Some women who work in the service industry sport sports at work as part of a social experiment to find out if they will earn more tips from male customers.
From servers to dancers, those who took part in the experiment and shared their experiences on TikTok say their tips have grown since rocking the hairstyle at work. They say the success of the experiment has shown that young women are more sexualized in society.
“Unfortunately, women will be fetishized in different ways than their appearance,” said Lisa Stirling, 25, a server who is among those sharing the results of the experiment on TikTok. “If changing my hair will affect me in a positive way, then it’s something I’ll give a shot.”
Pigtails have long been associated with youth in pop culture. Characters like Angelica Pickles in the cartoon “Rugrats”, Bubbles in the cartoon “The Powerpuff Girls” and Boo from the Pixar movie “Monsters Inc”. everyone is wearing the hairstyle, showing their youth. Women who wear the hairstyle are also often infantilized in such depictions.
In the 1990s, Emma Bunton, aka Baby Spice, wore her blonde hair in a ponytail to match her Spice Girls persona. At the age of 16, Britney Spears wore the hairstyle in the music video “… Baby, One More Time”, which played on the “sexy school” trope.
The “tail experiment” first appeared on TikTok after a server named Grace posted that she made more tips when she wore a ponytail to work on a video in September, according to BuzzFeed. She doesn’t describe it as an experiment in the video, but shows how wearing her hair that way led to more tips.
“When you wear tails to work and do a double take [the] lots of advice as usual,” wrote Grace, who did not immediately respond to a request for comment, in the caption above her video. In it, she lip-syncs to Lana Del Rey’s “Put Me in a Movie.” speaking the lyrics, ” Come on, you know you like little girls.”
Grace’s video resurfaced on TikTok more than a year later in July, after Stirling’s video of rocking the hairstyle racked up nearly 4.2 million views. The trend has grown ever since.
“As soon as I put those braids on, I’m telling you, something just clicked with these men and they started throwing money at me,” said Veronica Portillo, 20, who works as a dancer at a strip club in Tennessee. Portillo’s first TikTok video about wearing beanies to work has garnered more than 6.4 million views.
Portillo said that while she was wearing a ponytail at a strip club, a man asked her for a private dance and told her that the hairstyle reminded him of his “little niece.”
“At this point, it’s so sexualized that I wouldn’t call it a little girl’s hairstyle anymore,” Portillo said.
Stirling said she has had success with tails working at her restaurant. In the restaurant industry, anything a server sells – drinks, food, etc. – gathers at the end of the night.
Before drawing tails, Stirling said, she averaged 12.5% of her sales in tips. After she started wearing ponytails, the percentage increased to 16.7%.
Portillo said that on a slower Sunday at the strip club, she can make up to $100. But last Sunday, when she said doing tips seemed impossible, the addition of pigtails changed the game. She went home with about $600.
“When I left the stage some [men] came to me and said: ‘I love your hair. Let’s do a dance. They asked me for the rest of the night because I had little braids,” she said. “It’s definitely worrying.”
However, she said, she plans to try other types of tails to see if they help her bring in even more tips.