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To tattoo or not tattoo? That is… A question

I should probably admit, right from the get go, I have a certain amount of bias when it comes to writing this post. I don’t have any tattoos or piercings, don’t want any, and can’t see the desire to ever do so. I think that, with only a few exceptions, that both generally look pretty silly. Having a picture drawn on your body or a piece of metal sticking through something isn’t natural, and I like natural looking. Now that tattoos and piercings have become mainstream, I find the irony of expressing one’s individuality by doing the same thing everyone else is quite amusing.
But, as much as I don’t care for tattoos, I have to admit that the people who get them are just like the rest of us. Heck, chances are that most of you reading this have some sort of body art. I would never break up with a girl who had a tattoo, or talk down to someone else just because they had body art, or anything like that. All sorts of people are deciding to get tats, they’re not just for bikers and sailors anymore.

Still, should you get inked? You might want to slow down a little before you get that full sleeve tattoo you’ve been dreaming of ever since you saw that guy on TV with one. Here’s why.

Baby boomers still don’t like them

At one of my former jobs, the company had a very strict policy when it came to tattoos and piercings. It was, quite simply, they couldn’t be visible. If you had forearm tattoos, you’d be required to wear a long sleeve shirt underneath your short sleeve uniform top. If you had a nose piercing, it would have to be removed for the duration of your shift. I didn’t know of anyone who ever got fired because of this policy, but many people were given warnings about it.
I never did ask management what the thought process was behind the policy, but I think I know what the thought process was. In a business that serves all sorts of people, they didn’t want to take the chance of offending anybody. And although body art has become quite mainstream, there are still older members of the population that have held on to the stereotype that only nogoodniks get tattoos. These people probably spend a lot of their time yelling at teenagers to get off their lawn.

Stereotypes still exist

I know a salesman that is basically covered in tattoos. If you combine that with his big bushy beard, you get an interesting looking guy.
And, as a result, he’s not really taken that seriously. Rather than being the man, he’s just kind of some guy. No amount of arguing can convince me that his body art doesn’t have something to do with it.
Humans have a tendency to scoff at members of society that don’t conform to our idea of normal. Even in a society where body art is normal, we’re still not used to seeing people with a lot of visible tattoos, especially in professional situations. If you don’t fit in, people will ridicule you. They might not do it out loud, but they will do it in their heads. Is that what you want going through a potential boss’s or customer’s head when they meet you?

The solution

Fortunately for all you tattoo fans, the solution to this problem is quite easy. All you have to do is get your tattoo somewhere where it’ll be covered up with clothes at least most of the time. That way you can maintain an appearance that says all business, and yet be ready to party when the clothes come off. Sounds like a sexy time!
Or, if you’re so passionate about your body altercations, you can just go nuts and not care about the consequences. But, until all the older folks and prudes kick the bucket, you might have to deal with some resistance to your alternative lifestyle. You can argue all you want that someone shouldn’t be judged on their appearance, but that’s not going to make it not happen. Knowing this, why take the chance?


  1. 101 Centavos

    That neck tat probably seemed like a swell idea at the time. Not so hot when facing a couple of hiring managers across the interview table, and competing with less qualified but tattoo-less candidates.

  2. Glen Craig

    As much as tattoos have become mainstream, you still have to consider being able to get a job.

    Something like a neck tattoo just doesn’t bode well in the corporate world. You really have to be awesome at what you do to get past the image of a neck tattoo (or anywhere else obvious).

    Is it fair? No. But let’s face it, we still have to where suits, or at least business casual, in most corporate settings. To me getting dressed to sit in a cubicle doesn’t make sense, but you have to do it to be a part of that game.

  3. Eugene Breacan

    Interesting post, let me start with I have multiple tattoos. One of which is on my forearm and obviously pretty visible to anyone that takes a glance in my direction.

    I have a successful corporate day job and work in a large office building for a well-known public company. I wear the standard office attire slacks and a button down shirt, sometimes a polo and sometimes a tie.

    Everyday at work my tattoos are visible in one way or another. I do not try to hide them and if my company thought so little of my capabilities as to tell me I need to cover them to work there, I would no longer work there.

    I do however believe there is a level of respect for the public that needs to be taken into consideration. I would understand a company wanting an employee to cover a tattoo that pictured vulgarity or derogatory terms.

    I completely agree with your statement of:

    “You can argue all you want that someone shouldn’t be judged on their appearance, but that’s not going to make it not happen”

    This is true, stereotypes are going to happen and this is something anyone who gets a tattoo should consider.

    I do disagree with:

    “All you have to do is get your tattoo somewhere where it’ll be covered up with clothes at least most of the time.”

    From a conceptual point of view, yes this is correct. From an artistic standpoint I would suggest caution when thinking like this if you are getting a tattoo. A tattoo is a very personal mostly permanent decision, in my opinion if you are thinking of getting a tattoo, and are planning on letting others decide where you should get it, then you should not get one.

    This tattoo will be with you forever and needs to be 100% exactly what and where you want it or you will not be happy with it.

    I feel like I’m ranting on, in conclusion I offer this advice. If you want a tattoo, as with any major decision in your life be informed and understand all that goes along with it.

    • Nelson Smith

      Unfortunately Eugene, art and business are often polar opposites. You should be able to get tattoos where ever you want and not face judgement. I just think we’re a long way from that happening. So why chance it?

  4. Matt

    My boss has full sleeves up to his wrists, so you would never know unless he wore short sleeves, but that is against dress code. You can still be a business professional and have tattoos.

  5. Red

    I have one tattoo on my side, so it’s only visible for the sexy time. But I agree with Eugene. I do think that, if you want a tattoo but recognize that your job is more important, it’s fine to let that dictate where you get it. But if you really want a neck tattoo and you decide to compromise because of what the oldies at work will think of you, you’re probably not going to be happy with the tattoo in the long run. I wanted my tattoo to go up my side before I even thought about who would be able to see it and when. Not showing it to the world when I wear basic work attire is a benefit, but it didn’t drive my decision.

    • Nelson Smith

      I’m sorry, I stopped reading after you said sexy time.

  6. Krantcents

    Whether we like it or not, people are judgmental. A professional appearance is important. I do not have tatoos and I don’t care if you do. Depending on your profession, tatoos can be limiting for you.

  7. Rick

    I wouldn’t want anyone to poke holes in my skin or permanently paint it. It’s so pagan! Besides, you can catch all sorts of diseases, especially hepatitis.

    • Nelson Smith

      I’m with Rick. Besides, my attention span is short, and I’d grow bored of my tattoo after a little while.

  8. Kristina

    I have also been contemplating a tatoo. If I ever move to NYC I would love to get a tatoo from Ami James and my budget would only be $75 because I want it to be small. I went to get a tatoo once (when I was 20) but I chickened out and got my tongue pierced instead.

    • Nelson Smith

      How long did you talk funny for?

  9. SophieW

    I got my first tatoo mmmph years ago when I first joined the navy. Now I have 7! I love my tats and they all have a special meaning or story behind them but even in my younger years I was smart enough to get them in places that were private. In fact, if I’m wearing shorts and a t-shirt, only the one on my ankle is visible, and it’s quite tasteful.

    Tatoos are truly a personal form of artwork – I designed many of my own myself – and where individuals place them is a personal decision. However, outwardly stating defiance while demanding acceptance is perhaps not the best way to go about it…

  10. youngandthrifty

    I don’t have a tattoo just because I would be afraid of the pain.

    Also, it would look very ugly when I’m 80.

    I think this is the solution: LOL
    Turlington’s lower back tattoo remover on SNL:

    • Nelson Smith

      So does that mean if I gave you enough painkillers, you’d get my name and blog url tattooed on your body Y&T?


  11. Evan

    Good or bad people judge…I don’t think most people take that into account.

    • Nelson Smith

      Evan just summed up an 800 word post in one sentence. Well said.

  12. John Seabrook

    Instead of a tattoo, why not simply buy a relatively cheap T-shirt that has emblazoned on it, ‘ I’m a dick head!’. Much easier to remove as well. Unless you are in the navy, a Maori, or a Pict, it’s the best course of action. You know it makes sense.

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