...no bumpits please.
July 29, 2011 7:16 AM   Subscribe

Adult looking hair styles for work?

So I'm 27, and my pony tail is starting to feel a little ridiculous. Since in no time I will be 30, I would like to start looking like a grown up.

I have long, brown, wavy hair that's actually very good-looking, so cutting it feels like a waste of the pretty. At the same time, I feel like the length is what makes me look like a child.

Could you recommend hair styles, accesories (bands, bun accesories, braids, anything) that I can use to work to look sleek and sophisticated?

Also, what do you do with your hair Mon-Fri? I work in an office environment.
posted by Tarumba to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (43 answers total) 53 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I work in a fancy office. While I do see some ponytails (especially in the late 20s early 30s crowd), a number of women put their longer hair in a bun. Most, though, seem to cut their hair to shoulder length or less, though.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 7:21 AM on July 29, 2011

Look for Goody Spin pins for doing a bun... or rather a low chignon. Ficcare maximus clips are also great, but expensive. I found a knockoff one that I love. Look for wooden hair forks or combs, they can be used for twists or buns. I have long hair, but I keep bangs/fringe & layers in the front so it isn't completely pulled away from my face when I have my hair up.
posted by kellyblah at 7:21 AM on July 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

I am 27, with long wavy brown hair.. (the only difference is that mine is thin and breaks when you look at it the wrong way)

..and I keep it in a pony tail nearly all the time. I occasionally throw it up in a bun when it bugs me.

Most of my female coworkers either where it down, with very little styling.. or back in a pony tail/bun like me. Those that do wear it down have it about shoulder length. The older ladies wear it shorter.

If it helps, I wear my pony tail lower on my head then I did when I was younger.. and most of my ties are gray, white, or black.

I say you can't go wrong with a bun.
posted by royalsong at 7:24 AM on July 29, 2011

Yes, Goody Spin Pins are awesome. Check tutorial here. Also check out BerlinHairBaby's channel on YouTube for bun tutorials.
posted by Fairchild at 7:25 AM on July 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

annd I forgot to mention I work in an office on a college campus.
posted by royalsong at 7:26 AM on July 29, 2011

Response by poster: and how do you go about looking more...sophisticated? somethign alittle more elaborate and classy for meetings, for example.

posted by Tarumba at 7:26 AM on July 29, 2011

Best answer: A word of warning: for long, thick hair, Goody Spin Pins tend not to hold buns in place all day (lots of slippage, especially if you have a commute that takes you out into the wind). I found this to be so even with using backup bobby pins. I like the style, but it's more of a casual day thing for me, because it's a pain to keep redoing the bun over and over at work.

I usually just wear my hair down at work, as do the other women (I have the longest hair, but the others are mostly shoulder-length styles).
posted by mesha steele at 7:29 AM on July 29, 2011

Look at forums for people with long hair. Such as (quick Google) this collection of articles with pictures and videos of buns, plus the equipment needed, in the Hair Styling subsection. Some would work well in a professional environment.
posted by tavegyl at 7:30 AM on July 29, 2011

Best answer: For something more sophisticated - how about a french twist
posted by missmagenta at 7:31 AM on July 29, 2011

Best answer: Do you wear your hair in a high pony tail (middle of your head) or a low pony tail (nape of your neck)? That makes a huge difference. I found that low pony tails look more sophisticated than high pony tails. I tried wearing my hair in a bun but it kept slipping out, but my hair is thin so you may not have that problem... I finally got tired of controlling it and cut it.
posted by patheral at 7:31 AM on July 29, 2011

Best answer: I loved hairsticks back when I still had long hair. They are decorative, you can use them to make a bun or a chignon sort of thing, and they are easy to re-do, which was my issue since I have thick and heavy hair.
posted by ottergrrl at 7:36 AM on July 29, 2011

I imagine that you could just wear your hair down with a little styled curl in it to make it more classy.

(I don't do anything different then I normally do for meetings. I just wear nicer clothes, add jewelry, and project an air of knowing what I'm doing. No one ever said anything about my pony tail, as far as I know. I am not a person whom appearance affects my confidence though)
posted by royalsong at 7:36 AM on July 29, 2011

Best answer: Well, not knowing what your current hairstyle is, I think the biggest pitfall people with long hair fall into is thinking exactly:

"...cutting it feels like a waste of the pretty."

Only because, unless your hair grows naturally in flattering layers that frame your face and remains at optimal layer and length, any hair, long or short, can use a good snip or two. It's like a lovely bolt of cloth. It might be very very lovely to look at and touch, but it's not doing anything just hanging on that bolt in the fabric store. When people think haircut, too many times they start thinking that hair shaving scene from GI Jane, but they often forget why a stylist is called a hair stylist and not just a hair cutter. Some good shaping and molding can do wonders, especially for hair health if you're not trimming your ends regularly. Now you don't have to burn it to the ground and salt your scalp or anything like that.

So if you want to see how your hair can look more sophisticated down, I'd say get thee to a stylist, and talk about your hair and your expectations (no muss no fuss hair, need it to be sleeker, make it look more bouncy, etc.) and just ask for a little styling without anything drastic being done. Layers can bring out more of the waves and bounce in your hair, etc.
posted by kkokkodalk at 7:39 AM on July 29, 2011 [11 favorites]

I think a ponytail can look adult - but, wear it very low, at the base of your head. Use a neutral colored barrette to hold it, instead of a hairband. Make sure the hair on your head is smooth with no flyaways (product helps!).

This is a vastly different look from a mid-height, hairband-held slightly messy ponytail.
posted by insectosaurus at 7:42 AM on July 29, 2011

Maybe you'll find some inspiration from this blog: 1000 days of hair. When I have a little more time I try to fiddle with my hair and attempt some of these styles.

However I am in a hurry most of the time so I just I use a hair doughnut and make a simple bun, then wrap a hairnet over it, finally encircling it with a black or colored scrunchie. Gel all the frizzies back. My cousin who is a flight attendant more or less does this daily as well.

There are also clips with a large bow, that have a net/snood attached to them. I'm sure a french twist would also work but it doesn't look right with my head shape somehow. Good luck!
posted by pimli at 7:44 AM on July 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

I am 33, and I have long dark wavy hair for the first time after having short hair until I was 30. I love the Goody Spin Pins (I mix one of the Mini Spin Pins with the two longer ones to keep my hair in place) for a nice bun either at the crown or nape.
I also like the Bandette Comb from Localoc (I have seen them at Ulta and Claire's, but I bought a bunch online) for a French twist that stays in place.

I also asked my stylist to teach me some updo techniques. When I went to get my hair cut, she would cut it and then show me a simple updo that I could practice at home. YouTube is also full of hairstyle videos. A sleek ponytail also looks quite nice if you're using bands that are dark or otherwise match your hair color.

But why not wear it down? I wear mine down as often as possible, almost every day. I have become a DevaCurl convert. I have long hair that is cut into layers to accentuate the curl now, and it doesn't take much product or work to make it look good. I wear it down almost every day, and wear a bun made with Spin Pins most of the rest of the time (especially in the heat). It is quite professional and I think I look chic.
posted by aabbbiee at 7:47 AM on July 29, 2011

Best answer: Pretty hair is pretty no matter the length, so I'd advise getting it cut to shoulder length or slightly longer, if you're up for it. Hair that comes below bra-band height often makes people look a little weighed down. Very long hair mostly makes people look like they're in love with their hair, or they have a personal taboo against cutting it, or something.

The trick to a grown-up-looking ponytail is to wear it with a side part. Sans part it can look sloppy, and center parts look dated and hippie-ish. Keep it low, and if you can find a sophisticated barrette that can keep your hair contained, it'll instantly look more polished.
posted by Metroid Baby at 7:48 AM on July 29, 2011

Best answer: Okay, I deal with this issue every day: 28, work in an office, wavy long brown hair... and have three fall-back styles -

Style One:
Grab TWO regularly sized jaw clips [tortoiseshell looks classy and blends with your hair].
One in each hand, held open, hair hanging loose. Then start just below your ears and draw the clips through your hair until they meet in the middle of your head.

This gives a half-up, half-down that's 100x more elegant than using a hair tie. Even more classy with a side parting and the quick run of a brush through the half-down part.

Style Two: An evolution of Style One axa Fake Maiden Braids

The hair that's left hanging at the base of your neck? Divide into two. Twist the left-hand half into a sausage and mush it along the back of your head until the right-hand clip grabs it. Twist the right-hand half, etc. etc. until the left clip grabs it. Tuck in the spiky ends. Works best with a middle crease and leiderhosen.

Style Three: Classy Bun like Ainsley Hayes from The West Wing

Tie hair in a LOW ponytail with a THIN elastic/tie. Back-comb the ponytail just a bit.
Insert tail into hair donut. Fan out the tail all around the donut and tuck the ends in LIKE YOUR LIFE DEPENDS ON IT.
Tough to do at first, but this is the fastest up-do for maximum results.
Sometimes you can get away with adding a super-thin Alice band in the exact shade of your hair.

These are three styles you can do at 7:30am and WILL stay all day. Rather than use hairspary to fix in place, rub a tiny spritz of dry shapoo into your scalp before styling to beat that limp-ponytail-look.
posted by Chorus at 7:49 AM on July 29, 2011 [5 favorites]

Ack! For Style One, the clips should make a "V" on the back of your head, rather than be side-by-side/vertically straight.

posted by Chorus at 7:52 AM on July 29, 2011

Best answer: The Chignon: 1, 2.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:54 AM on July 29, 2011

Best answer: And as for meetings and business events, the advice is really the same. You want to go for a look that's simple, subtle, and well-groomed. A good layered shoulder-length cut, worn down and frizz-free, is classy and goes with everything.
posted by Metroid Baby at 7:55 AM on July 29, 2011

Best answer: I really hate to say this, I had long, very pretty, wavy red hair. I always wore it up in a low pony or nice twist. I got all kinds of complements, but when I cut it all off for locks of love my professional recepetion went through the roof. I got a smart, slightly longer than chin length angled bob and people almost immediately started treating me with much more respect and like I was a "real" grown up.

It was bizarre and I hate it because now I am hesitant to grow it back out, but the difference was marked.
posted by stormygrey at 7:55 AM on July 29, 2011 [3 favorites]

You don't have to cut your hair. Not should you ever wear a scrunchie to work! (Unless we have different definitions of "scrunchie". Product and styling go a long way in making your hair look more polished and professional. Use a styling cream to tame flyaways and where it in a low ponytail or a bun. If you wear it down, put some curl into and use the styling cream there, too. Whatever you do, be happy with your hair!
posted by two lights above the sea at 7:58 AM on July 29, 2011

I do a French twist. With a "clippy claw" in my thick, curly hair, it'll stay in place all day and looks reasonably formal -- fine with a suit as long as it's a muted clippy claw (or multiple small clippy claws, which are easier to hide). Takes 15 seconds to put up and is easy to fix during the day. (I start with a low ponytail (just in my hand, not in an elastic) and twist, laying it up the back of my head as I twist, so the hair from one side lies over the twist. Then I tuck the "extra" tail back under the twist, and clip it in place.)

For an even more formal version, I use hairpins and make the "holding it up" part invisible. This takes a bit longer and a bit more practice, but is pretty easy.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:59 AM on July 29, 2011

Response by poster: wow thanks for the replies!

Also if you could recommend particular accesories...are we talking about something like this?
posted by Tarumba at 8:01 AM on July 29, 2011

Do you trim it regularly? I personally know more than a few women with long hair who don't even get regular trims because THEY HAVE LONG HAIR DAMN IT and the last couple inches are all split-endy and crispy and hideous. Don't be those women. Long hair that is maintained and has layers and movement can even be left down, instead of bundled back constantly.
posted by crankylex at 8:09 AM on July 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

I don't think there's necessarily a need for accessories. I have hair that's just past my shoulders and I do a blow out. After watching what they do to my hair at the salon (when I get a "cut & style") I started doing the same thing at home. I wet my hair (or if I've just taken a shower, I lightly towel-dry it). Add some gel/mousse/etc. Then use a large round brush to grab the hair (to get a little tension) and aim the blow dryer at it. The hair at the bottom gets a slightly curled-under look, and the rest of the hair is smoother and straighter. If you do a YouTube search for "blow out," you'll find plenty of examples showing how to do this.
posted by LaurenIpsum at 8:10 AM on July 29, 2011

Best answer: Headbands mostly look pretty childish unless they're very subtle; that one in particular screams Spencer on "Pretty Little Liars" or Blair on "Gossip Girl." That's obviously marketed at stylishly preppy teens.

Generally I look for accessories in black, deep brown, or tortoiseshell colors that are as unnoticeable as possible.

For clippy claws, these will hold a French twist and aren't very noticeable (small handles), though you can certainly find nicer, less-plasticy looking ones that are similar. Or several tiny ones like this will hide in your hair a bit better, if you want them less visible. Again, nicer materials are pretty easy to find.

Dressy hair accessories often look like you're going to prom (or another formal evening event, rather than a formal PROFESSIONAL look). For professional hair, you want unnoticeable accessories. It should look as much like your hair just automatically adheres to your head in a bun style (or whatever) as possible. :)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:12 AM on July 29, 2011

Best answer: For the three styles I mentioned, I use:

Jaw Clip
Not huge 80s-size!

Alice Band
Thin as possible and as close to your hair colour as possible. Keeps bangs out of the way.

Hair Donut
The shocking yellow will help make sure ALL the ends are tucked in!

Thin Hair Ties
Keep these the colour of your hair. Makes it look like you know what you're doing [regarding hair and life].
posted by Chorus at 8:20 AM on July 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: yes, yes that's what I was looking for! specific recommendations, I will go ahead and buy those...thank you!
posted by Tarumba at 8:24 AM on July 29, 2011

Best answer: Actually, I *really* don't mean to threat-sit here, but just mentioning The West Wing earlier made me realise that show had a HOST of women with long hair. Watch what they do:

Low-level female: Donna - in the beginning? Long, straight, middle crease. When she had slightly curlier hair they went and BLEW HER UP. By the time she made First Lady's best buddy her hair was still long and blonde - but there was a shape to the length [not even layers, but 'shape'] and she'd a more elegant side parting. Result: You can have long hair in a professional setting, once it looks deliberate [and sleek].

High-level female: CJ Craig - Went from curly and blonde in her producer days, to a straight chin-bob for most of the show. By the time she was Chief of Staff, CJ had long, brown hair. With shape. In a side parting. Deliberate. Sleek.

Sleek = key

In hindsight, I think *way* too much about this... but I know how important hair is. Sleekness is 90% of the battle, not just hair accessories. Sleekness AND hair accessories might just get you to CEO status.
posted by Chorus at 8:33 AM on July 29, 2011

I have waist length hair that I like to wear in buns. My hair is really straight and slides out of styles very easily. I've found that a braided bun stays in way better than a twisted one and I swear by the Magic Grip hair pins. They are the only things that keep my hair in place. Even the spiral twisty kind will come out eventually but these suckers stay in forever.
posted by TooFewShoes at 9:22 AM on July 29, 2011

Best answer: I really, really think the claw clips look unprofessional in a work environment. Pretty much anything that is plastic and visible is going to look unprofessional. And, no matter what the size or how they're worn, they look dated to me.
Headbands also either read as childish or sporty, no matter the size. If you have trouble with hair in your eyes, make use of plain bobby pins (the ones from the beauty supply store work better than the ones from the drugstore... much better).

I have a problem with the word 'sleekness' because it suggests straight hair. Curly and wavy and kinky hair can also be professional-looking, while not being sleek at all. Just work on controlling frizziness.
posted by aabbbiee at 9:32 AM on July 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: so, aabbbieem, I kind of have the same opinion of plasticky things, what do you recommend?
posted by Tarumba at 9:35 AM on July 29, 2011

Best answer: Ann Taylor carries (used to carry? I don't live near one now) some professional hair accessories -- matte metal clips, I have a leather bar barrette that looks very chic and adult from there, etc. I linked to the Goody because that's the kind of thing I mean, but I get my hair clips from a local (non-web, non-chain) place mostly, so I can't link to the things I specifically buy. :)

And as much as we're all giving you universals, it varies so much by region and industry. Where I am, claw clips are perfectly usual ... you'll see lawyers in $1200 suits and plastic claw clips. But the last place I lived, you never saw them. So take everything we've suggested and look around at what professional women AROUND YOU do. And in terms of lengths and specific styles, you of course have to work with YOUR hair and YOUR face and find what looks good and professional on you, and is manageable within your life.

My mom for years hassled me about my long hair and how adult professional women had to have short hair ... until I cut it for Locks of Love and everyone -- EVERYONE -- agreed it looked horrific short. HORRIFIC. The stylist cried. My hair looked like Little Orphan Annie's, and my face looked weird and unattractive. There was no way to wrestle it into professionalism without some length to add some weight to it and make it less crazy. My mother has never suggested short hair for me again. Do what works.

It's also becoming a lot more usual for professional women of the generation who are now in their 30s to have long hair -- there isn't as much pressure to cut it short as there used to be to be taken seriously. So you may find more options to emulate in the 30s-and-early-40s set than in women over 50, who are more likely to have cut their hair short. (Though I can think of several women in their 50s and 60s who run big organizations or are C-level executives who have long hair.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:14 AM on July 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

I've found that transitioning from a middle part to a side part as I've gotten older has worked wonders for making me look a bit older and more professional. I still get asked if I'm old enough to sit in the exit row on the plane, though.
posted by Polyhymnia at 10:36 AM on July 29, 2011

Best answer: I am just not a fan of visible hair accessories, so I like the ones that help with structural integrity rather than adding visual impact, like the Goody Spin Pins- I swear by those.

And from the beauty supply store, bobby pins and little black elastics. (They are usually salon-quality and far less expensive.)
posted by aabbbiee at 12:10 PM on July 29, 2011

Best answer: I usually hate plastic-y hair clips but I love octopus clips like this one. They hold my hair all day comfortably and, most importantly, don't leave crease lines like headbands or some pony tail holders- so I can wear my hair in a clip while I'm working alone at my desk and then take it down when I have a meeting, while still looking professional if anyone happens to walk in.

That said, my favorite way to wear my hair lately is a twist at the front to a low side ponytail. Basically, part your hair with a side part. Starting at the front of your hair (on the larger side of the side part), grab a small section of hair. Twist once, then take another section of hair just further down the side and twist again. Continue grabbing and twisting until you've wrapped around the opposite side of your head. You can either tie it off into a low side ponytail or a braid, I personally like a side pony because it looks more professional. Make sure you use a thin hair tie that matches the color of your hair. Tuck in any loose ends with a bobby pin that matches the color of your hair. It will end up looking kind of like this, except you should end the pony on the opposite side of the twist (and skip some of the volume).

I have pretty wavy hair as well, although it's between medium and long. For every 5 work days, I would say that I wear my hair straight once, curly once, up twice, and down/natural once. For curls, I like no-heat options (including the infamous sock bun tutorial) or using my flat iron to curl. Youtube is an AMAZING resource if you're looking more for things to do *with* your hair than things to put *in* your hair.
posted by kro at 10:32 PM on July 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oh, also- I am obsessed with the Goody updo tool. It creates an amazing french twist-looking updo and literally takes about 10 seconds. Works best on day-old hair, though- it won't hold at all on freshly washed hair.
posted by kro at 10:35 PM on July 29, 2011

Best answer: Yes, I am totally seconding the Ficcare Maximas clip. They are expensive but super strong and all-metal. My hair is extremely thick and heavy and my Ficcare clip is the only thing that has not broken on me, and I only have to do my hair ONCE. It stays in place the whole day. Thank you to previous mefites who have answered similar questions.

I also like the hair tutorials at Joanna Goddard's blog.
posted by hooray at 10:50 PM on July 29, 2011

Best answer: I got a lot of ideas from two "30 Hairstyles in 30 Days" challenges: here and here. I also browse the "Hair" tag on Pinterest for inspiration. Some of the styles are beyond my ability, but with practice you can pull off an impressive 'do.
posted by kidsleepy at 6:51 AM on August 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

I put mine into a French Twist most often. It's really quick and easy, there's no clips (just bobby pins) and it can be done on slighty sweaty, post-bicycle commute hair and hold well (in fact, it holds better this way).
posted by Kurichina at 12:48 PM on August 2, 2011

Response by poster: Ok if anybody wants to know, I just scheduled an appointment to get haircut today.

Pretty excited!
posted by Tarumba at 10:27 AM on August 6, 2011

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