone’s head, even if not yours), but it’s just becoming so common that we’re starting to revisit. We’re not like the Rockettes, where we need the performers to look as uniform as possible, but want to balance what might detract onstage under lighting and costumes with what the performers do in their everyday lives. This fall, I’ve seen more girls in grades 4-12 with all kinds of bright colors than I have any season before this one.

      The challenge is that we work with kids and other non-professionals. With professionals, it shouldn’t be a big deal at all. As an actor, if I need to dye my hair mouse-brown for a role, that’s obviously part of the deal. I had one show with a red motif throughout the design, and needed a bright red streak in my hair. But with students who do this as an extra-curricular, it’s a little different.

      Anyway, I think it was someone on these comment threads that recommended Overtone conditioner, which I love now! The product recommendations are my favorite part of these discussions. I also just applied to be a hair model for the creative director of one of the beauty schools around here for a demonstration, and if I get picked for that, I should come away with something really interesting! The best part about this one (as opposed to getting a free haircut for students taking exams or something like that) is that the instructors will give whoever’s chosen for the demonstration free upkeep of the cut and color. Um, yes please!

  4. PostScript*

    In my company you can do whatever you want with hair color/piercings/tattoos. I’m in finance and I came into the company with firetruck red hair, but I’ve noticed that higher level management definitely does not have crazy hair color. So you definitely need to know your company and industry and assess whether colored hair is worth (maybe) not being considered for leadership or management roles.

    1. RO*

      So true. I had fun hair in the past, but now that I am at a senior level I reverted to black hair. I feel that I will not be taken seriously by the very traditional senior executives.

  5. The IT Manager*

    I had planned to pull trigger on some unnatural hair color recently, but I am bit dismayed by the necessary maintenance (bleaching first and then the color probably won’t stick around for long without re-coloring) since I prefer low maintenance hair.

    I’m probably would not be considering it except I work from home and rarely travel so it’s unlikely anyone at work would see it. If they do, my team members already know me from my voice and work so I have already made my first impression.

    When I see someone rocking an unnatural color, I form an opinion but it’s not about their business competence. It’s more about their personality.

    1. Allison*

      You could always go for a semi-permanent dye and just put it on over your natural hair as a tint. That’s what I did with some blue dye in college, came out pretty well even without bleaching, although blue dye fades to green and then that green sticks around for a while, so maybe don’t do blue, or be super careful with blue dye. Red or purple, however, would probably work well, maybe even a hot pink.

      1. Jenn*

        I did dark purple manic hair dye on dark brown hair, no bleach. It showed up like purple highlights and faded out naturally over the course of a month. I only did it once and I wasn’t working at the time. It wouldn’t have been too hard to maintain it though. Do dark on dark….

    2. Almond Milk Latte*

      I get my hair done maybe 3x a year, and if you do it right, the maintenance isn’t a big deal. You need two things – the right style and the right dye. Stylewise, I usually get the bottom layer colored fun and the top layer colored normal, so roots aren’t a problem. I recently switched to ombre – business at the roots, party at the ends. And colorwise, I can’t say enough about Special Effects Pimpin Purple – It fades from almost-blackish purple to a pretty violet to pink over the course of 2-3 months or so. I’ve done pinks, I’ve done blues, but Pimpin Purple has the BEST staying power.

      The big caveat – If you do go with fun colors, you’ll start giving people unsolicited advice about hairdye. :)

      1. Beancounter in Texas*

        Fantastic! I am transitioning jobs from an old-school real estate office to an architecture and interior design firm after Thanksgiving. I’ve always wanted to dye my hair some unnatural color & given that one designer dyes her hair Coca-Cola red and the owner apparently dyes her hair, I think I’m going to make the leap! I’m just clueless about who/what/how/when/where, but the Pimpin Purple sounds perfect!

      2. Vanishing Girl*

        I’ve also used Pimpin’ Purple and I love it! My favorite is Virgin Rose, though. Right now I have Virgin Rose as a base and some purple on the top that fades over time.

        I’ve also managed to interview and get jobs with pink/purple hair as long as I dressed well and acted professionally. I usually get remarks of, “I wish I was that brave!” I hope more people will feel encouraged to dye their hair interesting colors in the future.

    3. kimmyontheinternet*

      Overtone conditioner makes upkeep a breeze! I don’t have faded hair anymore… Ever. I have a purple ombré color job and only get my hair done professionally once every 6 months.

  6. Rachel8489*

    Funny: I came in this morning with a chunk of hair dyed BRIGHT purple. I work in a super-casual nonprofit, and knew that my colleagues’ reactions would be more like “so cool!” than any kind of concern, but this is the kind of place where the founder/president has tattoos in sometimes-visible locations, so…

    The purple hair is all concentrated in a single panel underneath the top layer of hair, so even though it’s quite bright under the right lighting, it’s still subtle enough that I felt comfortable doing it despite the fact that I like to dress slightly more formally than some of my colleagues. It still matches the rest of my self-presentation.

  7. YourUnfriendlyPhlebotomist*

    I cant have unnatural colored hair at work, they allow a lot here but not colors. I currently have 3 foot African style braids (I’m Caucasian) BUT its asymmetrical so one sliver is just buzzed. I keep them pulled back in a side pony or up in a bun because I don’t want them to touch people…. I don’t like to touch people.

    1. Jessie Wilson*

      Sounds gorgeous! Mine is over 3ft, straight, blonde and I am considering getting braids a lot like yours. Any recommendations?

  8. YourUnfriendlyPhlebotomist*

    any one see the new oil slick hair color that brunettes are apparently loving? I saw it on yahoo I think

    1. MAB*

      I actually plan to do this when I grow my hair out! I have white blonde hair atm, I am going to switch to grey once my cousin’s wedding is over and then when I get bored of it being this short I will be doing an oil slick with my natural blonde hair. Because why not?

      1. MAB*

        Also I work in manufacturing and work with auditors and federal officials. My company doesn’t seem to care.

    2. Collarbone High*

      Ooh, just googled this. I love it! Might try this next — I’ve been unwilling to do light colors on my dark hair even though I love them, because I have very long hair and my stylist has warned about the “chemical cut” (breakage caused by repeated bleaching and dyeing).

  9. SJPufendork*

    My funny: the firm at which I’m a director tends to be very conservative about “unnatural” colors. In fact, they tend to expect women who are going grey/white to dye their hair to a socially acceptable shade.

    So, I’m considered the rebel with unnatural hair because I don’t dye. I’ve even had comments about my adventurous highlights.

    1. bearing*

      How on earth do they communicate this expectation? I am boggling at the notion that grey-haired women aren’t allowed to exist. It strikes me as the systemically age-ist version of the systemically racist “thou shalt not have a hairstyle associated with African-American hair.”

      1. SJPufendork*

        I think it’s more peer pressure and comments like, “you know this is a client facing role, right?” (with a pointed glance). I also realized that there are no balding men either — just full head of hair or shaved.

        It’s never bothered me because I was heavily recruited, so they knew what I looked like before I joined. And they just consider me a bit of an odd duck (which I am, but not for my hair).

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Mine did at 28. I’ve been dying it auburn ever since. The roots are coming in grey now, but I’m not ready to go all grey. If it were white, I’d be all over that and then do stuff like the galaxy hair, etc.

          In music school, we had a friend who is albino and he would put pink and blue streaks in his hair–the New Wave thing was big at the time.

        2. Lizzy*

          I found my first grey hair when I turned 18. As I entered my 20’s, they just kept sprouting like weeds. I am now 30, and surprisingly, I am not as grey as I thought I would be at this point. Because my grey hairs are still so sporadic and all over the place, I still opt to dye them.

        3. K.*

          One of my old colleagues said she found her first gray hair at puberty and has been coloring it to cover the gray since high school (she’s in her mid-40s). She colors it red (redhead red, not Kool-Aid red) and I think it’s totally white/silver/gray now. She has a gorgeous head of hair – long and thick – and I think it would look amazing if she let it be, but she doesn’t want to.

        4. Rebecca in Dallas*

          I’m 32 and if I let my hair grow out, it would be mostly gray. I get it colored blonde, have since I was in my teens. I’m not quite brave enough to play with unnatural colors (love the oil slick look, but that really works for brunettes), but I let my hairdresser play with different color techniques on me. Lately she’s done hair painting, which is pretty cool. The “base” color is darker warm blonde, then lighter blonde shades are painted on. Kind of an update to the ombre look that was big a few years ago.

    2. Nashira*

      Holy ageism, Batman. I’m only 30 but you can take my cool deep silver grey streaks from my dead body. I actually wish they were thicker – they’re more threads than streaks if I’m honest.

      1. Rana*

        I started going grey in my 30s too, and it’s now pretty nifty looking. I actually get compliments on my streaks, as if I did it intentionally.

        (And now I’m thinking of taking advantage of their presence to dye some of my underlayers purple; I’m betting that the mix of dye on transparent hair mingled with the dye on dark brown should be pretty striking.)

  10. Noah*

    It is against the dress code at the company I work for if you are in a customer-facing position. However, office staff have more leeway.

    1. Noah*

      Hit enter and it submitted, must’ve hit tab in there somewhere too.

      There has been a shift in the 10 years I’ve been working in the industry though. Once the rule was no visible tattoos, now they are allowed but just cannot be offensive to passengers or other employees. Piercings are similar, they are now allowed but cannot cause a safety concern.

  11. StudentPilot*

    I had navy blue hair for a while this past spring. I also have an asymmetrical cut, and the sides of my head shaved, with a little design shaved in, and no one at my job has said anything, other that a remark each time a new design is shaved in, about how awesome it is. I’m in government, in a generally conservative field, but I’ve noticed lately things have been loosening in terms of hair and tattoos, especially with younger employees. (I’m in my late 30s, so roughly my age and down)

  12. AnonHair*

    I work in a government office, but not a super-high-visibility one. I have a balayage ombre – my natural hair is medium-dark brown, and there is some serious borderline-platinum going on at the ends/in the lighter pieces. Hair comes just past my shoulders. This reminds me I am supposed to go in for a glaze before the holidays.

    I am wearing jeans and boots today, if that gives you a read on how formal we are. I have worn my hair down to interviews in my field. If I am ever, for any reason, concerned about it (I sometimes have to wear jackets and nice dresses and flats for high-level visits), I will put it up in a Gibson tuck (which looks super lovely with the colors!) but reads as tasteful and conservative (and flattering).

  13. Lily in NYC*

    I work for a pretty conservative org. and we have a few people with blue/purple/pink highlights and no one seems to care. Even my 11-year old niece has a few pink streaks (grandma was not happy but I think it’s cute). It seems to be much more common these days.

  14. Foster Friend*

    I used to work for a very conservative company. When I first started, there was no such thing as business casual allowed there. Over the years, they’ve loosened that to allow business casual dress and jeans once a week, which was a HUGE deal apparently.

    Towards the end of my now-former role, there was a woman who worked closely with my team that dyed her hair platinum blonde, with blue and lavender tips at the ends. I know she got a lot of “side eye” from many of the teams she worked with. She was known for being a loudmouth and being very, very opinionated and generally lacked decorum, so I think the side eye was more of a result of that versus her hair. But the combination of her general appearance (she was prone to wearing some inappropriate work clothing – i.e. low-cut blouses) and behavior pretty much means she won’t move up the ladder at the company, IMO.

  15. Katniss*

    How timely! I just asked my boss about adding a couple neon pink streaks to my hair (which is a very bright but natural red) today, and was told it was no big deal in my business/business casual* office. I’m gonna do it this weekend!

    *Nice shirts and slacks are expected, but jeans are allowed with charity contributions two or three times a week.

    1. Katniss*

      Replying to myself to add that while I’m happy about unnatural hair colors being more accepted, I’m much happier about tattoos being seen as more acceptable. I’ve got 11 and since those are, y’know, permanent I’m glad it’s never been a big deal anywhere I’ve worked. At the worst I’ve been asked to wear long sleeves on days when important clients are in.

  16. snarkalupagus*

    A couple of years ago I dyed mine (it was already a pixie cut) BRIGHT green for about a week prior to shaving it for St. Baldricks (don’t want to debate the cancer/shaving politics here, if that’s okay with everyone–I found it fulfilling on a personal level to participate in the fundraiser and we were very successful). My office of 250+ is somewhat laid-back, but I can’t think of anyone who’s come in with nonstandard hair color (or a shaved head) besides me. The whole thing was meant to raise more money–contribute and get a vote on color!–and it was a total blast. Every now and again someone comments about it and asks when I’m going to do it again.

    1. EddieSherbert*

      Oh my gosh! I love love St. Baldricks and think it’s awesome you braved the shave :)
      I’m doing the same thing this year – and my manager actually suggested the “contribute and vote on a color!”

      (the color comes this weekend and then the next weekend is shave time, whoo hoo!)

      1. ancolie*

        Me toooooooo! The only important thing is that man bun wearers need to take care of their hair (trim split ends, regularly condition, etc). A lot of dudes seem to just keep “stereotypical dude hair routine” (wash it with whatever is around, no conditioning, no trims because it’s long so why would you cut it, etc) and their hair gets scraggly, stringy, greasy, crispy, or a combination.

    1. Nashira*

      They have long hair and need it out of the way. Buns are a great hair style. I wore then constantly when I had long hair. Why shouldn’t a man?

        1. Kas*

          Yes – and this also means I’m not totally comfortable with the term “man” bun. A bun is a bun is a bun, no matter the gender of the wearer.

          And they look great, and they are way better than a floppy ponytail in situations where hygiene is important (health care, food service, that sort of thing).

          1. Connie-Lynne*

            I think anyone should be able to have the hair style they want, and I’m glad dudes with long hair are finally discovering options other than “weak ponytail.” Sure, I don’t personally find some of them attractive, but hey, guess what, I don’t have to wear that hair, he does, and he should be happy with the way his hair looks.

            Also, I don’t think there’s any need to gender them — they’re not *man* buns, they’re *hair* buns.

      1. Almond Milk Latte*

        I’d be okayer with manbuns if I’d see fewer little buns on the top of people’s heads. Those look too much like ring-for-service bells.

      2. Katniss*

        As long as they know how to take care of their long hair in a general style. I’ve known too many men with long hair who have no idea what to do with it, so that it’s limp and greasy.

        1. Rana*

          Yes. Long, cared-for hair is great on both men and women. Straggly greasy hair is unpleasant on both.

          (And don’t get me started on the sad wee ponytail thing some people attempt. When you’ve got a nice little braid at the back that’s one thing, or a proper pony, but when it looks like your haircutter slipped and forgot to trim one random bit, just… no.)

      3. LBK*

        I’m totally fine with them from a “people of any gender should be able to wear their hair however they want” perspective, but from an aesthetic perspective I find them reeeeeally unattractive. Although I’ve just never been a big fan of long hair on men in general, the notable exception being Sawyer from Lost.

      1. J*

        Men *can* wear man buns all they want, but they might look stupid. Same with anything. You can do what ever but it might not work.

        1. ancolie*

          I admit I laughed a bit, buuuut… It’s no more ridiculous than extensions or fake ponys/buns for women.*

          * which can be seen as ridiculous by some people, sure; just saying that clip in hair for men shouldn’t be MORE ridiculous than clip in hair for women.

  17. Squirrel*

    Nice to see you quoted Alison! On a side note, I think the article is a little disingenuous about dyeing hair *just now* becoming a popular thing. Did they miss the 90s and the grunge/headbanger people? While it is certainly becoming more “socially acceptable” (as opposed to counterculture), and even more acceptable in more jobs, it’s not like it’s literally just been invented.

    I do love it though that more older women are just saying “Fuck it” and doing what they want fashion-wise. I remember shopping with my mom when she was in her 40s and into her current age of 50s and her comments about how she couldn’t wear something because it wasn’t “age appropriate”. Granted there are probably things better left to young kids or teenagers, but I’ll be damned if I’m not going to wear a cool t-shirt or a fancy top, or even have piercings or dye my hair, because of my age.

    1. Feline Fine*

      “I do love it though that more older women are just saying “Fuck it” and doing what they want fashion-wise.” Yup, that pretty much sums up my attitude.

      1. Rana*

        Yup. I’m in my 40s, I’m self-employed; if I’m not “allowed” to dye my hair a wild color now, when will I be?

    2. Charlotte Lucas*

      Heck, did they miss the 70s & 80s? I remember when you could do a different color every day with colored mousses (remember mousse?) and gels.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        Oh, and colored rinses were popular in the 50s, too. The stereotype of the blue-haired lady is from the popularity of those rinses, but when I was a kid I remember some older women with pink and orange rinses. And not a hair out of place.

      2. ginger ale for all*

        Oh yes! The brand I used was called Pazazz. It had tiny bits of glitter that just got everywhere. I recently had to let go of my car that I had in the 90’s and you could STILL see some of that sparkle in the head rest. Over twenty years later!

    3. Panda Bandit*

      Yeah, colorful hair is not nearly as new as they make it out to be. Kids have been dyeing their hair long before anyone even knew who Katy Perry was.

  18. bad at online naming*

    Yeah, so my office had a dye party in the parking lot last year to celebrate a product being (finally) released.

    A few dozen of us participated – although I’m possibly the only one that decided it was a lot of fun and kept it up after the initial few weeks. Not counting the instigators of the dye party – they were already sporting many colors pre-party, and all continue to so.

  19. Gwen*

    This cracks me up because after months of back and forth and consternation, I just dyed my hair purple/silver on Wednesday. I got a go-ahead from a senior staff member who I knew wouldn’t personally be opposed who said that the rest of senior staff insists that they’re totally open to it, and thus far nothing’s exploded. I feel like a more “out there” hair style (like a mohawk) would be more taboo than a normal/professional hair style in an unexpected color.

      1. Gwen*

        I had actually been waffling between lavender & silver, and my stylist was like “well, let’s see how well we can lift your color” and when she put the purple on, it became kind of a lavender-y silver with ribbons of brighter purple through it. Unintentional, but I’m pretty into it! :D

  20. Liz*

    I used to have fun colors in my hair all the time. One time it was hot pink all over, but more commonly it was pieces of different colors for a few months at a time.

    Then I decided to stick with one color, and that was a very bright (Ariel) red. I kept that color for years and loved it.

    But now I work for a company with a famously strict set of rules on natural hair colors (and visible tattoos, facial hair, piercings, and everything else) and I had to change a lot before I started, including my hair color, which I miss a lot. As much as I love the company/my team/everything else, a more relaxed dress code that gives me my hair back would be great.

  21. Sascha*

    I’ve been dying (hurf) to dye my hair purple for the longest time…and I was all set to do it, with boss approval, and then my department got reorganized to report directly to my university’s president. I was told I will now have more “visibility” with him. So I think my dreams of purple hair have to die…unless he’s cool with that sort of thing, I have no idea.

    But I am going to go not-subtle blonde ombre (I’m a brunette) if I can figure out how to do it without looking like I’m just growing out a bad dye job. And therein lies the key…I think unnatural hair colors, and other non-traditional things, are totally awesome in the workplace IF you maintain good hygiene and look polished, no matter what your style is.

  22. KR*

    I don’t dye my hair anymore (too much effort and I’m focusing on making my very curly hair as natural and healthy as possible at this point) but it’s a constant internal battle for me to decide whether to dye all or part of my hair.

    I’m in my early 20s currently working in municipal government part time and a grocery store to fill in the gaps. I used to dye my hair natural colors, and then when I was a senior in high school I tried to dye the bottom part of my hair purple. The purple washed out within a week but the hair underneath stayed bleach blond. Last time I tried less-than-traditional colors!

  23. Hlyssande*

    I work in a pretty conservative company and I don’t believe there’s anything against fun dye in the handbook, but it feels like it would be frowned on.

    On the other hand, I did just dye my hair a deep non-natural red a few weekends ago, so maybe there’s hope. I’m tempted to ombre out the tips of my floppy top (buzzed on sides) and see what happens.

  24. Almond Milk Latte*

    I work remotely, so my boss didn’t know I had purple hair until about a year in when we were talking about my potentially going on a site visit. I’ve got a black to purple ombre right now (A+ would recommend) and I’m looking forward to my coworkers seeing it on our holiday Google Hangout :D

  25. Aimee*

    Has anyone else ever experienced blatant ageism with dress code enforcement?

    I work for a company that has a VERY conservative dress code for its customer-facing employees (think flight attendant). The clothing part is not hard because we are all in uniform. But the standards for things like hair, nails, and tattoos seem to be enforced much more strictly for younger people.

    I’m 32 but look like I’m half my age, and a lot of my colleagues seem to think I’m 20 (which is a whole other can of worms). The thing I get “spoken to” about is my nails–I’ve been chastised for having black nails, dark purple nails, and even bright red nails, which I thought was a super common color! Even though those colors are solid and technically within the dress code, some manager or another decided they were “unprofessional.” In the meantime, probably 1/2 of my female coworkers have CRAZY nails, all covered in nail art and bright colors and rhinestones. Apparently none of them ever get called out on it, because it’s continued like this for years! I just stick with a french manicure now to stay under the radar.

    The same thing goes for hair color, although no one really tries anything off the red spectrum. What’s “too red” and “rebellious” for a 25-year-old is apparently just fine on a 60-year-old, though. (I don’t dye my hair, so this isn’t a problem for me!)

    Same for nose piercings–definitely not allowed, but again only enforced for twenty-somethings.

    1. Kelly L.*

      I had a friend who got chewed out for having black hair in the office. It was dyed, but I felt like it was really messed up for them to assume that–she’d been hired with it dyed black, she kept it up and didn’t have half an foot of light roots, and it’s a color that does occur in nature. I’ve seen people with her same skin tone and naturally black or near-black hair. But yeah, I think they saw her youth and some goth-tinged accents to her outfits at times, and just decided she was being rebellious.

      (So she dyed it red, which was also not her natural color, but they didn’t mind that one.)

    2. AnonAcademic*

      I’m curious, have you tried pointing this out and asking for clarification? E.g. “my understanding is that solid color nails are ok, but I see people wearing everything from no nail polish to elaborate multi-color designs and rhinestones. Can you clarify the policy for me?”

      1. Aimee*

        The policy includes the word “extreme” colors, and I guess black was too extreme. To be fair, I understand that a lot of people still associate black nails with gothic teenagers. The red was “too bright.” The dark purple was more of a “Is that color really compliant with the dress code?”

        When I point out that everyone else breaks the policy, I get an answer like “Don’t worry about everyone else, worry about yourself. They’ll get talked to.” Pointing out that the managers themselves have glittery nails or whatever makes them say “She’s not in uniform, so it doesn’t matter.” And saying things like this make me feel like I’ll be perceived as whiny and argumentative.

        Dysfunctional as it sounds, the higher-ups who have the power to enforce the dress code basically never see me actually working, and therefore don’t have any idea if I’m awesome or terrible at my job, so it’s harder to establish myself as a Competent Professional and not as a whiny, rebellious young person, and I try to pick my battles.

          1. Sonya*

            I’d want to say something like, “I’ll take that under advisement”, or “I’ll give that advice the consideration it deserves.”

            Bad idea? :p

    3. Chalupa Batman*

      I’m really into nails, to the point I consider it a hobby, and I couldn’t believe how much thought goes into SFW nail color. Several bloggers I read have mentioned that they don’t wear their (sometimes very elaborate) nail art more than a few hours, because they wear nudes, plain french tips, or pale pinks all week at work! I do think I pay attention to how my nail art will be perceived-for example, bright blues, heavy glitter, and “cutesy” nail art is pretty much reserved for weekends, but I don’t think twice about dainty florals or monochrome ombre nails for work. Most people never notice…unless they’re nail nerds, too. I can’t imagine why someone who doesn’t follow nails would care, much less be bothered, by a flight attendant’s nails.

  26. azvlr*

    Thank you! Thank you for this discussion topic! I am in a non customer-facing professional role in a fairly conservative industry and location. I and would love to dye my hair to be more in keeping with my “real” life.

    Our official dress code states that hair must be a “natural color” (not YOUR natural color, just a naturally-occuring one.) However, I see lots of other people at work with lots of other hair colors. They all say no one hassles them about it. I think it’s ironic that tattoos (which is permanent) are allowed, but hair color is not. My manager is not even in the same geographical location, so she wouldn’t know unless I or someone else told her.

    I am tempted to just go for it, but don’t want to lose my job over it. What would you do in my situation?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      If you see lots of other people doing it and you know for sure they’re not being hassled about it, I’d take that to mean the same will be true of you … unless there’s a key difference, like that you’re in a client-facing position and they are not.

      1. azvlr*

        The main differences they are hourly and I’m salaried. Also, their managers are on site, so presumably if anyone had a problem with their dress code, they would know who to speak to. I am the sole member of my team at my site, so know one around me really knows who I work for.
        On the other hand, I work in a secluded alcove and only a handful of people see me everyday.

    2. Owl*

      I agree with Allison, and also, I don’t think it’s likely you would actually lose your job over it — I’d think that at worst they would just ask you to dye it back.

    3. azvlr*

      What I don’t want to happen is to ruin it for everyone by asking permission or asking the other managers how their team members are allowed to have colored hair.

  27. Ambarish*

    In the article, a recruiter by the name of Harry Urschel is quoted as saying “I don’t know anyone who gets dinged for being too conservative with their appearance.”

    I’ve heard this a few times, and it’s simply not true. I work in software in Puget Sound for a mid-sized company, and I (and many of my colleagues) would absolutely will ding someone who wears a suit for a software developer interview. Of course, I’d never reject them for just that, but it’ll be part of our culture-fit evaluation. This is true of other places I’ve worked at too.

    As usual, Allison is a lot more nuanced when she says, “As always, you need to know your industry, the norms in your geographic areas, …”

    1. Sascha*

      I am often on the hiring committee for a spot on my former team that is basically an entry level tech support position. The other interviewers are always commenting on people who wear suits! They think it’s too formal for the position, perhaps. We’re in North Texas so there ya go. I guess you have to know the norms for the position level as well.

    2. some1*

      Yeah, I worked at a media company where the dress code was jeans & t-shirts. One of my coworkers chose to dress more business casual (like blouses and skirts) and some people thought she was stuck-up because of that.

    3. Allison*

      Tech is tough though, because there are companies with buttoned-up offices where you are supposed to dress very conventionally, and startups where people wear jeans and t-shirts, and companies everywhere in between. This is why it’s important for the recruiter to give the candidate a sense of what level of formality will be expected of them.

      1. VintageLydia USA*

        Mr. Vintage works in tech but with government contracts. He always wears a suit for interviews, but he makes it clear he’s more than happy to dress down for the job. You just don’t know which companies are more conservative from the outside, even some of the start ups.

      1. Al Lo*

        My 4-year-old nephew calls button-down shirts his “party shirts” and insists on wearing them to anything he deems a party. Thanksgiving dinner? Family dinner (if there’s birthday cake)? Both qualify as a party, and thus, the party shirt must be worn.

    4. K.*

      I have a friend who used to work for a start-up and would try to dress a notch above what people wore there – like she’d wear jeans with a button-down and flats rather than jeans with a hoodie and sneakers – and people gave her grief about it until she gave in and started dressing casually. The only time people dressed up is if clients were coming in, or the sales team had client meetings.

  28. Rachel*

    I work in corporate tax and my tattoos and purple/pink highlights are perfectly acceptable in my current workplace. I still hide them for job interviews though – my hairdresser does the highlights in a way that parting my hair on the other side hides them almost completely.

  29. hellcat*

    I’m a lawyer working for the county government, and I’ve had streaks of various colors (teal, purple, or burgundy) in the under-layer of my hair for almost two years now. I’ve been growing them out, but that’s mostly because I just got a little bored with it. It gets comments, but none of my supervisors have ever had anything negative to say. The under-layer (just above the nape of my neck) makes them fairly easy to camouflage, and I dress pretty conservatively otherwise.

    1. AnotherHRPro*

      I have wanted navy blue hair for some time now but work in a very conservative company. Maybe I could pull off an under-layer streak. :)

      1. Liesl*

        Navy blue isn’t that far from black. If black hair doesn’t wash you out and flatters you (hell, even if it doesn’t.. but just a caveat) I’d go for it. Navy blue, some purples and reds aren’t too radical because they’re not far off from some natural colors.

        My hair is a dark teal-green that i made myself (I call the color teal’c – props to anybody who gets the reference) and there is no place to hide – because it’s nothing like any natural human hair color. But so far, so good. If you’re careful with how you dress, most people don’t really care these days.

  30. BabyAttorney*

    Oh man I am SO obsessed with the silver hair trend. I really want silver highlights but I worry it wont be acceptable in my line of work. Even though I am in-house, I look like I just graduated high school and am not sure if that would help or hurt my credibility.

  31. Nethwen*

    I am a library director in the south-east. The first thing I did when the library board changed the dress code from “this sounds like it was written in the 1970s!” to “at the director’s discretion” was to allow jeans to be worn every day (dress as if you were wearing dress pants, but switch the trousers for jeans). The second thing I did was get a blue streak put in my hair. I have worn that blue or purple streak for eight months and gotten only compliments and a few serious questions from 40-something women about how I did it. I was expecting to get told “take it out!” because so many people in this county wish things were like they were in the 1950s. I’m glad it’s gone over well because I love my colored hair and finally feel like me. Then again, my one-year evaluation is next month, so maybe I’ll find out what people really think.

  32. AnonAcademic*

    When I was a teenager I dyed my hair every color of the rainbow, changing it up every few weeks, and I caught holy hell from my school about it. Colorful hair was definitely the provence of punks and rebels only 10-15 years ago. I remember thinking so many times, “But it’s just hair!” I’m glad the rest of the world has caught on that it’s just hair, and brightly colored hair is pretty. It does mean it’s less distinctive a look now, without the sort of tribal social affiliation it used to signify, but I think I’m ok with the trade. Not least of which because I’ve been considering a purple streak ;).

    1. OK*

      I graduated in 94 from a Catholic High School. They had a very restrictive dress code. I wanted to dye my hair raven blue/black from a light brown. I couldn’t do it. My boyfriend did and was expelled after a week of arguing with the principal about changing it.

      My oldest daughter is in 8th grade and has had turquoise, purple, and pink under layers in her hair. I am so glad things are more relaxed. She’s in public school. We have discussed that she might want to reconsider it as she gets older and looks for jobs, or at least tone it down. But for now, do what you want kid. (Hair-wise!! Permanent marks and piercings will be done when she is 18)

  33. BettyD*

    One of my younger library employees asked me recently if it would be okay to dye several streaks of her under-layer in blue and green. I was really happy to say to her that the dress code allowed it. (Yay 21st century updates!) In my section of the semi-rural southeast, the under-layer streaking is actually pretty common among the young mom set, so I hope we’re headed in a more generally inclusive direction.

    I’d like to do some crazy things with my hair, but then I remember what a pain growing out my highlights was several years ago…

  34. Karyn*

    Pretty sure there are partners here who would shit bricks if anyone came in with unnaturally colored hair. I got my hair dyed a dark, dark, almost imperceptible plum color (unless you were standing in direct sunlight you couldn’t see it) last winter and one of them gave me the side-eye.

    1. Karyn*

      Oh gosh, I didn’t mean to swear! I meant to go back and put symbols in there but completely forgot before hitting “submit.” Sorry, Alison!

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        No need for apologies! I don’t mind judicious use of swearing here. (Someone the other day tried to post a comment calling someone’s boss the c-word, and I did have an issue with that and just didn’t release it from the spam filter, which had kindly caught it for me.)

  35. Oswin*

    I have my hair dyed a deep purple with bright purple highlights. I interviewed with this hair color, with two VPs and 5 other managers, so it wasn’t as though they didn’t know what they were getting from me. (I had it recolored right before getting a call for this interview, which I applied for on a whim thinking there was no way I’d get a call back, so that’s why I interviewed with purple hair).

    I’ve also had no issue at my previous job, and that was with someone as my boss who was a stickler for being professional. I had asked her before I did it, and she had no issue with it.

    After I recently had the color updated, I had several compliments from a variety of people at work, including my manager, who liked it with the brighter purple that I had. I also had the most adorable little old woman at church stop me and tell me she loved my hair.

  36. ultra_violet*

    I had bright red hair for years but dyed it a more natural blonde colour after I graduated from university as I thought an unnatural hair colour might weaken my chances of getting a job. I managed to secure a great job with my new blonde hair and have enjoyed working for my current employer for the past few years. Once I’d outgrown my current position I started looking for new opportunities (and have been for the past year). I had quite a few interviews but no luck and, in an effort to cheer myself up, I dyed my hair back postbox red (as I now knew my current employer wouldn’t mind). A few weeks later, I had another interview with a fairly conservative company and got the job! Maybe it was my increased confidence but brightly coloured hair didn’t seem to hinder me at all (my interviewer even commented on how nice it was). Yay for open minded employers!

  37. CubeKitteh*

    I am also in Minneapolis. I work in my company’s compliance department and am currently rocking blonde, teal, blue and purple. My boss loves it and has been through several color changes.

  38. Ruth (UK)*

    I recently dyed my hair red. It’s a shade of red that I could almost pull off as natural, except it’s not that even (it’s more red at the top. I have very long hair). However, it it had dyed evenly, I could have passed for a natural redhead to people who don’t already know me.

    Where I work it doesn’t matter at all (I only deal with people over the phone), and if I asked my boss before doing it I imagine her reaction would be to be puzzled over why I was asking for her opinion on my hairstyle.

    I think there are some colours that are considered to be more radical than others. My shade of red (close to a natural shade) I imagine would be ok in all but the most conservative of places. But I can imagine a lot more places having an issue with intense green, or vibrant rainbow or something.

    One of my previous jobs was a fast food store where you could dye your hair, but had to get approval of 2 different managers first, and tell them the colour you were going to use. They typically approved red, non-vibrant purples, and black, as well as narrow strands in other colours (like if you want to put a small bright strip in) but would say no if you were planning to go shockingly orange.

  39. Bowserkitty*

    One of my mom’s favorite stories from her time working as an x-ray tech:

    She used to dye her hair all sorts of colors until one day her boss told her she needed to make it all one color and leave it.

    Naturally, she went all pink.

    1. Liesl*

      Is she looking for a job? Because i am looking for intelligent problem solvers like this.

      And yes. It’s corporate.

  40. snuck*

    I’m in Australia.

    While working in the engineering and IT sides of our largest Dilbert company I was able to sport some fairly interesting hair colours, but never went the full colour swap out – I could have though, others did in similar positions in competing companies and other parts of my company. It came down to how well you worked, how much you were able to fly the corporate dog fights and whether you frankly, liked. Oh… and whether you had to get up often in front of senior management. I would colour a big splash of hair at the back (I have blonde hair) that could be tucked in and mostly hidden away. On the rare occasion I would put colour through in places that couldn’t be hidden I would use more socially acceptable colours (pink rather than blue) and keep my hair tied up for work so it was less prominent. I also dressed in a style that supported this – I had a style that carried it – I like to think of it as naughty librarian haha…

    When I moved on to working in Finance and Government roles I had to drop this right out, neither space had much tolerance for difference – my dress was simpler and my hair less bright. And the mining company I worked for briefly also was suspicious of me and I had to tone individual flair right down (but they wanted my skillset – it was an odd relationship to be there where I was considered technically superior, but because of my dress/hair difference I was considered substandard, I toned it down rapidly there).

  41. Algae*

    Appropriately, this was posted on Buzzfeed today (link in reply). When laying naturally, the hair is a normal black, but then she runs her hand through her hair and it’s a gorgeous kaleidoscope of colors. Loved it.

    I have beautiful auburn hair that doesn’t take color nicely, so I don’t dye it. I did do purple highlights once, but they looked like dark red streaks within a couple of days. Still looked nice, but not quite the edge I was going for. No one at work said anything.

  42. devans00*

    I’m sitting in “no way that color naturally came out of her scalp” hair as I sit and type this at this office. I’m glad workplaces have decided to relax about things that truly don’t matter how the job gets done. Energy that used to be spent policing people’s looks are now put to more productive things.

    I don’t miss those days of being pulled aside to get The Talk about how my clothes are too casual for some in the office. Guess who’s still here and who isn’t.

  43. phedre*

    As with everything, I think it depends on your workplace and your role. At my nonprofit, the staffers who work directly in programming can have hair dyed strange colors, piercing, tattoos, etc. But for my role (Director of Development) in my city, unfortunately that wouldn’t fly – many of the people I need to interact with and ask for funding from are a bit more conservative about those things. I used to have neon pink or blue hair in grad school, but when I got a fundraising job I had to dye it a more natural color. It has no bearing on your ability to do your job, but unfortunately people still can be judgy about stuff like that.

  44. manybellsdown*

    For a few years I worked as a PA to a real estate agent in a very wealthy area. I dyed my hair, but it was never anything that wasn’t JUST this side of “natural”. That burgundy color that was so popular in the 90’s was the most dramatic thing I did.

    Until the week before my high school reunion, when I tried a new dye that was called “cinnamon” but turned my hair atomic tangerine. I put it in a bun and went to work. My poor boss kept shooting me glances but he wasn’t sure what to say, because he didn’t know if I’d done it on purpose or not. Finally I just said “Look, I’m sorry about my hair, it wasn’t this color on the box, and maybe I shouldn’t see any clients until I fix it tomorrow?”

  45. politiktity*

    Ha! About six weeks ago, I took the plunge and dyed whole hair purple. Unknown to me, a friend who lives a few states away put purple highlights in. We laughed about how we’re finally in our thirties and feel comfortable enough in our skin to be ourselves and not have to “fake it to make it” that haunted us in our twenties.

    For reference, work in tax and deal with taxing jurisdictions on an infrequent basis.

  46. Megan*

    I always wanted to dye my hair bright colors but when I was a teen my parents wouldn’t let me. I finally did it a few years ago and have been coloring my hair since. I work in a corporate office of a fashion company. I didn’t ask permission even though the dress code said no unusual colors or cuts. Just came in one day with seafoam green hair and everyone quickly got used to it. I was the only person with colored hair then in 2013 but now a few girls in the office have bright highlights. I’m growing out my hair now to its natural color because i miss it.

  47. Silver*

    In my previous role at a national broadcaster in my country I had, at different times, purple, red and pink hair. It never bothered any of my managers and didn’t prevent me from getting promotions. It was also great for meeting people as everyone remembered who I was due to the hair.

    I now work in distribution and have silver/lavender hair and again no one has any issue with it. I don’t dye it bright colours anymore but it’s still not a natural colour. I also have facial piercings and tattoos so the hair isn’t the most outrageous part of me. The look helps people remember me and the quality of my work makes sure its a favourable memory.

    I do self select for companies that will accept me for who I am and have previously turned down offers where my look was mentioned as something that may require adjustment.

  48. K.*

    I once had a part-time survival job in a call center and a college student who worked there dyed her medium-brown hair purple. They made her dye it back – it was brown again two days later. She was a good sport about it – “I’d rather be able to pay my rent than have purple hair,” she said – but I was surprised that it wasn’t allowed.

    1. Connie-Lynne*

      …at a _call center_.

      That, to me, just sounds like tinpot dictators. There’s no business reason for that at all other than somebody wants to force people to follow rules.

  49. Blurgle*

    I have never dyed my hair – natural red hair doesn’t take dye well – but I constantly have women coming up to me at the local coffeeshop and asking me who my colourist is. “It looks almost natural!”

    Gee, thanks.

  50. Honeybee*

    $100 is a cheap appointment in most of the cities I’ve been in.

    On my team we have a guy who had pink hair – now it’s purple – and a woman with bright red hair. I’m planning to get purple streaks in mine (after the holidays…my MIL would not appreciate me having purple streaks in her Christmas photo) and I asked a woman I passed in the hallway with blue streaks in hers where she got it done. And another coworker of mine is planning to go turquoise.

    I work in a tech company, so this kind of thing is practically encouraged.

  51. BakerStreet*

    There’s no way I’m throwing away $100+ on dyeing my hair. If you have to stop your hair looks awful before you can cut or recolor it too. I tried the 25 washes and it’s out stuff for Halloween. Yeah, you can laugh. My hair is a reddish brown but I dyed it black for a character (Morticia Addams) I dressed up as. It looked great but I couldn’t get my hair back to the right color since it was “semi-permanent hair color”. My freckles where in your face and after the makeup came off would confuse people. Oh, I’m pasty and freckled. I wasn’t willing to risk dyeing the hair another color only to have it look worse since this hair color looked so bad. The fine print will get you every time!

    I had to let it grow out for four months then hack off the mess! The hair dresser thought I would cry since it was at least 8 inches of hair being lopped off. I just wanted the funky faded black to be gone. My hair looked amazing afterwards and had a natural curl to it that I didn’t know about since it was long. I’ve always worn it long and have grown it back out – avoiding all dyes in the process. I’ve had people ask me if I get highlights done and the answer is always no. My copper highlights are all natural. Most people who get it dyed where I live are wasting $150+ every time and they get in trouble at work. One coworker tried the purple and turquoise and was told to get it fixed that night or lose her job. So it was a waste of $325 on her end and it looked terrible too. I have yet to see the colors in ads match what people are wearing on the street. A lot of them look like a sad Bozo the Clown to me. I have grown to really hate those stupid ads with models. They should be free of Photoshop touch-ups. If the hair color in the bottle doesn’t match what’s on the box why waste the money? Why spend over a $100 dollars for a custom job only to look weird and keep paying high maintenance for it? Maybe they don’t know what they are doing in the South (highly probable) but the hair colors I see look terrible.

    The other stigma with the extreme/colorful dye jobs is that you work in either a tattoo or piercing shop or some minimum wage job. I live in an ultra conservative area and no one makes any real income unless you’re working two jobs minimum. Dye jobs are too expensive and seen as a huge waste of money unless it’s a natural color from Ghetto Mart.

    1. Liesl*

      I am so glad i don’t work where you work or live where you do.

      I won’t even begin to tell you how weird hair can look beautifully professional (i already wrote a post about that and won’t waste my time even paraphrasing it here)

      But i WILL say that unless your hair is stark white, you WILL get undertones of whatever your color is before you add a box of weird dye. If your hair is yellow and you add blue, it’s going to come out on the greenish side. So either get a color wheel or pay for the job. (I got a color wheel – i got exactly what i wanted. It’s not rocket science but it IS hair and color science)

  52. Artemesia*

    I like the relaxed rules about hair but I do think that if you are going to choose a ‘look at me, look at ME’ hair color that you have to be impeccable about grooming and styling and maintenance. Messy ordinary hair or a less than snazzy style is sort of invisible but if you dye it bright teal and then it is sloppy, badly styled and half grown out it is in your face ugly. Think that woman who won Project Runway with the purple hair hideously badly cut and poorly groomed — attention getting coupled with ignoring grooming makes a much worse impression than natural hair that is past its hairdresser date.

    1. Liesl*

      Yes absolutely true. And these colors are risky for some because bleaching is often involved which causes hair to look unkempt and ratty (even with the blessed olaplex revolution).

      I wear a very dark teal-green bob and i choose my work wardrobe carefully. I only wear neutrals (maybe a purple scarf sometimes) and make sure that my clothing is tailored and the best i can afford. I keep myself well groomed, clean and made up conservatively.

      I tell women and men all the time that the effect of weird hair and a simple, monochromatic suit or dress, is strikingly beautiful and actually puts focus on the hair without making it typical weird hair focus.

  53. Soanon*

    As a Black woman, I still have concerns about wearing my hair the way it grows naturally from my head without issue, let alone dying it an avant-garde color.

    There have been many documented instances of hair being policed at school and work for Black people, as well as what is “quirky”, or “punk” for white people having the label of “ghetto” attached to Black women that do the same thing.

    Just offering that perspective.

    1. Prickly Pear*

      I kept my hair conservative for this reason until this year. Then I decided that if I haven’t proved myself at this point no hairstyle ŵas gonna save me.

    2. Liesl*

      I was just talking to somebody about this tonight. This entire issue absolutely infuriates me. I’m not a black woman but the idea that your natural hair could ever be considered “offensive” on the books is disgusting. I’m so sorry to any women, or any person at all, who has to deal with such nonsense.

      I can understand policing hair CHOICES (deviations from what you have naturally) I don’t agree with it but i can understand it morally, at least.

      It is absolutely amoral and evil to tell a person that their natural hair texture is unacceptable. It’s racist, often sexist and really does shine a spotlight on the “I’m not racist BUT…” jerks out there.

  54. Sandy*

    I work in a teaching hospital as a nurse, and they do not allow unnatural hair colors. I once had blue underneath and my natural dark brown hair color on top. I got away with it for quite some time, but I really didn’t even think about it until I received a phone call from my manager. He told me he liked my hair but that someone had seen it and reported it. In other words I needed to get rid of it. I was devastated. I loved the pop of blue in my hair and by no means was it unprofessional. I got so many compliments on it. I am still at the same hospital working as a nurse and the same policy remains, no unnatural hair colors. Chucks. I’ve really been wanting a dark brown with a purple hue..I wonder if these crazy policies will ever change? Are the policies being challenged? It sucks to not be able to express your individuality.. -Sandy

  55. Liesl*

    I did a lot of research, and a lot of thinking, before i finally donned my (if i do say so myself, stunning) blue-green hair in my corporate job. And I came up with a shortlist of things you can do to help normalize and corporatize your weird hair.

    1. Keep the weirdness to a minimum. If you want to rock a weird shade of hair, keep the style conservative. A blue bob looks fine but a blue mohawk is a bit much for some jobs.

    2. Keep the weirdness above the neck. Dress conservatively and wear neutrals only. While green hair and a purple dress look incredible, it’s a bit too peacocky and busy for a desk job. Stick with a dark suit or simple, tailored dress. This minimalist effect is actually quite striking without being too overpowering.

    3. Stay at a level that is near your own hair color. If you’re blonde, avoid going navy blue. If you have naturally dark hair, avoid pastel shades.

    4. Stay true to your skin tone. If you have a cool skin tone, avoid wearing orange, for example. You’ll look sickly and washed out.

    5. Optional caveat: Some weird colors are more “natural looking” than others. If you want to stay a bit less eye-popping, opt for purples or reds as they closely resemble actual human hair colors. The other option is navy blue which is very close to black – but be warned that black washes a lot of people out – as does navy blue – and may not flatter you. Greens and bright blues are the most bizarre as nothing like them occurs in human nature.

    6. Optional caveat: The lighter your hair, the more vibrant your shade of weird is going to be. So if your hair is at a level 10 (very, very blonde) or lighter, a weird color will be very bright and noticeable. Whereas if your hair is a 7 or darker, it will be more subtle.

    And if you just can’t bring yourself to risk it and you have long hair, why not do an undercolor? Do the bottom of your hair a rainbow of beautiful shades and then wear your hair down at work. On the weekends, wear it up so you can show your gorgeous colors off.

  56. Kate*

    I am an office manager with Blue, Purple and Pink hair.

    I asked permission from my bosses beforehand and while they appreciated that I asked, they confirmed they really couldn’t “care less” what hair colour I had. Not to mention one boss (at 67 years of age) took a photo to show his friends how cool it was.

    To be honest, I know this wouldn’t fly with most organisation, however, I am lucky that I am allowed to have the hair I wanted “to try at least once”.

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