Hiring managers sound off on different ‘dos, plus how much hair dyeing is acceptable for men or women.

In Japan, your college years are a rare stint of almost entirely unbound personal freedom regarding your appearance. After years of following the strict dress codes of Japanese high schools, college kids get four years to do whatever they want…until they graduate and have to follow the strict dress codes of Japanese companies.

But while most companies do have specific regulations regarding clothing, hair tends to be more of a gray area, often with loose, unspoken guidelines. So to get a better idea of what Japanese businesses expect from their employees hairstyling, Tokyo-based AB&C Company, which manages the Agu hair salon chain, asked 200 Japanese human resource managers for their opinions.

To start with, the majority, 63 percent, said they’ve been bothered by the hairstyles of new employees (who generally start working in April under Japanese hiring practices). However, only about half of the personnel managers, 52 percent, said they’ve actually cautioned an employee over their hairstyle’s appropriateness for a workplace environment.

That implies a lot of silent disapproval, and to get a better handle on that, the researchers next presented the human resource managers with photos of 11 women, all with different hairstyles, and asked “Which of them looks like she’d be good at her job?”

The respondents’ answers showed they’d place the most faith in the women who had neat, smoothly combed, but not heavily styled hair.

▼ The top three picks

Meanwhile, permed, loose-hanging, and obviously dyed hair inspired the least confidence, with the following three women receiving the fewest votes.

In fact, dyed hair was the subject of its own separate question, in which a male and female model were shown with the same hairstyles in various gradients from black to light brown. The human resource managers were asked to pick the lightest shade they believed was acceptable (i.e. each vote translates to “hair should be this color or darker”), and there was a pretty clear drop-off point where respondents felt the model’s desire to be fashionable and get attention overtook their professionalism.

Getting back to the question of which women’s hairstyles make them look like capable employees, you could argue that the deck was stacked against the styles that received the least support. Let’s take another look at the top and bottom three.

The number-one pick has an unmistakably confident expression, and the others in the top three convey a sense of energy or friendliness (which could be considered a sign of strong communication skills or a commitment to teamwork). On the other hand, the bottom three seem to be sad, annoyed, or otherwise unhappy to be wherever they are. If you saw those expressions on a coworker’s face in the office, you might not immediately jump to the conclusion that she’s bad at her job, but you probably wouldn’t think that she’s thriving in her true calling.

▼ This woman’s off-the-shoulder top probably didn’t do much for her vote tally either, since it’d be against the dress code for the majority of Japanese offices.

With all the variables aside from hairstyle, it’s hard to draw the sort of distinct line that was evident in the question that only dealt with hair color. Still, it’s a reminder that the Japanese business world almost always prizes a neat and groomed look, and that some companies will be checking your appearance from head to toe.

Source: PR Times
Top image: Pakutaso
Insert images: PR Times
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Follow Casey on Twitter, where his hair saved him the trouble of dyeing it by changing color naturally when he got into high school.