Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Breaking the Ponytail Habit?

Vogue 9668 Purple Maternity Dress Alteration Sketch Detail

Typical Mikhaela hairstyle, from sketch of never-made maternity dress

In my previous post about my hair woes, I mentioned that my hair has two and a half basic styles:

  • "Down" (when it feels like not fanning out into a reverse triangle)
  • "Up" aka "Ponytail" (most other times)
  • "Half Up, Half Down" (when I'm feeling WILD)

My hair is particularly uncooperative in the summer, when I tend to wear a ponytail maybe 90% of the time, both for work and weekend.

Now, I've always assumed that a ponytail is a totally cute and acceptable hair look--I see it on the red carpet sometimes, even. I like the way it feels to have my hair out of my face, and I feel more well-groomed than when my hair is down and trying to fly in a gazillion different directions. I even have a ponytail in the banner for this website!

But via Already Pretty, I found this debate on Corporette: Ponytails at the Office: Yay or Nay?

So--all these years when I've been wearing a ponytail thinking I look professional and/or adorable, has everyone just been thinking "oh, she's having a bad hair day" or "she's too lazy to do her hair"? I asked Cartoonist Husband and he confirmed that he assumed the days I have my hair in a ponytail were a result of hair struggles, not a deliberate style choice. And they sort of are, but... well...

So I've been asking myself: do I need to cut back on the ponytails (giving them up is NOT an option)? Or should I just do what feels comfortable? Maybe I can start doing half-up, half-down more often, or using clips or barrettes to keep my hair out of my face?

I think part of the issue is I really hate putting any product in my hair--in fact, ever since I've been pregnant, I've been so worried about chemicals affecting Cartoonist Baby that I just wash my hair with mild California Baby shampoo and no conditioner at all. And I always worry blow-drying will just dry my dry thick hair out even more.

What do you think? If you wear ponytails, do you see it as a deliberate style or a "can't deal with my hair today style"? How is it that I've missed this anti-ponytail attitude all these years?

Or maybe I knew about it all along and have just been in denial--before I even read that piece, I forced myself to wear my hair down for the fabulous Brooklyn baby shower three of my awesome friends threw us on Saturday (the lovely ladies in question pictured below). Recognize that dress?


  1. I have to admit I think ponytails are the "I can't deal with my hair today" style, and I say that as a person who wears them all the time. But, I don't have to go to an office where other people think that too!

    Maybe you could just pull it into a quick chignon with a few bobby pins right where you like to put the ponytail? And then throw in a clip near the front? That's what I do when I feel too is almost the same but looks better, I think.

    It's good to think about this now though, once Cartoonist Baby has arrived (you know, there's so many of them now, don't you think they should have Cartoonist Daycare at all the cons?) you'll be happy just to be clean for the first few months!

  2. Oh, and I forgot to point out - no product or blowdrying is necessary with the chignon/pretty barette combo. Also, check out Suncoat, they have chem-free sugar-based styling products, I have their gel and I love it! (Also, safe nail polish, it's all that's allowed in this house!)

  3. I am in denial about my ponytail habit, although I know, rationally, that they look plain and slovenly compared with a bunch of styles I could do with only 10 minutes more work in the morning. But there's that learning curve to contend with. Nothing is as frustrating as having spot-on clothes and makeup sabotaged by an unsuccessful tussle with an overly ambitious hairstyle. I guess the key is to practice styling before attempting it under time constraints, but I find blow-drying and styling my hair strangely boring.

  4. I have the same problem, I like having long hair as it's easy to put up and look neat, but ponytails sometimes look a bit underdressed.

    How about a ficcare style clip? The ficcare ones are expensive but gorgeous but there are plenty of cheaper ones to try out. I couldn't find any decent photos but you can see the sorts of hairstyles here:

  5. I used to have really long hair (alas, I am too old for long hair now... one of the many negatives of aging). I have to agree that the ponytail, even one as nice as yours (and it generally seems to be a nice one, i.e. neat, healthy hair, etc etc) does look a bit "help, I can't deal with my hair". I totally vote for the chignon/knot/half-up method. The Pulled Back With A Clip look can be good too and provides lots of opportunities to buy really really cool hairclips. Giving up my fab hairclip collection was one of the heartbreaks of cutting my hair.

    Saying all THAT, I think most people are likely to look best in a hairstyle that they're comfortable with, so you have to factor that in too.

  6. Braids, french braid, regular braid, fishtail braid, cornrow braid and, and, well... I'm trying to grown mine out so I can. DO NOT CUT YOUR BEAUTIFUL HAIR.

  7. I have really long hair, when I have it out it goes almost to my bum, but I never have it down in public. I've let my hair grow over the last 3 years basically because I have been a poor student for that period and had a really bad experience last time I used a student hairdresser.

    Plus I can't decide how to cut it. When I had really short hair I went nuts with the bobby pins and product but it just seems to hard most of the time.

  8. When you have baby, you may feel that short is better. I've seen it happen to mothers with young children. It can grow back later, when you have the energy to wash it again. :-)

    This isn't advice, just a comment on how I have seen others respond.

  9. I wear my hair in a ponytail about half the time now - I try to convince myself it's because it looks cute that way on the 2nd day of curls, but I know it's just laziness. I kept it short for years so that I couldn't fall back on ponytails. I'm trying to break the habit, but it's hard! I'm planning to keep my length but get it pretty layered (so that pincurls work better) and then it won't go back as nicely... I hope!

  10. I prefer ponytail to pinning my hair up. An up-do always make me uncomfortable because I worry the pins will fall out and they usually do for me. A clip/barrett feels heavy and poke me at the back of my head when I lean back in my seat headrest while driving or sitting on an airplane. If I have to put in extra time and trouble on my hair to go out, I will never leave the house. So, if I am able to get away with it, I will definitely go with the ponytail. Surprisingly, the only times I ever resorted to using a hair clip is when I have a bad hair day because it hides the hair better.

  11. I don't think there's anything wrong with ponytails. I wear them all the time for style and because I'm having a bad hair day. :) I think it depends on the outfit and style you're going for that day.

  12. As a person with rather impossibly curly hair (who has neglected to get a proper, styled haircut for about a year), ponytails are my day-to-day goto hairstyle. I will occasionally pop the mane up into a curly updo with something like 5 bobby pins and a mini clip or two. I don't think that ponytails are necessarily sloppy or indicative of neglect - they can look nice enough. If I ever get a job where power suits and pumps are de rigueur, then I will change my ways, but until then...meh.

    That having been said, I've been seriously debating getting a "middy" haircut, which requires a bit more styling, but I have this aversion to (or fear of) letting my hair down. We'll see!

    I'd say that especially with Cartoonist Baby coming along rapidly, do whatever makes you happy. Being comfortable and in a good mood is worth far far more than lots of time spent fashioning your hair in a style you are uncertain about.

  13. This post could have been mine, except substitute "sort-of twisted updo in a clip" for "ponytail". I have no patience for hairstyling; this way my hair requires the least upkeep (wash, airdry, put up, repeat). I (had to) put way more work into short hair, so I don't really understand why anyone would cut their hair when a baby comes along... Also, I can't stand hair in my face. I try to hunor DH, oh, once a month and wear it open/down! I also often think I look either hopelessly old-fashioned or like I just don't care, but usually people I ask like it. So, maybe a "real" updo might work better than a ponytail? (I think you look great, keep it, don't listen to anyone!)

  14. The comments on the blog were interesting. In DC lawyer circles, women do NOT wear their hair down for formal law situations. We all wear a low ponytail for meeting opposing counsel, going to court, etc. For the office it's fine to wear your hair down, but a low ponytail is definitely considered more professional.

  15. When I had long hair a ponytail was my default style. I thought it looked neat and professional for work. When I went out I wore my hair down, as to me it felt more relaxed and maybe even a little wild. On less professional days I would wear the half up half down style. When I had time and could be bothered I wore it in a chignon as Sarah@Colorkitten suggests. Having read all of these comments perhaps I was in denial about my laziness. Now I have short hair and the most I do to it is wash it, so I guess that confirms it. I still like ponytails, though.

  16. My goodness! I had no idea ponytails were such a hot topic or that opinions were so diverse! I'm glad I'm not alone in my ponytail habit, anyway.

    I think I will continue to wear ponytails, just slightly less frequently--today I did half up, half down, for example.

    I can't even begin to figure out how to make a chignon, but I will try to look it up for some variety.

    And I'm not going to get my hair cut short when I have the baby--I've had short hair and found it more work because it was harder to keep out of my face. I might get it trimmed a few inches, though, as it is a bit longish at the moment.

  17. My everyday hair is in a chignon, like a ballerina. It's just as simple as a ponytail, but gives everyone the impression that you are slightly more polished (at least I think it does!)

  18. I have to agree with you on the no-short-hair -- everyone told me I'd cut my hair as a new mom but I can't stand hair in my face! I actually wore braids all the time the first 6 months, I think.

    As for the chignon -- my lazy way is to make the ponytail, then twist it into a quick bun and run some bobby pins through it. A tiny, pretty clip to hold strays in place and you're all fancy with about 2 minutes extra work at most.

  19. Sarah, I swear that sounds like advanced calculus to me--I have no idea how to make a bun, quick or otherwise, and I totally have no idea how to get bobby pins to stay in place!

  20. Mikhaela, the more I think about it, the more I'm realizing that we have the SAME EXACT hair. Or pretty darn close to it. I am also stuck in the down, up, and half-up rut - because my hair won't do anything else. (And yeah, the ponytail is usually worn outside my home when my hair is too dirty or messay to be worn down - I try to go as long as I can between washings. Dry shampoo is my friend!)

    I probably wear my hair down more often than you, and from your 'hair history' I'm pretty sure I generally put a tad more effort into my hair than you do. I let it air dry as long as I can, but always end up blow drying it because my hair can take hours (and if I put it up when wet, that can extend to a day or two) to dry. I use a flat iron to straighten out bumps and turn the ends under so I don't have a poofy-yet-flat mess, but there's not much more I can do. My hair won't stay in a braid because it's too thick and straight - all the shorter pieces fall out and longer pieces come loose and stick out of it. Same with a bun, and bobby pins do NOT help - I need so many that my bun looks like a pincushion and it doesn't even control the strays. Clips, barrettes, bobby pins, etc don't work either - at least, I can't get a real 'hairstyle' using them. I've tried curling/waving my hair with a curling iron, braids, twists, rollers and usually get the same result you did. If I do get a result, it's usually a nasty mess, not soft curls or waves.

    Basically, this is a long way of saying... I know what you're going through. I think it's worth trying some new ways to wear your hair, at least trying to do the ponytail a little less. It never hurts to play around! But if your hair is anything like mine, I will be honest with you and say it might be worth saving your energy for other stuff. I haven't exhausted every option with my hair, but I've tried a lot of things and pretty much all have been a waste of time and money, and I'm not interested in spending any more of either on what will probably be a futile effort.

    But don't think I don't like my hair - it can be disappointing to never get to do any fun hairstyles, but it looks good, even if just in a basic way, with a lot less effort and products than other people have to deal with. I get compliments on it a lot and I know I could have it a lot worse.

    When you have your baby, you can have fun with her her pretty, curly hair. It's easier to do someone else's hair anyway!

  21. Late to the party, as always. I read that article on corporette, and my opinion: it was a filler piece that they were trying desperately to charge with some importance. Keep the ponytails. I think they look very professional.

    When I want to make it damn clear to the world that my ponytail is supposed to be more chic than easy, I a) comb over a bangs-portion of my hair, sort of like '59 Barbie b) wrap a bit of my hair over the elastic and secure invisibly with some kind of bobby pin or barette. Also like '59 Barbie, I guess. But '59 Barbie looked pretty damn professional, and not at all like she was going to the gym.

  22. I wrote a whole, long, complicated comment on this topic last night on my iPhone and then someone called me and POOF! it was gone. An attempted reconstruction.

    1-I have had the impression since late in college (or early post-college) that the sort of easy, high, bouncy Goody-tie-held ponytail that I have favored since fourth grade is unsophisticated in the extreme and therefore inappropriate for work or anytime one wants to look like one took care with one's appearance. Like wearing a sweatshirt.

    2-I have had the same impression about the half-up-half-down look (favored since ninth grade) since my ninth grade English teacher wore her hair that way and I realized that it made her look about 12. (I think she was straight out of college.)

    3-I refuse to wear my hair down when it's hot outside or inside, since I sweat a LOT and to-the-shoulder-or-below hair exacerbates that problem.

    4-I have been told many times that my thick, semi-wavy, straight-after-I've-brushed-it, somewhat-prone-to-frizz hair would look "so great!" if I blow-dried it straight. I will not. It takes too long and damages hair.

    5- I don't/won't use product other than shampoo and conditioner, except that I sometimes put something goopy into my hair for a wedding or a first date. This goop makes my hair seem wavier and less frizzy/messy looking. I am also sure that it contains toxic things, despite being touted as "all natural!"

  23. 6- My "go to" professional hairstyle when I need to wear my hair up is to shower, part it on the side, twist it up low on my head (close to my neck), and secure it with a rubber-backed plastic claw clip that's black or brown. Maybe this is a chignon? Or a French twist? Who really knows. It works for me. If I put it too high up on my head, it doesn't stay. It won't stay at all unless my hair is wet-from-the-shower.

    7-If I can't shower in the morning for some reason, I part my hair on the side and secure it in a low ponytail. The side part makes it look way more professional than the normal combed-straight-back look I generally go for. Likewise, the low ponytail rather than the high, bouncy one. (The low ponytail is hotter than the high one, since it doesn't really keep hair OFF the neck. But it's way better than hair that's totally down.)

    8-If I want/need my hair to be half-up, then I braid the "up" part. It makes it look fancier.

    9-When my layers are long enough, I sometimes put my hair into one long braid. If I had the manual dexterity/coordination to French braid, I would do that, despite the fact that it looks somewhat 80s to me. (Maybe because that's when I was a kid and that's when my sister wore her very long hair in a French braid? I don't know.)

    10-If it's not hot, then I just wash my hair and go. Maybe it's not the neatest/most groomed look, since it dries somewhere between straight and wavy. But my hair is healthy and I figure it looks just fine.

    I think that's it. Summary: If you must pony, part your hair and do it low. And there are some very easy alternatives to ponytails that are just as comfortable, in my opinion. (It is true that with a clip, you can't lean back, but since I'm never in a car and rarely on an airplane for business, that's not an issue for me.)

    I need some clothing/dress tips from you! (I wish to dress in jeans/khakis and t-shirts all the time, and have yet to find anything as economical and comfortable as them.)


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