{DISCUSSION} Professional Appearance

What is considered a professional appearance?
And why?

Okay! I’m sorry for getting off the bookish topic, but I really want to try and branch out into a few real-world topics once a month or so to really talk about other aspects of the world. After all, the real world influences fiction. Thus it seems only rational to discuss such topics, right? Well, I think so. If you don’t, the command Ctrl+W (on Windows) will allow you to leave. Bye! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Onto today’s topic!

Being of the age where I have started getting into a professional atmosphere and looking for jobs and all the necessities that go along with that, I am often baffled by some of the requirements and expectations for employees regarding their appearance. I mean, there are obvious ones like personal hygiene and appropriate clothing (though, admittedly there are plenty of gender double-standard regulations [for both men and women]). But I’m talking about the other pieces of our appearance that express who we are as people.

I’m talking about tattoos and hair color.

For those who don’t know, I worked in a hospital for a time. As someone who was interacting with a variety of people who came into the hospital (despite working at night when everyone is sleeping and literally never interacting withย any patients), I was expected to meet the standards of ‘appropriate’ appearance. What did this mean? No non-natural colors in my hair. No visible tattoos. Why? Because we might offend one of our patients (particularly those of the older generation).

Now, I can kind of understand this (as my parents are of that older generation.) Tattoos, back in the day, were considered to be bad. They mar your beautiful skin. They often look trashy (depending on who your artist is). And they indicate that you are a hooligan who gets into lots of trouble.

Uh-huh. Because my treble clef is totally a gang symbol I share with my partners in crime.ย ๐Ÿ˜’

And the same thing goes for strange hair colors. (which is funny because even farther back in the day, women having short hair was considered taboo. But look at women now. And men have long hair.) So I find it absolutely amazing that here we are in the 21st centuryย still dictating to people how they are allowed to look because… what? Everyone else might have an issue with it? What the hell?!

This is so backwards and dumb that I can’t even wrap my mind around it. How on Earth is my blue, red, or whatever color hair offending you?

First off, it’s not onย your head.

Second off, I do believe you have control over your own eyes.

And third off, what is this!? The 1950s where we peek over our neighbor’s fence and compare ourselves with the Johnsons and then tattle all their dirty little secrets?!

Frankly, what I do with my body is my own business (so long as I’m not hurting myself.) Yeah, tattoos may not be everyone’s thing. Yeah, bright-colored hair may be unsightly. But guess what? That’s your opinion. My opinion says I look like a badass and I have the right and freedom to do, say, and wear what I want, which could include black lipstick, a corset, a hoopskirt, a set of steampunk goggles. None of it affects you!

And the whole concept of being offended by something someone else wears is just absolute GARBAGE. That’s right, take your bullshit to the curb because no one wants to deal with it. Do you know what ‘being offended by someone’s appearance’ really means? It means that you are intolerant of the people around you and let your own personal prejudice keep you from getting to know others. That doesn’t make you better than them. That makes you worse than them. That makesย you the awful human being because we are in a time and age when acceptance of people as they are is so much broader than your misconstrued, outdated mindset.

More importantly, if we are talking about a job, whether it be an office job or something else, how does my colored hair or tattoos really impact my ability to do my job? Do you think I will be distracted by my own hair? Do you think my tattoos cause me physical pain and keep me from working? No. They do nothing more than satisfy and display my own personality. Thus they should have no affect on whether I receive a job or not.

But what do you think?
Should tattoos/colored hair be allowed in the workplace?
Leave your thoughts below!

And check out my discussion from last week:
Politics & Book Blogging


32 thoughts on “{DISCUSSION} Professional Appearance”

  1. I tend to agree. I think there are many professions that require a suit and tie, even though neither imparts any special skills.
    But it is undeniable that many do judge books by their covers, and in a workplace environment there is little time to know anyone any other way.
    In some ways it’s a statement of effort, and a quasi uniform aspect.
    I do think that hair color and tattoos are even more debatable, though I imagine any form of subjective “some tattoos are okay” would be too troublesome.
    It is funny how we want to value individuality, and say “don’t judge”, but there are many situations, like the workplace, where we can and do.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You follow my line of thought exactly, Adam. We encourage children to ‘pursue their dreams’ and be ‘no one but themselves’ and yet once they reach adulthood, they are squashed, crushed, and crammed into a box of how everyone in society is supposed to fit. Honestly, it’s no wonder so many people in their late teens/early twenties end up suffering from depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia.

      And now even if you could find a job you like that let’s you be/appear the person you want to be, there’s no guarantee you can live off it. So you still have to find another job you might not want and which doesn’t let you appear to be the person you are and you’re still forced into the box mold that society has set aside for every individual. It’s really an awful shame. I hope I have the opportunity to challenge this in my lifetime because I hate having to style my body in the viewpoint of another, especially as a woman. We already get enough of that crap as it is. Shouldn’t I have autonomy over how I look?


      Liked by 1 person

          1. Hence the dream of turning writing into a source of income, the unicorn we all chase. Of course there will always be more to read and see than we can manage, which means we’ll never run out.

            Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Melanie!
    I did a double take when I saw the title of this post because I donโ€™t think youโ€™ve done a non-bookish discussion topic before?! I like it ๐Ÿ™‚
    I had my hair dyed back in high school but I stopped since university, because of the notion that hair dye is unprofessional, and I was worried about not being able to get a job! If it were up to me, I would allow hair dye and tattoos in the workplace.
    However I do understand why the dress code exists, since many people from the older generation feel that way.
    That being said, I also work in a hospital, however I think we have less strict dress code than you guys. Some of my coworkers have funky hair colour and styles and tattoos ๐Ÿ™‚
    By the way, I am curious what you do at the hospital?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wait… Really?!?! I could have sworn that I’ve had a non-bookish topic before. Yeah! I just did the one the other week on adult coloring… books. >.> Okay, fine! Rawr! :p But I did have a talk on Artificial Intelligence recently. NOT book related. ๐Ÿ˜€ hahahahaha!

      I personally think that people of the older generation can learn to be tolerant of other human beings and respect their choices because at the end of the day, it’s not your body, it is not doing any harm to you, and you need to stop being so prejudicial against another person’s appearance. This is the 21st century, after all! If you judge a person by their hair, piercings, or tattoos, who is to stop you from judging them for their skin color, hair texture, etc? It’s the same thing. You are judging upon appearance and making uneducated, intolerant opinions of said people.

      I was a pharmacy technician when I worked in the hospital. Nothing fancy, but it paid the bills. And I hope to find a job after grad school that respects my decisions for what I do with my body and how I make my body look. Though… based on the career path I’m looking at, I think that isn’t very likely. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ooh!! I missed that one about artificial intelligence! That is definitely an interesting topic!
        Yes I absolutely agree that people should be less judgmental about how others choose to look and do with their time. It is hopeful to me that younger generations are much more tolerant, meaning that society is becoming more accepting.
        That’s so awesome that you were a tech! I just got my pharmacy degree haha, and now I am a pharmacist at the hospital. What are the chances! ๐Ÿ™‚ I find that at my hospital, it is actually the technicians who are more daring with hair colour and tattoos. In general they can dress much more casually than the pharmacists. However it of course varies with the hospital!
        Unfortunately when it comes to our workplace, it is what it is, right? There isn’t much wiggle room if there is a dress code already set. However we can dress how we like in our spare time ๐Ÿ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Yes, I have hope for the new generation, as well. One can only hope humanity will continue to improve and be more accepting.

          I hope that whatever job I get after college has no issues with my tattoos. Maybe I will get bored of dying my hair when I’m older, but I won’t remove my tattoos. ๐Ÿ˜•

          Liked by 1 person

  3. I absolutely agree that all of this is bullshit. However, one thing that pisses me off is that black hairstyles are constantly criticized and seen an “unprofessional” and young black girls even get suspended for it. Coloring your hair and getting a tattoo are choices while my natural hair is exactly that…natural. For people to say it’s unprofessional is not only bullshit but racist and trying to force an entire group of people to conform to bullshit beauty standards

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ooo! Preach, Rae! I’m totally for black women being allowed to wear their natural hair. We are constantly trying to push ‘natural beauty’ and yet we continue to tell certain races that their natural beauty is wrong. That’s just unacceptable and the lengths that black women go to in order to look ‘professional’ by white people standards is just absurd and unnecessary! I fully support all races to wear their hair naturally.

      Thank you for commenting, Rae. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Well Melanie I think your appearance represents your firm. So if you work in finance like I do and have purple hair and piercing I will project a certain idea of my enterprise. Is it uncool? Totally but tha’s our reality. Many people judge others on appearances. I am not these people (or I try not to be) but as the majority is judging and my employer wants to score deals and all I have to conform to what’s expected. If you work in an artys firm purple hair and tattoos are expected. If you wear a three piece suit you would probably stand out. So unfortunately business is business and as long as people will judge others based on their appearance there is no choice.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Ah. Society squashing the individuality and expression of everyone. Sounds like a dystopian novel to me. :p But I understand your point. You dress for the job you have, which for most people is not the job they want and yet that is the unfortunate way of the world these days.

      I guess I have particular issues with this as a woman because I have been pressured by society since the day I was born to look and act a certain way. Even as I finally, after years of low self-esteem and fighting with my own image, have become comfortable in my own skin, I’m now told not by society, but by my job that my own skin is not my own. It’s just all very contradictory.

      We tell girls to look like the models.
      Then we tell them to look how they want.
      Then when they finally have the confidence to look how they want, we tell them ‘no, no. look like your co-workers.’

      Really, it’s no wonder so many women have body image issues for most of their lives. There is true freedom or confidence to look how you naturally are or want to be.


  5. i definitely agree with you. i think its particularly ridiculous that people who are over-qualified for jobs can be turned down simply because of their hair color and/or tattoos–like, don’t you want someone who actually knows what they’re doing working for you?!

    one of my favorite things about being a STEM student/scientist is that because our jobs are generally specialized and so important that employers generally don’t have room to care about superficial appearance. most of the scientists/engineers/computer scientists/mathematicians i’ve known have actually done crazy things with their appearance. my old supervisor at the smithsonian museum of natural history was a doctoral student intern and he had a shaved head, pierced ears, and tattoos up and down both of his arms and his neck. my old chemistry TA is now a researcher and professor at dartmouth and she still has bright red dreadlocks and gauged ears. and my friend is a biologist but she has half shaved, asymmetrical hair with pink streaks in it and a nose ring! i think generally the only STEM fields that do closely regulate superficial apearance are non-research medical and psychological fields, because in those fields you’re interacting with more people who aren’t your colleagues.

    anyhow, it’s sad how judgmental people are. my appearance has absolutely nothing to do with who i am as a person and, in my opinion, when you judge based on appearance, you’re likely to miss out on knowing some awesome people!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ah, but being overqualified has nothing to do with it. As I understand it, they still don’t hire people based on their hair type or skin color, as well. Which is just as abhorrible. It just goes to prove that as much as people think we’ve gotten better, society is still as prejudicial and judgmental as it was 70 years ago. It’s pathetic.

      Hahahaha! Speak of the Devil. I’m a PhD student studying genetics and I have a tattoo on my inner wrist and I dye the tips of my hair blue or red. :p Unfortunately, I don’t think I’ll be working in the lab environment after college so who knows how long I’ll be allowed to have my crazy hair colors. That’s kind of why I’m doing it now.

      And I would agree about the medical aspects. As a pharm tech between undergrad and graduate school, I worked in a hospital and was not allowed to have tattoos or crazy hair colors (not sure why red is considered crazy though. That’s a legit hair color.) But I am taking full advantage of my personal freedom while I’m in school because who knows how long it’ll last. sigh

      Hahaha! I think my appearance does have something to do with who I am as a person, particularly how one day I can be wearing a summer dress and the next I’m wearing black lipstick. :p But I think I also am pretty high on the ‘weird’ spectrum. Hee hee! Personally, I find some of the best, most interesting people to be the ones who don’t look very mainstream.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Oh oh, here comes treble! You know, that is also called a G-clef, and you know what G stands for, don’t you? tsk, tsk. (Actually it is just the line that the note g lies on, but old non-musicians don’t know that). Someone else said that as an employee you represent the company, and I get that. But I’m with you on not understanding it in this day an age. And hair color? Back in the day older ladies had blue hair. Really. Look it up. And people have always used hair color, since ancient Egypt. I don’t see the big deal that some use orange or red or purple or whatever. Who does it offend?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wait… did you just call me a gangsta because my tattoo is of a treble clef?! ๐Ÿคฃ I am literally dying right now because that is the BIGGEST stretch I have ever heard. What gang is going to all get musical tattoos? That’s like the least gang thing ever. :p Besides maybe unicorns or something. Hahahahahahaha!

      See… but what are you really representing of said company when you are sitting in an office all day and only interact with other co-workers. Who are you representing the company to? The people who already work there? Like they don’t already have their own personal opinions of the company? Bollocks! I could understand if you work in a position where you need to interact with people on a daily basis or find sponsors or something that’s outside the company. But for the people who literally see no one besides those inside the company, it really should NOT be an issue.

      Either way, I still don’t understand how someone with brightly-colored hair or tattoos is representing their company in a bad way? Maybe it’s my millenialness, but I would imagine most people who saw a rep like that would be like: “Hey. That company seems cool.”

      Personal expression offends the people who are intolerant and backwards. They are likely the same people who are still prejudicial against people for OTHER reasons as well. >.>

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yep, just what I thought, treble. lol. I used to participate in a music forum and sometimes the bad musical puns would go on for pages. Anyway, I’m not sure if I got what you are saying right, but you might want to read the first part again – I was making fun of people who would think your tattoo was gangsta ๐Ÿ˜‰ As for rest of it, yeah, I know what the corporate people say, but I 100% agree with you. I was just pointing out that the people who get offended are usually being hypocrites.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Here’s the thing. While I believe in personal freedom of expression (I have tattoos but keep them covered at work) when you are at work, you’re representing your organization, not yourself. You are being paid as their representative with your time and skills. So they can ultimately dictate how they want their employees to represent themselves. That said, company policies have become far more accepting and diverse since the early 1990’s when “corporate culture” really exploded. Small businesses and startups run by the younger generation can offer more lax dress codes. Other more traditional (or uniformed) professions will remain strict. There are even places like Hot Topic which ENCOURAGED employees to have crazy hair and tattoos (at least they used to) to help represent their “brand”. TL;DR – when you’re on someone’s payroll they reserve the right to tell you how to look. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 2 people

    1. So… I read your comment and all I really saw was ‘When someone is paying you, they own you. Your life. Your preferences. Your words. Your thoughts. Your soul if they want it.’ Because the whole concept that someone paying you has full control over how you look is what’s wrong with our current society. You know where that ideology also gets people? Salary. Those who make salary are constantly forced to work overtime without getting better compensation and when they refuse to do it, they are threatened with their job. So, what you just said might be the truth, but it’s also the truth that these ‘corporate jobs’ are literally destroying people because EVERYTHING comes down to your job security.


      1. While I’m no apologist for corporate culture and how it can be exploitative of employees, that’s only the bad side of salary vs. hourly. There are many benefits to salaried positions such as always receiving a reliably steady paycheck (whether you work or not), generally higher overall compensation, and access to generally better benefits like bonuses, insurance, and more vacation time. That said, the culture of how a company treats employees varies widely. For instance. Google has a super liberal dress code, fun bean bag chairs, and apparently their employees love all 75 hours a week they put in at the office. ๐Ÿ™‚

        Liked by 2 people

  8. I’m an older guy, and I see it both ways. I have tattoos, but they are under my shirt to maintain the professional appearance. It’s not that I buy the corporate stance, but I also have to earn a living. Bucking the system is not a good way to keep the paycheck coming. I’m amazed my beard hasn’t become a topic, but it’s been there so long now I have a decent legal argument.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes. I understand the necessity of making a living, which is why I waited two extra years before getting my tattoo and only dyed my hair once I was in school again. That being said, I have an issue with any system (aka ours) that throttles and strangles self expression and individuality by hanging ‘money and food and housing’ over their heads like an axe. The fact that a handful of people are allowed to determine what’s professional is just garbage and I would like to fight the system on this so that people can be who they want to be AND make a living wage. But I’m a dreamer.

      Liked by 2 people

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