My Voice: Unnatural hair colors in the workplace

If you were to take a guess, how many people do you think dye their hair something other than their natural color? According to a study done in 2008 by Clairol (a leading salon color brand) the answer is 75 percent of American women.

A more detailed study done in 2015 by “Statistics Brain”  reports that 46 percent of women have highlights and 35 percent have full coverage hair dye. Overall 75 percent get their hair color altered in some form.

And that’s just salon statistics. An article in the New York Times reports that “15 percent of every 1,000 American women” now dye their own hair at home.

Now the point of all these numbers isn’t to bore you but to show just how many people choose to alter their natural hair color. While the reasons may vary from person to person, according to the 2008 Clairol study 88 percent of women with colored hair say it’s related to their confidence.

So if that’s why many women have their hair dyed, why is unnatural hair color seen as unprofessional?

We take pride in being a society where we supposedly strive for people to express their individuality. Yet a large portion of workplace dress codes can be pretty rigid on someone who wants to add color to their hair and still be considered a professional looking employee.

Hair color is as much a part of a style or personality as clothing preference or makeup. How we choose to display ourselves is part of our identity. Hair dye can be a style statement just the same as anything else.

On a similar statement level to hair dye you also have piercings and tattoos. Some employers allow ear piercing to an extent but ask that you take out certain ones such as nose rings. And most ask that you cover tattoos.

Some companies like Premier health even allow office staff and nurses to wear their nose rings to work.

So if you could potentially have five piercings and a back tattoo and still be professional as long as you cover it properly, couldn’t you take similar measures to stay professional with dyed hair?

Many food chains and retail outlets still don’t allow employees to dye their hair unnatural colors. However places like Target and Starbucks welcome employees to express themselves with hair color.

In the last year Starbucks released a new dress code policy. Now they allow employees to dye their hair as long as it is semi-permanent or permanent (for food safety reasons) and welcomes their associates to wear a work appropriate hat to “cap off the look” if they wish.

Now, while a chain of coffee shops is a different atmosphere to an office, couldn’t a similar idea work? Allowing employees to express themselves if they wish as long as they maintain it in a professional manner. Just like their piercings or tattoos.

What harm could really be done by a professional business women showing up to work doing her job well while behaving professionally. But her hair that’s slicked back into a ponytail or other syle happened to be blue or dark red.

What would really happen if offices allowed for a little more self expression? Maybe nothing. Maybe some pretty happy workers that now get to try out that look they have always wanted. Maybe a little more of that society of individually we are trying for.  

Cerridwyn Kuykendall




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