The Tattoo Taboo

Man at table with laptop & coffee. He is on the phone and has visible tattoos on his arms.

I was in a tattoo shop with my roommate one night after a Target run. How we ended up there is still a bit of a mystery, but my roommate and I were determined to get punctured by a needle.

While I watched the professional piercer jam a 14 gauge needle into my friend’s ear, I asked her about her piercings and if she’s ever had any instances in public where her tattoos or piercings affected the perception others had on her. She said only once (obviously her piercings don’t daunt her job search as a professional piercer).

She was touring daycare facilities for her child. One of the parents was weary of her and she could feel it. Then, the daughter of the weary parent came up to her, looked up into her eyes and asked: “Are you a princess?”.

The innocence in this child didn’t stereotype this person based on her looks or piercing/tattoo modifications, but her parent did.

I’ve always been curious about the tattoo/piercing in business debate. I work in an industry that thrives in creativity so I never thought it would be an issue for me. I’ve only had one instance where my boss told me to remove my nose hoop and replace it with a stud. I thought, “what a weird request” because I didn’t think something like a nose ring would be an indicator of anything negative. Was I any less professional by wearing a different form of jewelry in my nose?

After months of work at my job (nose stud in), I started to notice some of my clients had showing tattoos. And those clients were some of the most well spoken, brilliant, and kind business owners I have ever met. All in all, tattoos don’t make you a bad person. Just like going to church doesn’t make you a good person. Allowing people to prove their worth will have better outcomes than assuming someone is a certain way based on their looks.

To me, tattoos and piercings celebrate individuality and many corporations want you to shed that peacock coat of uniqueness and button on a penguin suit of conformity. But if you’re a peacock, why would you want to work with penguins who don’t appreciate your uniqueness? 

76% of employees think tattoos and piercings will hurt your job interview chances, however, 73% of people say they would hire staff that had visible tattoos. I say, find a job that celebrates (or even just accepts) everything that you are. Obviously, there are stipulations and you have to find what’s comfortable, but never apologize for being, acting, and looking like you.