Tattoos in the workplace

Maia Barnhart, Opinion Editor

Tattoos have been around forever. It’s difficult to say exactly where this ancient art began, as it seems that many cultures seemed to have independently developed the practice. Many ancient civilizations used it as a form of identification as well as self-expression, and it has long been linked to many indigenous cultures. It is an important part of many people’s heritage.

During colonization, the art of tattooing was banned in many native cultures. This practice of stripping away such an integral part of these different societies was meant to make it easier to assimilate the native people, to whitewash them and force them to turn their back on their history. It was a devastating loss for many. 

We’ve come a long way (though many could argue that we haven’t come nearly far enough) since those days, and yet tattoos are still seen by so many of the older generations as improper and unacceptable. I was told for so long that having visible tattoos would make me less likely to be hired by any “respectable” profession. This is primarily due to the outdated image of tattooed people and their historic association with gangs and other such criminal elements. However, after the 1940’s, the majority of tattooed Americans have actually been members of the military, due to Sailor Jerry’s influence during WWII. 

Since then, tattooing has really taken off, becoming what many now consider a vital form of self-expression. The act of getting a tattoo, the hours spent going over stencils and mock-ups and placement and then the time spent actually in the artist’s chair are often nothing short of therapeutic. Adding these often unique and symbolic works of art can really improve self-esteem. The qualities required to sit through large and intricate pieces arguably make one more desirable as a potential hire. You need endurance and stamina to sit there for hours while someone literally hurts you. You need to be able to take risks, putting your skin into someone else’s hands, but also you need to be able to put in the time to do enough research to ensure that the tattoo artist you’re going to will leave you with a quality product. You often need to be able to budget, since tattoos aren’t cheap, which means you have to be fiscally responsible in order to begin a real collection. You also can’t be afraid of commitment, as these are permanent marks that you will wear forever. 

In my opinion, all of these traits lead to a more trustworthy worker. I know that they won’t shirk from a difficult job, they won’t flake out after making a commitment. While tattoos are no longer solely reserved as markers of cultural identity, they now allow for a greater level of self-expression for all. This form of self-expression is rapidly becoming more accepted around the world and should have a place in today’s modern workforce.