update: do men need to cut their long hair for job interviews?

It’s a special “where are you now?” season at Ask a Manager, when I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past.

Remember the letter-writer in 2017 whose husband was agonizing over whether he needed to cut his long hair for job interviews? Here’s the update.

I’ve been enjoying all the updates from letter writers, so I figured I’d share a low-stakes update. I wrote in a few years ago because my husband couldn’t decide if he needed to cut his hair while interviewing. He decided not to cut it and he got a great in-house accountant job that he has been at since. He still hasn’t cut his hair, and it is gloriously long. When he recently wore it down at a casual event hosted by a coworker (pre-COVID), he got many compliments. He also is completely covered in tattoos on his arms, chest, and back, which I mention to dispel myths about what kinds of people end up in accounting :)

{ 96 comments… read them below }

  1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    I feel like our mental “picture” of an accountant or those in accounting has not upgraded in the last 50 years or so. It’s rather tragic.

    Many of us are not so secretly just a bunch of colorful dragons, laying on piles of coin counting our days away.

    1. Tate Can't Wait*

      “A man can have long hair and tattoos and ALSO work with financial information? CRAZY!”

        1. Quoth the Raven*

          There’s a doctor who practices near my place, who is in his 70s. While he doesn’t have long hair and any tattoos that I know of, when he’s off the clock he rocks a lot of really cool heavy metal shirts and combat boots and definitely looks like someone you’d find in a music festival, which I think is super cool.

          1. PeanutButter*

            A couple of the ER docs I worked with as a paramedic got into science and medicine because they found they enjoyed synthesizing and researching various mind-altering substances in the 60s more than taking them. (Though they did enjoy taking them too, ha ha.)

          2. YouCanGoHomeAgain*

            One of the most caring doctors I ever had, who was very compassionate and took the time to listen, had tats on both arms. It was so great to see the stereotype being broken.

    2. Quill*

      I desperately need an accountant in my life then.

      large, pretty lizard that does math? Hello roommate!

    3. The Original K.*

      My accountant is a CrossFit devotee. Tall, trim, longish hair (though not long enough for the “do I need to cut it” question). I don’t know where the shlubby accountant stereotype comes from!

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Math?! Rules?! Organization!? Regulations?! That’s all for nerds, duh ;)

        It’s not so much shlubby imagery, it’s the uptight, never smiles, looks like they stepped out of the hall-monitor’s office and is ready to write you up, no nonsense, clean cut, Guacamole Bob’s of the world…ruiner of FUN. Hater of extra quac [that costs extra, did you know?]

        1. Megumin*

          One of my friends is an accountant, and she is the mostly gloriously weird/sarcastic person that I know. Definitely not a Guacamole Bob. :) (She would absolutely spring for the guac, and some margs.)

        2. AnotherAlison*

          Let us also consider that people can look boring, uptight, and schlubby and still be fun, play in a metal band, be an artist, whatevah.

          1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            Cackling at this because of my history of being the “normal” one among crust punks and metal heads.

            But I come from the area that also taught the world to not assume people’s wealth or status due to their outward appearance.

      2. many bells down*

        While the long hair thing isn’t so unusual in programming circles, people are often shocked at how fit my spouse and some of his co-workers are. 90% of them do not fit the “Schlubby computer nerd” stereotype.

        1. Warm Weighty Wrists*

          Back when I was doing online dating, I ran across one guy’s profile that said, “Stop saying you’re athletic and a nerd. There is not such thing as an athletic nerd.” And I was like welp, apparently I don’t exist! Upside: I don’t have to date that guy.

          1. Marc deMarco*

            When I was in H.S. we had an ‘academic team’ – and every single member had a varsity letter in some sport. (but i only had my academic letter put on my jacket, because it was one better of the three)

          2. Tisiphone*

            That’s a total life dealbreaker – assuming my non-existence. What a charmer. Obviously he has missed out on conventions where there have been boffer tournaments. Sparring with padded weapons takes energy and coordination.

        2. TechWorker*

          Haha I think I am relatively fit but my office is *full* of people who run sub-20min 5ks (to the point where my Strava feed gets a bit depressing lol)

      3. anonymous 5*

        There’s also the accountant who got called in as the emergency goalie for the Chicago Blackhawks in a game a couple years ago. IIRC he played for close 10-15min? and made 7 saves (en route to a perfect save percentage). And his locker room interview was *hilarious*.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          LOL, I forgot about that debacle.

          And then it screws up my mother’s preception even more of the NHL not being a true professional league. Every time my mother watches the NHL, she still thinks everyone has a side-job and asks about it. “I wonder what Joe Thornton does for a real job? Is he an accountant or something when he’s not playing?” [And she means it, we made the mistake of trying to explain juniors vs beer leagues vs professionals to her and now she thinks the frigging NHL is a beer-league and I just accept it at this rate.] “He’s a used car salesman, mom.” “Ooooooh but he has a face only a mother could love, I wonder how he does in sales…”

        2. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

          The Toronto emergency goalie’s day job is zamboni driver.

          What I love about this, and why I remember it, is that he’s the Toronto emergency goalie, not the Maple Leafs’ emergency goalie. NHL rules require every team to arrange for an emergency goalie if either they or the visiting team need one.

    4. JJ Bittenbinder*

      Yeah, Barney from Parks and Rec is still the common mental image, I think. I loved the LW’s update and the erosion of the idea that hair/hair color/skin ink, etc., have anything to do with skill or work ethic!

      1. Nerd Gremlin*

        Oh my god, Barney was hilarious! I do feel like he had some secret other life we will never know about.

    5. Leah K.*

      I’ve been so tempted to get in touch with my inner colorful dragon and color my hair either rose gold or purple. I went to an accounting conference a few months ago (pre-COVID), and there were quite a few women with fabulous dye jobs. Given that I am going to be working from home at least for the foreseeable future, I might take the plunge and at least do a semi-permanent color.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Younger me loved that I could do whatever I wanted with my hair. Now I just care that I don’t have to ever worry about nail polish colors.

        I’m still scarred from years ago reading you could only wear “neutral colors” and were supposed to have properly trimmed nails and NO BRIGHT COLORS EVAAAAAAAAAAAAAA. [NOTE: that was in a book, from the 1990s about job searching, do not, do not, do not, do not ever worry about your GD nail polish color, lmao]

          1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            No. I only heard of that book for the first time the other day when someone mentioned it in a Free For All.

            It was some scrubby little book I dug out of our podunk library system. I couldn’t tell you the name of any of the books I read back then. I still remember the CD-Rom with the “Resume Builder” I used. And adding that I was the T-A for my high school science teacher, who was also my reference, BTW.

              1. Editor*

                Probably the women’s version. About “The Woman’s Dress for Success Book” by John T. Molloy, this synopsis says:

                “Describes common fashion errors committed by business women and offers guidance in selecting clothes and accessories that promote success, express authority, and attract men”

                “Attract men.” Sigh. There’s no wording about attracting women on the promo page for the male version of this title, although Malloy did publish some skeezy book titled “Why men marry some women and not others.” And, I am sorry to say, when my late husband was job hunting early in our marriage in the 1970s, he read the book cover-to-cover, as I did, and we went out shopping to get him a grey flannel suit. It looked absolutely terrific on him, but he had the coloring for it. Woe to you if your coloring called for green or brown, because Molloy practically made them disappear from men’s suiting in the U.S. (Probably the flap over Obama’s tan suit had some basis in Molloy’s absolutism.) Now I would not recommend any of Molloy’s writing.


        1. Theme Park Technical Writer*

          Caveat: the nails still apply in places with overly strict dress codes; I never see guests but I have to comply with the same rules our front of house employees have to be fair.

          That said…individual managers may not care, so neutral for the job hunt doesn’t mean neutral forever!

      2. Kettricken Farseer*

        I highly recommend it! :) Fun hair can be, well, fun, and we all need some lightheartedness right now. This comes from someone whose hair color could best be described as “fire”.

      3. Regina Phalange*

        Do the fun hair color — now is the perfect time! I have dark brown hair, but lots of grey coming in. I decided that rather that continuing to dye my roots brown, now was the perfect time to try purple and I’m LOVING it!

      4. Triumphant Fox*

        I did overtone with purple for brown hair and I plan to get a permanent more refined version when everything settles down. I’ve loved it! I will say overtone has ruined a couple of my pillows and stains easily, even though they say it doesn’t, but I do not care! It has been so FUN to do something different and awesome while I’m stuck inside.
        I wouldn’t say I love it on my dark hair – it turned it a subtle reddish purple, when I more want a cool purple. On my leftover balayage ends (that have lifted a lot since I last got my hair done) it is gorgeous, so I’m going bold next time.

        1. Spreadsheets and Books*

          Yes, overtone! I’ve been doing the rose gold for brown hair and it’s so fun. I can probably get away with this in the office, too, because it’s subtle, but we’ll see if I pull the trigger on that once I’m not working from home.

          I work in corporate finance, so another stuffy field, but for a very cool company. I got visible (but small!) tattoo maybe six months after starting my current job and it’s only been met with curiosity, stories of other people in the department over the years who have been tattooed, and questions about when I’m getting more.

          1. Not A Girl Boss*

            Yesss! Probably one of the highlights of quarantine so far was that I got to live out my rose gold hair fantasies with the Overtone Rose Gold for Brown Hair. It came out gorgeous, way beyond expectations, on my faded-to-brassy balayage.

            I love that it’s subtle enough you can’t tell on webcams, and actually I think the color is quite beautiful / not overly punk rock. I will be sad when it fades.

            And, yeah, that stuff REALLY stains bathtubs lol.

        2. TardyTardis*

          My problem with any hair color is that my white roots will show up in three weeks (my hair grows *fast*).

      5. Shannon R McGirk*

        Oh my gosh do it! Artic Fox and Overtone have affordable coloring conditioners and the darker colors show wonderfully on my darkish brown hair! No bleaching required which my curls thank me for lol.

    6. Extroverted Bean Counter*

      I picked my moniker for a reason, haha.

      I’m more visually a picture of an accountant (glasses, GAP and Banana Republic wardrobe, undyed hair, no body mods) but my previous career was as a flair bartender. I’m outgoing and can talk the bark off a tree.

    7. Cookie Monster*

      My husbands uncle is an accountant, apparent.y high up enough to have received some national awards. He’s also an Elvis impersonator (a decent one)

    8. Zombeyonce*

      My favorite forensic accountant is tattooed and a black belt martial artist. She can take down your company and kick your ass, and is more of a badass than all the people that think accountants are lame combined.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        OMG this is giving me visions of Dorn in Bad Boys For Life and I love it, not gonna lie.

    9. Pipe Organ Guy*

      Is there a cursed ring in there somewhere? If so, better watch out for an arrogant young man with an invincible sword…. There’s an opera all about that.

    10. Jennifer Juniper*

      Oh wow! I’m glad men can actually wear long hair outside the entertainment / creative industries.
      Seriously, I did not know that.

    11. dashielle*

      “Many of us are not so secretly just a bunch of colorful dragons, laying on piles of coin counting our days away.” <- perfect comment. 10/10!

    12. CostAlltheThings*

      Yes! Very much so :) It is a deary day outside today so I wore my festive llamas tee with my dress pants today to bright my own attitude

      **really llamas not code word llamas!

    13. Pennalynn Lott*

      As a non-traditional (middle-aged) student — Bachelor’s 2018, Master’s 2019 — my experience was that the accounting students were gaming nerds who were big sci-fi fans. It was the *finance* students who needed smelling salts if anyone talked about tattoos or going bar-hopping. They all hoped to work on Wall Street and so were already mimicking that style of dress (and attitude).

      As someone who has worked in corporate white-collar jobs for the past 30 years, I would say that the wildest folks are in sales. Second wildest is marketing. Third is operations. Fourth is accounting. Fifth is HR. Sixth is finance. And Corporate Legal rounds out the bottom as Least Wild Department. :-D

      (All of this is said tongue-in-cheek and includes the #NotAll[Department]People disclaimer).

  2. Did you read the syllabus?*

    This makes me happy. Glad he can be himself and hoping that more offices head in this direction!

      1. Carpe Librarium*

        I’m basically picturing Nat from ‘Nat’s What I Reckon’ on YouTube. He’s recently gone a bit viral from his cooking-in-isolation recipes, which are hilarious and informative.

  3. TypityTypeType*

    This is a great update. I love long hair on men, always have, I am pleased that there is a happily long-haired accountant out there.

  4. Thomas Merton*

    I have no hair left to speak of on the top of my head, but I do have many visible tattoos and I am a manager in corporate finance. Granted, I am the only one in my department showing any ink, yet no one cares.

  5. Megumin*

    Thanks for the update! I always love to hear good news of someone rockin’ their style at work. :)

  6. Elizabeth W Kidd*

    BTW- accountants come in all sizes, shapes, and political orientations as well! Liberal CPA here! Previously paralegal so double whammy!

    1. Cj*

      I think people confuse the fact that some professions have what’s considered to be conservative dress as the norm to indicate that people in that profession are conservative politically. I’m CPA, and not that’s not the case with me, nor with many of my co-workers.

  7. Kara*


    I think a lot of offices, even if more traditional industries like accounting and finance, are becoming more modern. I also know that’s the stereotype of accountants, but it definitely doesn’t fit many accounting students I knew in college, all of whom are now working at big accounting firms etc. Your job is just a job – it doesn’t necessarily say anything about your personality. You could also be very different at work vs out of work, which is fine, because it’s just a job.

  8. I'm that person*

    It was the ’80s I had a tail, like Aimee Mann of Til Tuesday or Johnny Slash from the show Square Pegs. Mostly I kept it in a tight braid but sometimes I wore it as a ponytail and it looked like a mutant mullet. (I cringe just thinking about it now) And it would have been fine if I had kept it in high school or college but I kept it into the ’90s and into my 30s.

    When I would go to job interviews I would tuck the braid down the back of my shirt and no one knew it was there. When I would get a job I would show up with it tucked in the first few days and then I would pull it out and people were all “what the heck is that?” It lasted until I was 35 or maybe 40. When I finally deiced to cut it off I braided it nice and tight beforehand and just cut it off at the base and now I have it in a box somewhere.

  9. rayray*

    I like hearing stories like this. While I definitely do think we should practice good hygiene and grooming standards, I don’t see how long hair on a man should ever be deemed unacceptable. So long as it is clean and brushed, and pulled back if he so desires, what’s the issue?

    I’m glad we’re starting to do away with certain norms like hair, tattoos, etc. So long as someone is dressed and groomed appropriately, so what if their hair is long or short, brown or blue.

    1. Jedi Squirrel*

      This. It’s really all about the work they produce and whether they bathe daily. That’s all I care about.

    2. LilPinkSock*

      There’s also the major issue that “traditional” requirements about hair length/style/texture and facial hair are often discriminatory, unintentionally or not. Dress codes that require a man to be clean-shaven exclude certain religions that mandate a full beard, and there have been several lawsuits by POC against employers who insisted that natural, well-groomed hair is somehow “unprofessional”.

    3. Chaordic One*

      Very rarely, and mostly in blue collar type jobs, there are situations where long hair (perhaps from a beard) could get caught in a piece of machinery and you wouldn’t want that to happen. And in certain situations like food preparation you wouldn’t want whiskers from facial hair to fall into your food. But having your hair tied back or wearing a hair net or a net over your beard shouldn’t be a big deal I would think.

      I was reading recently that during the COVID-19 pandemic some male healthcare workers went and trimmed their beards, or in some cases even shaved them off altogether, because they couldn’t find face masks that were large enough to cover their faces with the beards. I would imagine that this is only a temporary thing until better masks that fit become available.

      1. Chaordic One*

        I keep thinking about the story of a long-haired woman who worked at a publishing plant and who somehow got her hair caught in a bookbinding machine. It ripped the entire scalp from her head, although I understand that surgeons were able to successfully reattach it.

      2. Lyra*

        Just to clarify, the main concern for healthcare workers with regard to masks (at least N95 masks, the ones that can actually filter out aerosolized viral particles) is not the size, it’s whether it can seal to your face (if you hear the term ‘fit testing,’ that refers to a testing for the seal).

        In order to safely filter the air you’re breathing in through an N95 respirator, it has to flow *only* through the filter – if it leaks in and out around the sides of the mask, you’re not protected. Beards interfere with getting that seal.

        There’s something called a PAPR you can wear instead (looks like a hood with tubes and a motor that pumps air) but it’s large, takes longer to get on and off, and is harder to hear in since it goes over your face and has a motor. Hospitals also don’t typically have a lot of them because they are a lot more expensive than an N95 mask. In addition to beards, there are other reasons people can’t use N95s that might be due to factors they can’t change: the shape of their face prevents a seal, the N95 makes it too hard for them to breathe due to medical conditions, etc.

      3. WS*

        Firefighters often have to shave or trim their beards for close-fitting masks for the same reason – high quality particle masks require either your whole head to be encased or a close fit to the skin.

  10. Mimi*

    One of my favorite things right now is how any time someone mentions a social/work event they always add “(pre-COVID)” to keep people from scolding them. It’s kind of a bummer but also makes me laugh.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      Yeah. It was kinda like that around 9/11 too.
      And like it or not, COVID is world changing in that way. We don’t often say pre-9/11 much anymore, because we’ve acclimated to airport security, removing shoes and other things that resulted from it.

    2. Jennifer Juniper*

      I’m already thinking “that was in the old days” when I see TV commercials with people outside on the beach, playing volleyball together, etc. Social distancing, sheltering in place, and wearing a mask every time I leave the house is now my normal, and may be for the rest of my life.

      I’m guessing the kids being born now will grow up with social distancing, sheltering in place, going to school online, and wearing masks every time they go outside. So, it will be normal for them.

      1. allathian*

        I hope not. For two or three years, maybe, until we get a reliable vaccine. And legislation to make vaccination mandatory unless there’s a specific medical condition that doesn’t allow it. No unvaccinated people allowed in healthcare work, no matter what the reason, even if it’s due to a disability. This is no longer a reasonable accommodation. Proof of vaccination mandatory to be allowed to fly.
        Reliable vaccine and flock immunity is the only way to prevent the global economy from going down the tubes completely. I get it that countries are racking up debt like there’s no tomorrow, because that saves lives. Saving lives doesn’t help much, if it results in 50 percent unemployment.

  11. I Love Llamas*

    This reminds me of the thoracic surgeon I met in a very rural, conservative community when my mom needed heart surgery. She adored him and never realized she was being operated on by a reincarnated Jerry Garcia. He kept his ponytail neat and his lab coat hid his tattoo sleeves. I found out he rode his Harley to the hospital often. He was a fantastic surgeon. I always wanted to ask him if he was musically inclined….

  12. Chronic Overthinker*

    Though I do love me alternative hair color/length and tattoos, some office cultures still are hesitant to move forward with visible tattoos and non-natural hair color. My grand-bosses are heavy conservative leaning and want to present a more “”””normal””” image of respectability. One of these days though, I’m not going to wear pantyhose or long sleeves and then everyone can see my Universal Monsters tattoos, my ode to my father, and my depictions of deity. Oh I long for the day when I have my ink show without fear or shame, but my industry still frowns upon it. I mean, the partners do anyways. But I do bend the mold in other ways with fun jewelry and accessories.

  13. CurrentlyBill*


    I will say that I once dropped off paperwork at my accountant’s office to find them wearing a Gryffindor sweatshirt and that did give me pause.

    I’m not sure I want a Gryffindor doing my taxes. A Ravenclaw or Slytherin? Sure. But not a Gryffindor.

    When that Gryffindor gets me sent to prison for tax evasion, though, I sure as hell want a Hufflepuff as my cell mate.

    1. Blue Anne*

      This is hilarious.

      I’m a tax accountant, now wondering if I should wear my Slytherin hoodie to work!

  14. MistOrMister*

    I have a coworker that has long wavy hair. It’s been quite some time since I’ve seen him but I think he mostly wore it down and loose. And all I could think every time I saw him was, dear god I wish I could brush his hair. I am sure there are plenty of jobs where you can’t get away with it, but I think long hair on men is generally seen as ok as long as it’s kept up. Which is a little bit of a double standard because women (myself included) can have some of the craziest looking hair around. But it’s almost like we get a pass since we are expected to have longer hair, it seems like it’s part of the territory that it is going to look crazy sometimes. Goodness knows how many times I’ve left the work bathroom looking presentable and within a couple of hours I realize my hair is sticking out every which way.

  15. Geillis D*

    I am a public practice accountant and have worked with many in-house accountant.

    I care that they keep the books clean, properly reconcile the bank and keep solid records of capital asset purchases and loans. I care that they bring in all the information we need to prepare the year-end, are responsive when we ask questions and are generally knowledgeable and easy to work with.
    I don’t care a single hoot if they have hair, what colour their hair is and their various body modifications.

  16. MissDisplaced*

    Love this!
    And it proves that there are company fits for everyone, no matter your outward appearance.

  17. Not A Girl Boss*

    This is great! I wanted to also share that, also back in 2017, my friend interviewed for stuffy engineering jobs while sporting a large man bun. (Side note, why do software engineers get t-shirts and converse, and us mechanical engineers get dress slacks and shoes?)

    He agonized with me on whether or not to cut it, ultimately chose not to, and wound up at a preeminent stuffy defense contractor.

    I just dont think it’s a thing people care about anymore.

  18. Phil*

    I’m 73 and had long hair several times, occasionally to the middle of my back. I needed a haircut before the lockdown and I’ve decided to grow it long again. It helps that I got the good hair in my family-thick and wavy. My sisters are always upset when i grow it. They got the thin straight hair.

  19. So Not The Boss Of Me*

    “which I mention to dispel any myths about what kinds of people end up in accounting”
    Always happy to see myths busted!

  20. Jemima Bond*

    Good for him! My mental image is basically Anthony Kiedis with a nicely sharpened pencil.

  21. Good Wilhelmina Hunting*

    A relative landed an interview as a new school leaver with a large electronics chain. They were delighted to receive an application from a youngster who was clearly very knowledgeable and experienced with computers, who had also had summer work in retail. He turned up for the interview, only for the interviewer to take one look at his hair and tell him that they did not hire men with pony tails. End of interview. No opportunity for him to get it cut before starting, just washed out of the application process, just like that. I’m glad the OP was able to share a more positive experience.

  22. dedicated1776*

    I got my first (really) visible tattoo a couple of years ago (on the inside of my forearm right above the wrist of my dominant hand) and you wouldn’t believe how many people don’t even notice it. I worked with someone for months and one day she asked, “How long have you had that?!”

  23. CommanderBanana*

    Hahaha this reminds me of going to a Finnish death metal concert a few years ago – almost all of the men there had long hair (it’s hard to headbang impressively without long hair). One had absolutely gorgeous, thick, wavy red-gold hair that was nearly knee-length. I went to the bar and he had a small throng of metal dudes gathered around him, sharing hair tips like the best conditioner (I think the consensus was Mane n’ Tail). All these intimidating metal dudes looked awestruck and were gently petting his hair.

  24. Fellow Accountant*

    Yay! I’m so happy he didn’t have to compromise his style for his profession. As a fellow accountant, I agonized for years about visible tattoos and piercings. I eventually decided that I just don’t care and wouldn’t want to work for a company that would care! I work in industry but for a very conservative manufacturing company and no one cares! Accountants always get such a bad rap.

  25. A.*

    I’ve had several amazing accountant friends, who looked similar to what you describe or were just awesome in general. Love this contribution to myth busting!

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