Long sleeve shirts and a plethora of sweaters populate the abysmal selection I call my wardrobe. For years, working for big name companies like Starbucks and Michael Kors heavily dictated my fashion choices and that was mainly because of my incessant need to cover up the huge floral tattoo that permanently seeped through the dermis of my forearm.
While I respect the image of professionalism that these companies seek to exude, employers should assume a more progressive role by being more accepting towards the individual’s choice of self expression and avoid mandating policies that practice conformity as a norm.
Tattoos had once represented a huge cultural taboo. It was a notorious subject that was often associated with gangs and social deviance. In the Philippines, where my parents grew up, tattoos were especially associated with ex-convicts and prisoners,0 which is why I had been met with such strong opposition by my family upon choosing to get a tattoo in the first place.
I could not blame them. Having visible tattoos in this society tends to influence your life in many forms. For instance, I constantly worry about finding internships in hospital settings, places that are notorious for “no visible tattoo” policies. For job interviews, I make sure to wear a long sleeved shirt or a sweater so as not to create the wrong impression to potential employers.
At times I realize that I’m sort of teetering on the edge of habit, a habit that has been perpetually drilled into my lifestyle through policies that have reminded me that visible tattoos are not desirable and professional in the workplace. Thus, I constantly find myself choosing clothing that will reveal less of my body art and often times, the feeling of cold air hitting my exposed ink makes me feel uneasy.
The frustrating part of this whole ordeal is that many people like myself may very well be qualified for these positions in the professional world; yet the existence of a tattoo may very well influence the perceptions of potential employers towards our character.
My choice to eternalize a piece of art on my skin should not have to be considered unprofessional. Rather, what I choose to place on my skin should be what is used to judge my competence.
I am in total acknowledgement that a person donning a nazi symbol and other profanities as their chosen body art should be deemed unqualified for most jobs. Yet, I highly doubt that a floral tattoo or other tasteful art would be offending or harmful by any means.
According to Inked Magazine, 45 million Americans have at least one tattoo. 40 percent of people aged 14-26 choose to get inked, indicating that it is a need for self expression that drives them to do so.
Tattoos had once represented a huge cultural taboo. It was a notorious subject that was often associated with gangs and social deviance.
Really, this whole dilemma over self-expression versus professionalism is obsolete and many companies are more than aware that denying persons with inked skin an opportunity to apply their skills and to attain a job is a rather narrow-minded ethic. Today, many companies take a more lenient philosophy towards tattoos and yet still adhere to strict policies that force employees to conceal their ink.
Among others, Apple, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and Lululemon have chosen to take a more progressive route in allowing their employees to show their ink and be their most authentic selves. These are the same companies that, according to Glassdoor, are the most top rated companies to work for.
Not only do these highly successful companies seek to provide benefits and fair wages to their employees, they also refuse to practice discriminatory policies with regards to appearance.
Acknowledging that people are not meant to be carbon copies of what a company deems ideal moves us one step closer towards getting rid of these lingering discriminatory dress codes. By setting this example, it feeds into a more positive mentality on tattoos in society.