Long-haired Freaky People

Date posted: June 10, 2010


“And the sign said ‘Long-haired freaky people need not apply’…”

— Five Man Electrical Band

My friend’s son, Mike*, is wrapping up his sophomore year in high school. He gets good grades, takes college classes in the summer, and is an overall sweet kid. Excited to be getting his license soon, he recently applied for a job at a local grocery store so he could afford the expenses that come with driving. Pretty responsible, I’d say, in this era of entitlement.

While speaking with the manager, Mike was told that he couldn’t work there unless he cut his hair; all males who work there are required to keep their hair above shoulder-length. Mike’s hair is long — about to his mid-back. But it is combed, clean, and well-kept.

I can appreciate the manager’s position — not wanting long hair around groceries. And Mike is more than willing to put it up, tuck it under a hat, or any other accommodation he needs to make — except cut it. But, those aren’t options for him. It’s cut it, or no job.

Mike made an interesting point – there are plenty of young women working at the store with long hair. They are simply required to wear it up. So, why is it any different for him? He says it seems a bit sexist.

It’s a thought to ponder. Why is it OK for the girls to have long hair but not the boys? Yes, it would be naive to think people no longer judge a book by its cover, but I know for me, as long as the person working at my grocery store is clean, helpful and friendly, I couldn’t care less about how they choose to wear their hair. I can also respect that some people may feel differently.

It’s a shame that this store is losing out on a potentially stellar employee over what, I think, is an outdated policy. What do you think? How important is the length of employee’s hair, or their overall appearance, to you and your shopping experience?

*not his real name

Image by somegeekintn

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  1. I suppose the same argument, though in reverse, could be made for men being able to walk around with no shirts on while a woman is frowned upon if the shirt she is wearing is too revealing… hhmmm

    • Possibly, Lisa, however, going topless as a female is (at least currently) against the law. It’s not illegal for a man to grow his hair, so it seems a bit more unfair, ya know?

  2. As a male with long hair I’ve been through the same thing. It’s unfortunate that it happens but as I get older my reaction is that the best answer is for Mike to find somewhere else to work. Working for someone who doesn’t respect you whether it be hair length, religion, sex, etc isn’t worth it. If Mike cuts his hair to get the job he will be resentful and forcing the store to hire him will make the store resentful so I say move on. Until we all make a conscious decision to judge people based on their character this will continue to happen.

    • Thanks for weighing in. I totally agree, Marc. There would be resentment either way. Mike did, in fact, decide to pursue other work.

  3. I think Mike should write a letter to the manager of the grocery store and explain how he feels. I do agree with Marc that he should not work there, but the store and the manager should be aware that they are discriminating against Mike, as their rules don’t apply to the women who work there.

    • That’s a good point, Meryl. If Mike feels it’s important to him to let his feelings be known, a letter is a good idea, as long as he is clear on his intention before writing it so he is pleased with what he sends. Meaning, is his intention to simply share his feelings? Is his intention to deliver a “screw you” to the manager? I know his intention would be the former, so he’d need to be sure he sends a letter of which he’s proud.

  4. Hmm. I don’t think this is discrimination. Long hair on guys carries connotations for older folks who came of age during the 60’s: “Drug user, hippie, anti-establishment, anti-authority, criminal.” In the 80’s, heavy metal musicians were wearing long hair, and heavy metal carries certain connotations as well: “Promiscuous, hedonistic, womanizing, drug & alcohol abuse.”

    Long hair to me says “Artistic, creative.” What does it say to you?

    People who are thinking about markets and target markets (as all business owners should be doing) think about image, and that can certainly include the appearance of the employees who deal with the public.

    Scott (my husband, business partner, and the technical/creative director for New England Multimedia) has hair to his waist that he ties back tightly for business meetings. We recognize and accept, though, that there may be people who won’t trust him solely because of the connotations his hair represents to them — despite our A+ BBB rating and 12 years in business. We’re OK with that. But not everyone will be.

    Michelle Quillin for New England Multimedia
    Twitter: @NEMultimedia

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