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How important is hair color in the office place? Especially for men and women that are going gray. Does it make any difference in terms of career advancement? Also, how do you feel about the latest trends with woman dying their hair deep red and orange. Do those colors improve career status?

Hair matters, according to a recent study by a Yale psychology professor, Dr. Marianne La France. Dr. LaFrance claims that people make broad judgments about one another based on hairstyle and hair color. Because human beings are highly visual, it is natural for people to “assume” certain things about a person based upon how they wear their hair, how they take care of it, etc.

Hair color in the workplace is significant for several reasons. Whatever your job, your hair tells a lot about your attention to detail and your overall professionalism. Color can also signal particular personality traits and/or life-stance persuasions, such as conservative or liberal. Red heads are perceived to be temperamental and opinionated, whether or not this is accurate on an individual basis. When you see someone with purple streaks or heavily spiked hair, what do you think of them? Most people read those hair clues as meaning that person is not conservative, but instead someone who is perhaps rebellious (stuck in adolescence), or likes to be different, or even on the cutting edge, or someone who works in the entertainment industry, such as a musician or an MTV employee.

It all boils down to these questions: what statement do you want to make? What are your goals? What industry do you work in? Within the context of those answers, then decide what hairstyle and hair color flatter you (your face shape and body type) and most support your professional goals.

As I say in my book, Casual Power, gray hair can be empowering or it can totally disempower an individual. If gray hair suits your coloring and if it has a bright sheen to it, rather than a dull, tired tone, it can work well for you. However, for this to be true, the cut and style of gray hair must reflect an updated look. If the style is freeze-dried somewhere in the past, gray hair contributes even more to a not-living-in-present-time statement. The problem with that, especially in the workplace, is that your hair can send the message that “you” are tired or that your ideas and work methods are not up to date either. On the other hand, stylish gray hair (in good condition) can convey that you have years of experience and possibly, wisdom, which can contribute to an authoritative air.

It’s important to consider what industry you are working in. The high technology, fashion, and advertising industries thrive on change and the latest information. In those industries, stylish updated hair is more important than say the banking industry. However, I know of no career path where unkempt hair (poorly colored, poorly cut, split ends and a general unhealthy condition) and outdated styles help anyone to get ahead.

For the past two years, streaked and highlighted hair has been considered “in” and fashionable. It is truly a personal choice. I have observed many women who have actually increased their beauty with these looks; and I have seen others who only succeeded in looking cheap. Dark hair does not often take well to the streaking process.

When I say that it is important to have an updated hairstyle, I do not mean following every fad. Orange hair and the obvious “I’ve-come-out-of-a-bottle” purplish-red tones, do nothing for your career status, unless you work in the beauty or hair industry and even then, there are the credibility factors to consider.

“ Power Up” your hair in a way that’s right for you and your goals! Remember this: your hair is one of the strongest communicative elements of your image.

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