What is professional hair, anyway?

February 13, 2008

I’ve been thinking about my hair a lot lately. Partly this is because it’s got split ends, and I need to have it trimmed. But then I started thinking about how much I should have it cut. Should it be just a trim, or should I really get it cut?

I’ve pretty much always had long hair. Very long. By the end of my third year of college, it was getting to the point that I could sit on the ends when it was down. I got it cut short for the first time after I returned from my semester abroad, in a sort of “I have the confidence to do something really different now!” act of independence. They cut off 25″ all in one go. Then I grew it out again for 2.5 years, only to get it cut short again in the middle of my second miserable year of grad school, this time with the hope that it would symbolize some sort of grand turning point for many things in my life then. It didn’t work, but they did take off 12″ that time, and it did mean that while I remained depressed for the rest of year, I didn’t have to worry too much about brushing my hair.

Anyway, I’ve recovered since then, and I’ve been letting my hair grow again ever since, so it’s back down to almost my waist. And I like it. So why would I want to cut it? Why do I sort of feel like I’m expected to cut it?

Some time last year, at whatever time of year it was that the local paper decided most new college grads would be seriously looking for job interviews or going to their first real jobs, there was an article about “how to look professional.” Most of it was dedicated to discussion of different levels of casual vs. formal professional clothing, but two things stood out to me from their suggestions for women:

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