Do I Really Have to Cut My Hair to Get a Job?

In Advocate by El Maestro27 Comments

Cut My Hair to Get a Job?

Hey Longhairs!

As I write this, I am finally leaving the awkward stage, for the fourth time in my life. I can tie it back again! Why would I repeatedly subject myself to this torture, you ask? Because for many years, I believed one of the deadliest of all longhair myths:


You have to cut your hair to get a job.

I spent many years keeping it short because I assumed they would look at long hair and assume I was less qualified because of it. I got this misconception from my own past, as it turns out. First, a brief history of the hair:

Age 16: Mom and dad finally let me grow it all out. Cut it at 18 for a girl, who still didn’t notice; I started growing it out again almost immediately.

Age 20: Kept it through the rest of college. Cut it at 22 for grad school interviews, and kept it short for a while, “to get a job.”

Age 26: It turned out my department chair in my first college teaching job was a longhair! Grew it out, then donated it at 29 and kept it short for a while.

Age 40: My wife agreed to let me grow it out just to see if she liked it (she thought she wouldn’t). Now she says “I like the long hair more than I thought I would…” So it’s staying. And finally, on my fourth foray into follicle freedome, I’m going to have Hair Ties for Guys by my side, which is super exciting.


Why Did I Cut It?

Let’s examine those instances where I thought I should cut my hair. #1 was my mistake, and I decided it probably wasn’t about the hair anyway. #2 was for grad school interviews, and there was a longhair on my interview committee. #3 is almost the same thing, except it was my boss this time. And, well, #4 is the best, because my lady loves it now too.

In my interviews, no one asked ask about my hair! They asked about my teaching style, and my educational philosophy, and my qualifications.


So Where Did This Idea Come From?

When I first grew it out at 16, I have to admit, I was kind of a jerk. Cops are used to hassling teenage longhairs and following us around, because let’s face it, some of us are assholes. So I was pretty sure I couldn’t get hired for a job with the flowing locks, but if I could earn the respect on the job, I could rock them later. (Cue fifteen years of long-short-long-short…)

What About Now?

I grew my hair out at this job. Has it made a difference? Actually, yes. As my hair has grown longer, it shows the faculty I work with that I’m literally willing to let my hair down a little, and I think it makes me more approachable.

So let’s ask again…do you need to cut your hair for a job?

Nope. That’s bullshit. And if they care enough about the length of your hair to pass you over for a job, perhaps they’re not the sort of folk you want to work for anyway. That said, there are still a few tips to follow when you’re looking for a job, or newly in one, if you don’t plan on cutting your hair.

Four Tips to Keep Rocking the Flow in Your Job

1) Note the Climate

Are there any other longhairs already? If so, you’re in good company, because they probably already laid the groundwork for you.

If not, be prepared to be a little bit exotic. If they need a little time to loosen up, try keeping it tied up in a tail or a Highball, so it’s neat and out of the way.

Over time, you can let it down a little and eventually just flow free. If they’re already cool about it, maybe you can find a few others to bring into the fold.

2) Keep it Neat

We all remember the greasy, sloppy longhair of TV, movies, and high school. But on the job, don’t be that guy, because everyone will notice. It needs to be clean, well-washed and well styled.

If you don’t want to deal with it, tie it up! If you’re going to wear it down, though, a trip to your stylist from time to time is in order, just to get rid of split ends (my girl takes about ¼”) and keep it hanging together nicely when it’s down.

3) Look Sharp

If you want to be taken seriously, personal style is important. Dress sharp: shoes shined, clothes pressed, accessories, if you’re into that. Extra points if your hair tie matches your necktie.

You are making a statement to everyone who sees you, whether you mean to or not. So are you a slouch or a warrior? You want appreciation, not eye rolls, and it helps when you look confident, ready for action, and dare I say it, damn fine.

4) Work Hard

If you want to feel more freedom in your job, you have to earn it. Work hard, be conscientious, and always go a little further than you really have to. People will notice, and you’ll find that as you earn your respect, things will loosen up.

What About the Haters?

There will always be people who judge you on your hairstyle choices. I give those people my very best, to be like the hippie putting a daisy in a National Guardsman’s rifle.

How can you shoot the messenger when they are being continuously awesome? When you earn the respect of these types, you really earn it.


Take Heart, Brothers

You can be an ambassador for your longhaired brethren. Every time you kick ass on the job, you are earning good karma for all of us, and helping make things a little easier for those who may follow you.

Remember, it’s not about what you look like, but what you bring to the table, and if you can be the right person for the job, your hair won’t get in the way...whether it’s in your eyes or not!


...And Let it Ride!

Like I said, no one has ever asked about my hair, whether it has been long, short, or awkwardly in between. And the longer it gets, the more I find longhaired brethren around me reaching out.

So if after reading all this, you’re still on the fence, know that we will find you when the time is right, and you are not alone! Cut your hair for a job? Not likely...not anymore!


Get to Know El Maestro

Josh Lund is a Senior Instructional Technology Consultant at DePaul University. The former teacher turned mad scientist stays busy researching teaching technology in the collaborative arts, multimedia and recording technologies, and user interface design. He still writes and performs instrumental music on occasion, and is an avid gardener and disc golfer. He enjoys cooking, travel, and the outdoors, particularly when his family is also involved.

Connect with El Maestro on Twitter: @jlundmadscience



  1. I’m kinda struggling to be honest, I just started college with the intent to be a pilot but it isn’t really appealing to me as much as it used to, but the thing I don’t tell my family is that I simply just want to keep my hair long since this is the first time I’ve been able to grow it out and I love it, and don’t wanna cut my hair short again since I honestly hated it. I’m still learning about my hair and trying out styles and all that fun stuff too. But I struggle to see myself being happy with short hair again.

    1. You’ll find your path KEGS, just continue to explore your options and create opportunities for yourself.

    2. On the struggle bus as well guys. I’m a paramedic in Texas and it’s a toss up of other’s perception some times as to whether long hair is “professional”. Personally I don’t believe hair dictates any level of intellect or capacity to perform but going against the grain is rough at times. I finally have wavy/curly locks and am surprised by the amount of support I get from coworkers. Problem is I’m headed to a different geographic region with different cultural views (pagosa, co) and am uncertain about other’s ideology in terms of career candidacy in my interviews. I really appreciate you words. Totally makes me want to keep on growing until I can donate as I’m only a couple inches shy of the requirements.
      another guy on tha journey

  2. I’m also in the middle of growing my hair out but I keep making the poor decision to cut the sides and I’m just a little worried for when I go into high school and eventually college because I’m in high school next year, I’m never cutting the sides again so they can catch up and I’m going to let them grow while cutting off as much as I grow on the top to let it all be even and then when I can put it all in a bun will be so happy but right now I’m here with a braided undercut ponytail.

    1. It’s a slippery slope my friend, but I think you are on the right track. Gotta get those sides grown out! Keep lettin it ride amigo!

  3. For an interview, it might depend on what you’re applying for. If it is a clinical hospital job, it might not be a great idea to wear long hair loose, as you probably wouldn’t be able to wear long hair loose during the job. This would go for women as well, however. In this case, it would make more sense to tie it back in some way. Military roles could be quite difficult to work around, or anything where long hair might cause a serious occupational health hazard.

    Long hair might make you a more memorable candidate, because you look different to other applicants, which could be helpful. If anyone asks, you could say that you are growing it out to donate it. This reasoning would be widely accepted, and will show that you have some desirable qualities. You should probably consider hair donation anyway, as it’s a great way to help others.

    1. Great thoughts and well-articulated Cameron, thanks for sharing! Glad to have you here amigo.

    2. The thing that he said above that it’s bullshit to have to cut your hair that just made my day because my family member keeps telling me to cut it and I’m like there are so many jobs that make more money than you that’s allows long hair so thank you long hairs for all you do

  4. When I started working I had long hair, but I was already looked at with other eyes because of the long hair. So my boss was on top of me to cut it off threatening policies on the appearance of workers in the workplace. but once I gain confidence and knowledge I began to let it grow once more, so for 8 years I was with long hair. For bad decisions taken I cut it about 4 years ago but now I’m going to charge again.

  5. Thank you so much! I’m starting to apply for jobs now. I always wanted to grow my hair out so for the past 2 years I stuck through it and now at 29 I finally have super curly hair down to my shoulders. Reading your article really helped me see that its just hair and other people’s preconceived notions aren’t my business. And yeah absolutely! You can look great with long hair! 🙂 Just have to do a bit more work and try to look your best overall, which is what everyone should do anyways for job interviews. Thank you so much, I’m so glad this community exists. It just goes to show there’s positivity and acceptance and understanding out there always.

    1. Author

      You nailed it…the most important thing you can have in your bag of tricks is confidence, and it doesn’t matter what kind of hair you have for that. For me, as the length of the flow increases, so does my confidence; slightly Samson-like, if you will.

      Let it ride!

      -El Maestro

  6. No…No…No…No…No! Don’t ever feel you should even consider cutting your hair for a job or to get a job. I don’t think you should even feel the need to ask the question. Be YOU and you alone. Companies these days are constantly trying to prove they are embracing equality and diversity and accepting people for the real person they are, and that should include men having long hair. Sometimes it may be appropriate, for safety reasons, to tie long hair back at work but this would apply to women aswell as men.
    If a company has an issue with a man having long hair then why would you want to work for them I say. And if short hair is considered more professional and acceptable then how do they explain and excuse men with short hair who are down-right nasty to work with, bullying, obnoxious, dirty and smelly!!

    Short hair does not mean a better employee, colleague, nicer person or even a good person.

  7. Just an idea, if worst comes to the worst, you could always buy a ŝhort hair wig to hide your flow under whilst you are at work.

    I heard a story about a guitarist from an up and coming on the verge of getting signed early 90’s hair metal band that needed to work an extra day job whilst the band were sorting out offers from record companies. He got offered a job at a building site on condition that he cut his hair, so he hid his hair under a wig.

    Has anyone else done this?

    Another question, though this could be controversial. What are your thouĝhts on ĉheating and using a wig to grow out throuĝh the awkward stage (if your hair is very wavy the awkward stage lasts longer than average and looks more crap than awkward)

    1. Author

      I had some rough days during the awkward phase. My hair’s pretty wavy, and when it’s in the awkward stage it tends to bush out at the sides and make me look like Animal. Three ways I solved it: 1) A little pomade in the morning, not to “give it body,” but to weigh it down a little so it won’t bush out and curl at the ends as much (and thus avoid the Mary Tyler Moore look). 2) I went about every 3-4 months to a stylist, who understood I was growing it out, and just took the split ends and layered it underneath on the sides (so I’d lose about 1/4″ from the ends and some of that Animalness in the middle). 3) The Longhairs! Learning how to brush and style properly this time around means my hair looks better and is healthier.

      I can’t speak for wigs…I’ve done some theater, and on me it ALWAYS looks super fake. But if you can pull it off, go for it. Anything that gets you through the awkward stage is worth considering!

  8. I just got a new job. I was a little worried about them questioning my hair but not too much. I tied my hair into a loose ball and went to the interview with my confidence high. BTW my hair reaches the bottom of my ribs. They practically hired me on the spot, because of my qualifications. My hair was never an issue.
    I believe that your confidence and a genuine interest in a particular job shines through. Best of luck to those searching for the perfect job/career.

    1. Author

      It’s true…I have spent so much of my life worrying about it, and this time I paid attention to the attitudes of those around me…and realized it was ALL IN MY HEAD!

  9. If a company would force you to cut it, you don’t want to work there anyway.

    When it comes to generating income there’s ALWAYS another way that does not involve selling your identity, it may be a little tougher, but it’s worth it.

    I’ve been consulting for investment banks and hedge funds the entire time I’ve been growing my hair out (past shoulders and touching collar bone), no one to fire me because I’m my own boss. I rarely even tie it up for meetings, walked into plenty of exec-filled conference rooms this year with my hair flowin’, no one takes any notice.

    Become an expert at what you do and no one gives a shit what you look like. There are plenty of high-and-tight suits ready to take my work at a moment’s notice, and yet my clients keep choosing to instruct a tattooed longhair who regularly wears shorts to their offices! Results > looking like suit #22392392.

    1. Author

      YES. It’s true, if you’re on top of your game, nobody will care. Keep representing!

  10. Absolutely love the information you bring to your customers. This article is so current and relative for the LongHairs community.

    This successful man brought insightful points for anyone working today and truly supports one’s right to be an individual that also brings value to a job/career regardless of hair length. The key here, as in everything, is a polished presentation via personal hygiene, strong work ethic, being well informed and prepared, and being part of the team.

    Well done LongHairs!

    1. Author

      Thanks for the shout Ann! I thought I’d save some folks the worry about if they had to cut their hair, by doing it first a bunch of times myself, and then feeling like a fool for it! Hopefully I saved someone on the fence from losing their flow!

    1. Author

      Yep, you’re right, they seem a lot less worried about the hair in Europe in general. We could learn a thing or two over here sometimes…

      1. in europe, the parsons preach in their churches only, and the rules for the society are adopted in the parliaments
        freedom does not mean there you must claim you are more christian as others and you must to behave like a sheep in a flock; you are less judged on your appearance and more on your thinking
        and i believe that the founding fathers ( which were all free masons) should be surprised seeing what their free america turned between bigotry and conformism….

    2. Hi 🙂

      I’m from France and to add some precisions about the guy with long hair (the youngest ). Before being elected he was mathematician ( he received equivalent of Nobel prices ) and people use to see him in the T.V long time befor he started politics. But lot of media have made papers related to his look and they tried to launch polemic.

      I have long hair too and I have to say even in Europe it’s sometime difficult to have long hair . Personaly I do not have any issue in my professional career because I’m working into information security and companies are not too picky with dress code because it’s difficult for them to hire experts in this field. But I have a lot of trouble in my personal life. Most of people thinks that long hair is for teen until 20 -25 years old. After 30 most of people sees long hair as a lack of maturity and it does not help with women obvioulisy. Personaly I had a lot of debates wh family and friends ( Now they withdraw the fight 😀 )

      One cool thing is since one year there is a kind of trend with long hair and I see lot of men after 30 wearing long hair. But I think it’s ephemeral.

      Sorry for my english I’m not fluent at all

      1. Author

        Well, as an over-40 longhair, I do have to say that I don’t get the sideways glances as much from other people like I did as a teenager. Probably the grey in the beard helps a little! But yeah, you can definitely get that attitude from people like “You’re too old for that hair” if you are just looking scraggly, and that might be the cue that you need to tighten up your look a bit. Don’t cut the hair, do something new with it!

      2. monsieur, votre anglais est meilleur que celui d’ un pauvre belge…lol
        and, in france, if papers were writen about Cedric Villani’s look, il was a journalist subject only…and he was elected without any problem
        we are used crossing much bun haired men who scare nobody, but growing out his hair is more a problem with the family and private friends than for a job, commercial and security fiels excluded ( but i’ ve seen longhaired men cashiers in much stores…)
        effectively, it is more difficult growing out passed 40 for much people think longhair is a young fashion and often old longhairs are part balding( i’m almost 64, waist length, and nobody ask me going to the barber; much wifes are admirative as i undo my bun)
        and i can give insurance to El maestro that cops does not annoy longhaired men in europe for all gangstas are very short haired…lol
        but, 50 years ago, it was not the same, and i were arrested as a ” notorious beatnick singing in the street hippie songs from John ( sic) Baez”

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