Why is wet hair considered unprofessional?

So this isn't exactly hall of shame material, but it was a question that I've had for a while.

Wet hair is considered sloppy and messy and unprofessional. And I can understand that hair that is dripping wet does look a bit ridiculous and has no place in an office, but I don't understand the problems with hair that's damp or half dry.

I'm sure you guys know exactly what I'm getting at here - I have really short curly hair, and I *need* a morning shower so it's not gigantic. But I also have neither the time nor the inclination to blow dry it every morning to make it "acceptable," and now that I'm in college and interning, I've gotten some funny looks for coming to work with hair that's a little wet.

What's the back story here?
I'm with you. I wish it weren't considered unprofessional to have wet hair at the beginning of the day, but I never feel put-together when I go out with damp hair. I'm not a huge fan of the blowdryer (truth be told, it hurts my ears), so I usually wash my hair at night. My hair doesn't take long to dry at all, but I still feel like I'm being unprofessional with even slightly damp hair at work.

I'm in Massachusetts at the moment, so I've found myself blowdrying my hair a little more this winter. But when I was at home in North Carolina over the summer, I went to visit some friends of my grandmother, and one of them said, "You girls these days leave the house with your hair wet. I don't understand it. We would NEVER have done that when I was your age." It took me by surprise. It's 100 degrees outside! Everyone is walking around outside half naked, but to leave the house with damp hair? SCANDALOUS!
2b/cFi, low density, normal porosity, high elasticity

Low-poo
: Trader Joe's Tea Tree Tingle
Conditioner
: Suave Naturals (whatever scent I have on hand)
Styling
: Paul Mitchell Round Trip, Tresemme Climate Control Finishing Spray

I'm a hair minimalist: the less time I spend on my hair, the better.

It's because the idea of being "put together" and ready for work includes dry, styled hair. Many companies have a dress code, and some of them do include that people should arrive to work with clean, dry hair that is out of the way.

Down here in the deep south, it's a little less like that, but I think that's because in 110% humidity, nothing's all the way dry.
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Good question! I am 54 and have been enmeshed in the "professional, corporate" life for 30 years. Blow dried, flat ironed my hair to fit in for all those years. Or cut it all off to a short, man-style. Last year I just was worn out with damaged hair that didn't flatter me. One day I gave up and went in with curly, damaged, frizzy, damp hair. My hair was all the talk of my coworkers. Everything from "did u get a perm?" "oh well, you don't have to impress us" to the "looks". I spent almost a year conditioning my hair, getting a curly cut, and, yes, going to work with damp hair, even when it is 10 degrees outside. Now I get people saying "your hair looks so healthy", and they want to touch my hair because it looks so soft. I still get the "looks" in the morning from some people when my hair is damp. But maybe it's my age. I just don't give a rat's ass anymore. I feel more like me. I don't fret about my hair and am able to focus on my job. And nobody has questioned my capabilities. I walk through the corporate halls and actually feel bad for those I pass who are straightened, styled and sprayed in order to feel accepted.
54, mix of 3a, 2b,c, with the occasional straight strand thrown in to keep things interesting. Low porosity. Very fine!

HG: CJCF Never lets me down.
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"Still crazy after all these years" Paul Simon
I don't really understand it either...
When people come to school with wet hair occasionally people always ask them if they overslept and usually the people respond "Yes". So I guess leaving the house with wet hair and arriving at the job/school looks really rushed, like you didn't have the time to blow-dry your hair...not maybe people didn't want to? I've been blow-drying my hair every morning so that it looks "put-together" but my hair doesn't really like the heat, so I tried giving it a break by just using the blow-dryer until my hair is like 70-80 % dry, and it really looked nice and I haven't gotten weird comments.
I was on a trip with a girl who never used a blow-dryer and had 3b-3c curls, she just showered in the morning and we left, she went into museums and restaurants and all that with wet hair and has never gotten weird looks...I think it's totally ok walking around with damp hair. And a lot healthier maybe.
German Curlie
2c/3a/3b, fine-medium, high porosity

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It gets WELL below zero here, so I blow dry that way my hair doesn't freeze between the parking lot and the school. But days without school and days when it's above 30 I don't use the blow dryer.
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I think in a professional situation, it does look unprofessional to have wet hair, especially if you're dealing directly with the public. I wouldn't want to see my dentist or doctor or CPA come walking in with wet hair. But if you're going to school, I don't see why it's a big deal. Or even if you're in a job that doesn't put you in direct contact with the public...or a corporate type boss!
3a/b, fine hair (just lots of it!), average porosity, high elasticity, fragile curls

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...I've never really thought about this. But I've made it into a phd program and I go to school every day with wet hair. Screw them if they think I'm a slob or something, lol. In a few hours, my hair is gorgeous.

I probably wouldn't go to an interview or something with wet hair, though.
3a/b in Piscataway, NJ
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I go to work with damp hair. I usually keep a curl cloth in my car, as well as paper towels/napkins to prevent drippies when I walk into the building. I think slightly damp is fine, especially if you're not meeting with clients. For those of us with nonstraight hair, leaving hair slightly damp to dry is usually best.

And for the comment about older generations. I think most people in their 50s and above didn't wear their hair naturally. They always styled it with rollers and curling irons, which would demand dry hair for a finished look. Or at least that just my perspective on it.
3b/c, medium-coarse, low porosity, high density
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Shampoo: nonsulfate shampoo and Suave Naturals sulfate shampoo when needed
I go to work with damp hair every day. I don't feel great about it..... I always hope it will look somewhat presentable by the time I get to my first class. Sometimes it does; sometimes it doesn't.

If it gets to the point where it looks more "producty" than "wet," I can live with that. Some people look producty all the time! But I try to stay hidden from the "higher ups" if it's in the drowned rat stage.

I don't seem to care enough to use a blowdryer which, in the long run, is counterproductive for me.

Wurly and proud!
Modified CG since 2008.
Something else I was thinking about is that it could also make a difference about what profession you are in. Even though I work in a corporation setting, my specialty is more on the creative end. People might give me a little more leeway - "Well, she's a designer - sometimes they're a little quirky." I might not be judged as much as someone in other professions.
54, mix of 3a, 2b,c, with the occasional straight strand thrown in to keep things interesting. Low porosity. Very fine!

HG: CJCF Never lets me down.
Others I Like: DevaCurl One Co, CHSCK, Giovanni Smooth as Silk, SSDD, AnGel, DevaCurl No Poo, Elucence Moisture Balancing Condish, Curls Like Us towels.

"Still crazy after all these years" Paul Simon
In the summer, I usually leave the house with damp hair in the mornings. In the winter I have to wash it in the evenings so that it has time to air dry. My hair takes forever to get completely dry. As long as your hair is not soaking wet, I don't think it looks that unprofessional. Of course, my mom would probably totally disagree with me.
As someone who has gone to class with wet/dripping/damp/everything hair, I have to say...it's gross. Sorry to be so blunt, but really--I look at it like body fluid dripping from the hair (how do I know that's fresh water and not massive amounts of sweat? How do I know that that's fresh water and not DIRTY water that's mingled with the dirt from your scalp and hair? Why should I assume that your hair's clean?)

Like I said, I've gone to class (and work!) with drippy hair because in the end I have my priorities and when it comes down to getting some place on time or having having dry hair, I know what to do.

But I ALWAYS feel badly for the people around me when I stroll out like that. I'd be horrified if some stranger in public was slopping water from their head all around and on me. I'm sure this will be an unpopular opinion No malice intended, just adding to why it may be considered unprofessional. Perhaps others are equating it with being unsanitary.
When my hair is wet, i usually just slick it back and braid it loosely til it is dry. no one seems to know whether it is wet, or just "gelled"
I think it's considered unprofessional because it can give the impression that you didn't finish grooming yourself or are only halfway done getting ready for work. Similar to how wrinkly clothes aren't seen as professional - sure, your ass is still covered, but it looks like you didn't put the effort in.

Of course this is all based on the idea that people don't let their hair air dry and everybody uses a blow dryer. So I'm not saying it's fair or curly-friendly. But I think that's why people see it as unprofessional.
2b (with some straight under-layer, grrrrr)
Normal porosity, low elasticity, medium texture

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For myself, I totally get why damp hair isn't considered professional. Looking professional means being dressed appropriately and well groomed: hair done, nails clean, body showered, etc.

That said, I go to work with damp hair a few days a month. My schedule is varied, and so sometimes I just worked out and life happens. But the reason I feel I can do this is because I don't typically interact with clients in person or the public at all, so I don't think it's a big deal.

It's like wearing jeans. Any time I do meet with a client or work in the public eye, my hair is completely done and I would never wear jeans. I'd be mortified to show up with damp hair or in jeans to those types of occasions. But on a regular work day, mostly spent at the computer, jeans are okay, and damp hair for an hour or two is fine.

As someone who has gone to class with wet/dripping/damp/everything hair, I have to say...it's gross. Sorry to be so blunt, but really--I look at it like body fluid dripping from the hair (how do I know that's fresh water and not massive amounts of sweat? How do I know that that's fresh water and not DIRTY water that's mingled with the dirt from your scalp and hair? Why should I assume that your hair's clean?)

Like I said, I've gone to class (and work!) with drippy hair because in the end I have my priorities and when it comes down to getting some place on time or having having dry hair, I know what to do.

But I ALWAYS feel badly for the people around me when I stroll out like that. I'd be horrified if some stranger in public was slopping water from their head all around and on me. I'm sure this will be an unpopular opinion No malice intended, just adding to why it may be considered unprofessional. Perhaps others are equating it with being unsanitary.
Originally Posted by AmberBrown
I don't think you'll find your opinion unpopular at all! Even the OP singled out sopping wet hair as being understandably not-okay. She seems to speaking more of damp hair. However, I can see how the thread title might have been misleading, because it does say "wet."
I know of several old ladies (now I'm talking 70+) who would NEVER step outside thier front door without every hair in place, clothes freshly pressed, and shoes shined.
I think it's considered unprofessional because it can give the impression that you didn't finish grooming yourself or are only halfway done getting ready for work. Similar to how wrinkly clothes aren't seen as professional - sure, your ass is still covered, but it looks like you didn't put the effort in.

Of course this is all based on the idea that people don't let their hair air dry and everybody uses a blow dryer. So I'm not saying it's fair or curly-friendly. But I think that's why people see it as unprofessional.
Originally Posted by KeLynn
I think this sums it up pretty well.
2b/cFi, low density, normal porosity, high elasticity

Low-poo
: Trader Joe's Tea Tree Tingle
Conditioner
: Suave Naturals (whatever scent I have on hand)
Styling
: Paul Mitchell Round Trip, Tresemme Climate Control Finishing Spray

I'm a hair minimalist: the less time I spend on my hair, the better.

I think it's considered unprofessional because it can give the impression that you didn't finish grooming yourself or are only halfway done getting ready for work. Similar to how wrinkly clothes aren't seen as professional - sure, your ass is still covered, but it looks like you didn't put the effort in.

Of course this is all based on the idea that people don't let their hair air dry and everybody uses a blow dryer. So I'm not saying it's fair or curly-friendly. But I think that's why people see it as unprofessional.
Originally Posted by KeLynn
I think this sums it up pretty well.
Originally Posted by porque_pig
+1 ITA, & when I first started thinking about this question--which is so interesting! I had never really thought about *why* I felt this way--wrinkled clothes came to mind.

I agree too that it's very frustrating...of course, I tend to dry my hair largely b/c I just get too cold otherwise. But still, it's a pain that it can be so hard to incorporate air drying into daily life. I remember yrs ago, when I first started looking into how to deal with my hair, I repeatedly came across rules saying "You must only air dry." That turned me off completely, b/c it was unrealistic for me.
I think it depends on your job. Do you deal with clients, the public, etc.?
Also, are we talking about dripping wet, or damp, oor something in between? I've been going to work with "wet" hair for years, and still do, and its never been a problem. I don't get funny looks or comments or anything like that. This is over the span of 3 jobs, too, not just one job. But I don't see clients or customers, I just work at a computer all day and see my coworkers.
I used to have a job where I did have to go to meetings and meet with people, and in those instances, I just made sure my hair was dry.
But even so, I'd never go towork with dripping wet, soaking hair. But only because that is just uncomfortable. I go with wet/damp hair though.
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