I wear pigtails as a server to get higher tips from men. It's gross, but it works — and I need to pay rent.

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I wear pigtails as a server to get higher tips from men. It's gross, but it works — and I need to pay rent.
Courtesy of Hannah Pemberton
  • Hannah Pemberton, a server in Ohio, uses the viral "pigtail theory" to get more tips at work.
  • The theory is that when female servers wear pigtails, and thus look younger, men tip them more.
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This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Hannah Pemberton, a server in Ohio. The following has been edited for length and clarity.

I wear pigtails to work to make more money. If you think I'm playing the men who tip me, then I'll say this: I am playing them, and I love it. I've spent my life under the male gaze, and now I'm making it work for me. It's empowering, and I'm glad to do it.

I started wearing pigtails to my job as a server because I thought they looked cute, but then I realized I was making more money when I wore them versus when I didn't. I've noticed that braiding my pigtails makes my tips climb even higher, so now I do that too.

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I started seeing the '#pigtailtrend' online

I looked into the trend on TikTok and was like: "Oh my gosh, that's what I'm doing." I posted my own TikTok about it, and it was so fun to connect with other women in the comments who do the same thing.

And it works.

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I think it works because it makes me look innocent and young, almost childish

It's pretty disgusting that this is what men like, but at the same time, I may as well make money off it — I need to pay my rent.

I even explained the pigtail theory to one of the guys I was serving, and he said: "Yeah, it works because we want to pull them." I was like, "Well, that's disgusting, but OK. I'll take your money."

It feels empowering to turn it on them. Like, it's gross that you like this, but I'm making money off it.

Servers have to put up with a lot

We get comments from customers no matter what we're wearing or how we do our hair. We sit in the back of the restaurant during breaks and talk about the gross things customers say to us. Part of the job is putting up with it, but I love that women are finding ways to take advantage of the situation they're in.

One night, for example, I got $100 from a guy that I wasn't even serving. He was flirting with me and offering to take me on a cruise, and I said I couldn't because I needed to work to make money, so he handed me a $100 bill. It was crazy.

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I've figured out a few other ways to tweak my appearance to make more tips, too

I wear my apron higher up so it cinches my waist and shows off my curves. I've noticed people tip the most when I'm wearing light makeup, so I do that even though I like wearing bolder makeup when I'm not working. I think they like the light makeup because it goes with the innocent look of my pigtail braids.

I also show a little bit of cleavage — just enough to get guys interested, but not to make women uncomfortable.

I've perfected my look to make the most tips, and I'm proud of it

I love that I was able to share tips with other women on TikTok. I honestly love inspiring people to take advantage of gross guys.

I should be tipped because I'm a great server, but that's not how it is. It's about appearance, so I'll keep doing my hair in pigtail braids and telling other women to do the same.

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