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How Hair Plays a 'Part' In Your Career

Anthony Balderrama, writer

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Although polite society says that looks aren't everything, you have to concede that they mean something. Your first impression of many people is based on appearance. Their clothes, posture, height and even their hair.

Siblings and sociologists John and Catherine Walter have researched how a person's image is affected by his or her hair part. Whether you part your hair on the left or right side of your head -- or not at all -- influences how others perceive you and possibly even how you perceive yourself. The idea behind their theory is that your hair part alters how others interact with you, thus altering how you interact with them, and so on.

You know a bad hairstyle can haunt you for years to come (as anyone alive in the 1980s will attest), but you probably didn't expect it to have a lasting impact on your career.

This is the hair-part breakdown, according to the Walters:

  • Men who part their hair on the left are often popular and successful. People perceive them as strong.

  • Women who part their hair on the left are considered reliable and intelligent. It's a smart move for those who work in politics or business.

  • Men who part their hair on the right are seen as radical and open. These men should be strong enough to overcome the stigma against men with this part.

  • Women who part their hair on the right are viewed as gentle and feminine. Because it is a more traditional style, it can affect how seriously they are taken.

  • People who don't part their hair, can't part their hair due to baldness or use a center part come across as trustworthy and wise.

    With that in mind, here are some examples of famous faces and characters with a variety of hair parts. Let's see if the theory holds up to their job roles.

    Who: Rod Blagojevich

    Job: Indicted Illinois governor

    Hair part: Right

    Verdict: While you wouldn't consider scandal-ridden Blagojevich an open person, you can't deny that he fits the description of a right-parter who makes people uneasy and sparks negative reaction.

    Who: Condoleezza Rice

    Job: Secretary of state under President George W. Bush

    Hair part: Right

    Verdict: Although Rice had to be cordial to the heads of state she met with, she was probably not overly concerned with coming across as nice and fulfilling a traditional feminine role. Her need to be aggressive and confident when the time came probably means she makes a better candidate for a left part.

    Who: Queen Elizabeth II

    Job: Queen of the United Kingdom

    Hair part: None

    Verdict: The Walters' theory suggests that no-parters might "lack the flair" of the other parters, but they can still come across as trustworthy and wise. If you're the queen, you probably want to be perceived as someone people are willing to follow and listen to -- making Queen Elizabeth's tendency not to part her hair a good choice -- athough you rarely see her not wearing a hat or her crown, both good choices for distracting from your hair part.

    Who: Jack Donaghy (played by Alec Baldwin) on "30 Rock"

    Job: Vice president of East Coast television and microwave oven programming for GE

    Hair part: Left

    Verdict: Donaghy is the epitome of the all-American guy whose charisma and charm help him become a beloved leader. Although he's a little eccentric, his success as a corporate big shot makes him a model left-parter.

    Who: Milton Waddams (played by Stephen Root) in "Office Space"

    Job: Collator

    Hair part: Left

    Verdict: The bumbling, lovable loser of the film "Office Space," Milton Waddams does not evoke any of the traits of a left-parter. The thick-spectacled worrywart feigns assertion, but ultimately is a pushover who exudes no strength.

    Who: Oprah Winfrey

    Job: Talk show host, radio host, business owner, avid reader

    Hair part: Versatile

    Verdict: Winfrey's hairstyles change daily, though she tends to favor no part and a right part. As a no-parter, she definitely fulfills the description of trustworthy and wise. When she declares an item one of her favorite things of the year, people storm retailers to get their hands on her recommendations.

    As a right-parter, she definitely supports the theory that these women are perceived as gentle -- after all, viewers need to feel comfortable with her. Though you'd have trouble arguing that Winfrey isn't taken seriously.

    If you find that your hair part does seem to correlate with how you're perceived, consider changing things up a little. Maybe you can impact how people perceive you. Or you can just have some fun, because they'll probably notice something about you has changed, but not exactly what. Just something to think about when you're standing in front of the mirror tomorrow morning.

    Anthony Balderrama is a writer and blogger for He researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues.

  • Last Updated: 23/01/2009 - 3:12 PM

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