The last time you dyed your hair a different color, did the prospect of how it might impact your salary ever cross your mind? How about your approachability or your perceived intelligence?
It sounds hyperbolic, but the fact is that there is a lot of fascinating research on how our hair color shapes the way that others see us, in every environment from the local dive bar to the boardroom. And if you yourself have made the leap from brunette to blonde (or vice versa), think about it—did it change your social interactions at all, even if just a little?
I can personally attest to this: When I lightened my naturally dark locks to a sunny golden hue last summer, I was struck by how much more attention I got from strangers, and not necessarily in a creepy way. Casual conversations on the subway and while waiting on line for coffee became a much more common occurrence, and yes, I was hit on more frequently. It was like my go-to deterrent for unwanted male attention and small talk alike—my resting bitch face—had suddenly lost its edge. Now I understand that psychologically, this situation was textbook: Of every hair color, research shows that blond is seen as the most approachable.
So when you head to the salon seeking a transformation, are you really getting more than you bargained for? Keep reading to see what message your hair color is sending to others.
How other perceive you: attractive, intelligent, and professional. While studies have shown that blondes are considered more approachable, those with brown hair tend to be rated higher for attractiveness. Brunettes are also assumed to be more intelligent and capable, and in one study, were even favored to get hired for a position over other hair colors. On the flip side, they're also seen as more arrogant—so maybe that lower approachability score is a matter of intimidation.
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How others perceive you: confident, successful, temperamental. Yes, redheads really are thought to be "fiery." But they're also seen as the least shy of any hair color—and in one interesting study, the most successful: When researchers analyzed the hair colors of 500 CEOs, they found that 4% had red hair. This might seem minute, but when you consider the extreme rarity of redheads in the population, it's actually quite a significant percentage.
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How others perceive you: approachable, fun. Blonde is actually seen as the most covetable hair color among women, since it's rare but not quite as polarizing as red. And yes, it's true: Blondes really do have more fun (or are at least seen that way, anyway). Research shows that those with light hair are perceived as more bubbly and open—and sometimes needy. But that's not to say they don't mean business: Blondes earn $870 more on average than brunettes and redheads.
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Did you know about the psychological ties to hair color? Have you ever found yourself being treated differently after changing your hair? Sound off below.