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.
- “I should be tipped based on the fact that I’m a great server, but that’s not how it is,” she says.
This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Hannah Pemberton, a server in Ohio. It 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 the pigtails makes my tips climb even higher, so now I do that.
I started seeing the ‘#pigtailtrend’ online
I looked into it 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.
I think it works because it makes me look innocent and young, almost childish
It’s pretty disgusting how that’s what men like, but at the same time, I might 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 literally sit in the back of the restaurant during breaks and talk about how gross the things customers say to us are. 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.
This is how well it works: One night, I got $100 from a guy 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.
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 the pigtail braids.
I show a little bit of cleavage — just enough to get the guys interested, but not to make the 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 the tips with other women through TikTok. I honestly love inspiring people to take advantage of gross guys.
The truth is I should be tipped based on the fact that 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.