Appearances in the workplace have always been important for professionalism, but times are changing and so too are approaches to how we present ourselves. Once upon a time, the idea of showing up to work not dressed head to toe in a smart suit was unfathomable, yet look at how things are now. More and more companies are becoming flexible in their dress codes, allowing their staff to be causal in their clothing choice provided they don’t wear something regarded as inappropriate.

Of course, what is deemed acceptable differs between industries, and certain aspects of employee appearance are considered more freely than others. We’ve discussed the arguments surrounding tattoos in the workplace before and it’s inspired us to consider another creative way that people like to express themselves – hair colour.

Whether it’s a casual change from brown to blonde, or a vibrant upgrade to something like blue or purple, dying hair has become an increasingly common desire for a lot of people. It allows them to spice up their look and show off another side to themselves, just as they would if they went shopping for a new set of clothes. However, dyed hair has often been rejected from the workplace because employers feel that certain colours don’t reflect the professional attitude that they strive to achieve with their company.

Naturally, the debate has strong views on either side.

Many employees argue that the colour of their hair does not affect their ability to work, and in some cases can actually be beneficial to productivity. People who wish to dye their hair and are given the thumbs up by their employer are more likely to feel comfortable at their job and have a positive mind-set when it comes to work, as opposed to those who are forbidden to do so.

Nevertheless, everyone responds differently to unnaturally coloured hair, and in a case where an employee has to deal with clients or customers, walking around with green or red hair may not be the best advertisement for your company. All it takes is for one person to be put off by it to lose a sale or business contact. Then it becomes a problem.

Those already in a state of employment may be in a better position to dye their hair than those looking for work. The longer someone works at a company, the greater the relationship that their employer forms with them, meaning they may be lenient towards letting their staff alter their look. However, in an interview situation, the same employer might prefer to hire someone with naturally coloured hair as opposed to one dyed blue or pink because they may see the latter as unprofessional or unsuitable for representing the serious image of their company.  

This can be quite a controversial topic to discuss because some employees may feel that they’re being discriminated against. Thanks to the convenience of home-dying kits and the desire to hide any signs of going grey, more people are colouring their hair than you may realise. However, because they’re choosing to go a natural colour like blonde, there aren’t any issues with their decision to change their look. Although it’s understandable why one colour is preferred over another, that doesn’t stop employees from feeling that there is a lack of equal treatment in the office.

Ultimately, it all comes down to the employer’s individual preferences and whether someone dying their hair will impact the image of the company. There are compromises that can potentially be made, such as dip-dying, to try and find a suitable middle ground, but the factors influencing the decision are too varied to say outright whether it should or shouldn’t be allowed. Unlike with tattoos, this form of self-expression cannot be hidden away, and any job where your appearance is important may not be appropriate for some of the bolder colours out there.

As we said before, though, times are changing, and what may be considered unacceptable now could definitely change in the next five, ten, twenty years.

James Darvill

James is a passionate scriptwriter and reluctant poet with a talent for the dystopian. When he’s not staying up late watching the Simpsons he’s beating the world at Mario Kart, always with a glass of wine in hand.
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