Latest Hair Trend Doesn't Fly in the Workplace

Who would have thought an aging male rock star would start a fashion trend that is literally making feathers fly for women in the workplace? It seems that American Idol judge and Aerosmith front man Steven Tyler's penchant for colored rooster tail hair extensions has caught on worldwide, and some offices are not taking the feathers lightly.

Some women have been asked to remove the feathery fashion accessories on the spot, and others have been sent home and asked not to come back until the feathers are removed. That's a bitter pill to swallow if you've just had the extensions put in at a local salon, at a price ranging from $35 to $75.

"Hair feathers may be cool at the club, but they may not 'fly' with the boss," says Dallas beauty expert and author Victoria Snee. "It's just not a professional look for the cubical crowd."

That advice applies to more conservative businesses, like accounting firms and law offices, especially when the feather-wearer is about to appear in court or meet with conservative clients. Other, more creative businesses, such as trendy retail boutiques, hair salons, advertising agencies and design firms, encourage their employees to let their freak feathers fly.

When It's Good to Be a Feather Head

Paul Bazell, a consultant with the human resources firm Aviant, says that when in doubt, you can always ask your supervisor or someone in the HR department. He advises against having them put in on a whim.

"It's just a trend. It's all the rage right now, but like a lot of fashion statements, it will come and go. It's certainly not something to lose your job over, especially in this day and age, when good jobs are not exactly growing on trees."

He notes that the fad wasn't even in existence when most employee handbooks were written, so the style is not likely to be officially covered, and a complete judgment call on the part of the employer.

"Many policies mention 'appropriate business attire,'" Bazell notes. "You have to use a degree of common sense asking yourself, 'What does appropriate business attire mean here?'

"If you work in a more button-down environment, feathers in your hair could detract from your credibility."

And it could enhance your credibility in other environments. A woman in Texas with a sales position reported that her female boss admired her feathery extensions, and asked her where she got them, so that she might get a some as well.

One professional group that embraces the hair-feather fad wholeheartedly (in addition to beauty salons) involves those who work producing fishing lures. These craftsmen are the main suppliers of the dyed rooster tail feathers used in the popular hair extensions -- they collect and color them for use on their flies and lures. They're in great demand now, and business is booming for the best and most prolific producers.

Button Down by Day, Feathered Up at Night

Sultra, an upscale hair-care products company, has found a way to allow women to be conservative professionals by day and feathered fashionistas by night and on weekends. They're producing colored feather extensions that can easily be snapped in and out at home, without the help of a hair stylist.

"We see them as more of an accessory, like jewelry," says Mia Jenner, Sultra co-founder and VP of marketing. Her company is producing several varieties, some that are more discreet and blend in with people's own hair color, and others, like the turquoise "Boho Breeze" and "Pink Passion," that are a little more flirty and sure to stand out. They come four feather extensions to a clip, and sell for $25 at stores such as Sephora.

"Before we started selling them, I went and had some put on in a salon as part of my research. While they were perfectly appropriate for my business, I found that after a few weeks, I just got tired of wearing them. We thought the feathers people could put in and take out on their own would be more practical."

The removable feathers worked well for one California journalist, who wore them to dinner and parties over the weekend, but removed them on Monday for an interview with a very conservative potential employer. "When in doubt, I take them out," she laughs.

And then there's the question of whether or not they're age appropriate. Tyler, a 63-year-old rocker, may be able to pull them off, but how much authority would you give to your 63-year-old-boss who waltzed into work one day with a turquoise feather extension dangling from her head?

"Nowadays there's such a blurry line between what's age appropriate and what's not," laughs Jenner. "I say a little Boho Breeze would look great on a woman with gray hair -- she can always take it out if she's making a presentation at a board meeting."

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