We all want to be comfortable when putting in time at the office. Whether you sit in front of a computer all day or argue cases before a judge, lawyers must find the right balance between personal expression and how others perceive their style.
Trends in the legal profession show that dress codes are becoming more casual. In a recent survey of senior and managing partners, less than 25% said they always wore a suit to work.
About 60% said they prefer a casual business environment, but still wear a suit on some days.
Dressing down doesn’t always involve apparel. It can also include elements of personal style, including hair color.
Can Lawyers Have Colored Hair?
How a lawyer chooses to express themselves personally has no bearing on their talent in this profession. Even so, how someone dresses in this profession impacts their ability to do their work. Colored hair with natural tones is considered acceptable. Using bright colors would be unprofessional at many firms.
There is nothing that prevents a lawyer from dyeing their hair whatever color they prefer. No laws or ethical rules control this element of personal expression.
Overall, you’ll find that most attorneys tend to be more conservative with their grooming and dress because they don’t want to have an adverse impact on how someone feels about their clients.
Legal environments are typically conservative. Although conforming to expectations isn’t necessary, many lawyers decide not to rock the boat because doing so could impact their career in unforeseen ways.
If people get occasional jokes thrown their way because they prefer to wear casual clothing in the office when not meeting with a client, one could expect that a different hair color outside of a normal tone could deliver a similar result.
Ultimately, the legal profession is an occupation that prizes competence above everything else. If you can produce results with professional civility, conformity is not expected or required.
You’ll find that the individuals who have that expectation are typically not in the upper tier of talent.
The Answer for Lawyers with Colored Hair: It Depends
When practicing the law today, you can find judges with pink and purple hair sitting on the bench. You can find people sporting some bright highlights or brighter tones of their original color.
Most firms want today’s law students to know that the most important thing to consider when pursuing a career in this field is that it’s fine to be yourself.
In the past, the conservatism found in the law expected fashion conformity. You’d see identical suits, shirts, and ties on everyone.
If you wanted to be a rebel, you might consider wearing an expressive bow tie to the office.
Even though times are changing, there are some rules to consider when pursuing a job in this location.
- You wouldn’t want your hair to be too distracting during the job interview because your face should be the focal point.
- Subtle colors tend to have a better impact in the workplace while allowing higher levels of self-expression. You’d be able to get away with a dark purple on brown hair more than going with an electric blue.
- Some law firms are more likely to accept interviewees with bright hair based on their client profile, such as those who work with tech companies or entertainers.
If you have colored hair and want to express yourself while working as a lawyer, there are some steps that you can take to protect yourself from unwanted assumptions or attention.
What Are the Best Practices to Have Colored Hair as a Lawyer?
If you’re not ready to call it quits on colorful hair just because you’re working as an attorney, these options can help you maintain your look without a significant headache.
1. Perform your due diligence.
Before interviewing at a firm, take a few minutes to look at the different bio pictures found on the company’s website.
Most lawyers dressed conservatively for these images, but you’ll still get a glimpse of how contemporary the agency is from the perspective of fashion and expression.
When touring the firm, you can speak with the recruiters to understand the work environment. It also helps to reach out to interns or summer students to ask about their experiences and what was considered acceptable.
2. Keep everything tidy.
Having frizzy hair or an unkempt look is often worse than having a bright shade of pink or blue for people to see.
Since dyeing your hair can take a toll on it, you’ll want to consider investing in supplies that help you take care of your split ends.
One of my favorite products to manage my colored hair is Olaplex No. 7 Bonding Oil. It does an excellent job of restoring the strands after some damage while delivering more strength to each follicle.
Olaplex No. 7 Bonding Oil is a highlight-concentrated product with several different oils in its ingredient list. It’s free of formaldehyde, aldehydes, and DEA. When you apply it regularly, your hair receives heat protection for exposures of up to 450°F.
I also like using Redken Bonding Shampoo and Conditioner concentrates for added repair benefits. It provides extra help to stop color fading while working with almost any hair type.
3. Wait to dye your hair.
If you are concerned that your preferred hair color could put an employment opportunity at risk, it’s better to hold off until you get the open position.
Once you get to know your coworkers and the daily vibe at the office, it’s easier to decide if changing your hair color feels appropriate.
What If My Employer Says No to My Hair?
At the moment, there is likely no legal right to having a specific hair color. One of the closest options right now is a proposed bill in California that expands race definitions to include hairstyles associated with being “black.”
Although such a law won’t help someone who chooses to dye their hair an unnatural color, it could help those who wear Bantu knots or certain braids.
That means an employer can legally prohibit workers from having certain piercing types, tattoos, or even pink hair in the United States.
With that said, many businesses are reconsidering these prohibitions since they often eliminate a lot of the talented candidates from their application pools.
Can someone sue their employer if they tell them to go home and change their hair color? It depends. In a right-to-work environment, employers have the right to fire or dismiss anyone for reasons that aren’t legally protected.
If an employer said you couldn’t come back to work as a receptionist because you’re in a wheelchair, that would not be allowed.
What if you’re in a wheelchair with pink hair – and the boss says that you can’t come back until your hair changes from blue to a more natural tone?
That’s where things start to get a bit sticky. If it is provable that the issue is for the hair color only, it’s probably not a legal issue. When there’s any doubt about the nature of the dismissal, there could be a case.
In 2008, attorney Rose Blakelock put a colorful streak in her hair. When she went to court, everyone told her that she couldn’t do that with her appearance. “It would be inappropriate,” was the general feedback.
Blakelock decided that if the attitude of others was going to be that way, she would go with all the color she wanted as a divorce attorney.
- During Utah’s hunting season, she dyed her hair a bright orange color.
- At Christmas, she used green and red to create the effect of a poinsettia.
- She’s even represented clients with bright purple hair.
On two separate occasions, judges in the courtroom met to discuss if having colorful hair was a violation of courtroom setting expectations.
Both times, the consensus was that a person’s hair color was their business, so nobody did anything about it.
Blakelock’s entire story is available at ksl.com.
Is Pink or Blue Hair Considered Unprofessional?
Vibrant hair colors are still seen as unprofessional in the legal profession, but that perspective is changing. As more people embrace pink, blue, and other bright colors, the option becomes less taboo. Most lawyers and those in skilled white-collar professions avoid crazy colors or stick with pastels.
I had strawberry hair a few years ago when anything unnatural was considered problematic in almost any setting. Not a day went by without someone deciding to remark on this form of self-expression.
Most of the comments were offered in jest, but a few of them were demeaning and hurtful. What made the entire experience humorous was the fact that I’d had an allergic reaction to a toner, and that’s what caused the unique shade to appear.
Even then, one interaction stands out above the rest for me. An elderly gentleman came out of his home while I was walking my dog one afternoon.
He was known for being aggressive and vulgar in our community, so we were all encouraged to avoid him at all costs.
When I saw him hustling toward me, my heart skipped a beat. I could imagine the verbal ferocity that was about to come my way.
Instead, he came over and shook my hand. “Good job,” he said. “We need more people who are willing to express themselves in our world today. We need leaders. You keep being you.”
Then he turned on his heel and marched back into his house.
I remember standing in front of his home in shock. I’d prepared myself to stay calm after being called a bunch of names, and instead, I got this amazing compliment that still makes me smile when I think about it.
For the next couple of years, he would always ask me questions about what hair color I would choose next. This fellow, who was 93 at the time, encouraged me to experiment.
When I did a rainbow look, he was the only one to tell me that I looked fabulous. Everyone else told me I should go back to my typical brown.
Can lawyers have colored hair? Absolutely.
That decision also comes with the knowledge that some people may have an adverse reaction to what they see. If you’re comfortable in your own skin, then those opinions don’t matter.
You’ll also encounter people like that elderly gentleman who surprised you with their positive and encouraging reactions. Those are the moments that we need to treasure.