Tattoos & Piercings: A Style Statement or Obstacle to Employment?

The growing social tolerance towards tattoo culture was recently questioned when Claire Shepherd, a retail merchandiser from the UK, was fired from a new job due to owning intricate hand tattoos. Far from the conventional method of hiring, the company in question, Dee Set, informed Shepherd over the phone that she had the job, without a face to face interview.

One can only imagine the shock and anger she felt on her first day, upon learning she was being let go for having visible tattoos.

In 2015, style and fashion are undeniably hard concepts to define. Trends come and go as quickly as the weather changes, clothes can be changed and removed without bother. However, tattoos are often forever, given the fact that laser tattoo removal can cost up to thousands of euros – not to mention it is extremely painful and damages the skin greatly.

With the explosion of the notion of self-improvement and appearance in the 21st century, tattoos and piercings have come to the forefront of our society’s aesthetic. Celebrities such as Megan Fox and Rihanna are all renowned for their tattoo collections, and others such as Katy Perry and FKA Twigs wear their piercings with pride and joy. These tattoos and piercings become a personal trademark of a celebrity – if so many fans are rushing to imitate their favourite celebrity, why are employers so disapproving?

Those against tattoos will argue that they are dangerous and impulsive. People as young as 18 years of age can pay between €50 and €100 for a permanent design on their skin. We hear notorious stories about teenagers going on holidays to party islands such as Ibiza and Magaluf, and getting tattoos while intoxicated, coming home with something they’re not sure they wanted or even remember getting in the first place.

Many argue that tattoos in the workplace constitutes not being taken seriously and some look distasteful or, depending on the tattoo, are offensive to customers or fellow colleagues. Some are so visible that they cannot to be covered. However, is it really a legitimate excuse to fire an employee?

In 2015, times and style have evolved hugely. Diversity and different cultures are encouraged in society, with the acceptability pretty much completely granted that he/she can wear what they want. We can chose how we want to appear with little to no questioning from our peers and parents, and creativity and self-expression is recognised massively. Part of self-expression not only lies in clothes and accessories, but also in the area of tattoos and piercings.

We have celebrities to thank largely for the growing acceptance of tattoos as a form of beauty and art. Models such as Rebecca Fox and Ricki Hall are highly en vogue today, and owe their entire career to their tattoo collection.

In some cases, many tattoos correlate a battle within a person’s life, with many cancer and depression survivors choosing to commemorate their story with a tattoo. Their tattoo shows achievement, survival and strength, and could mean a great deal to this person.

Piercings are a fashion statement, and whether visible or not, it’s a sign you are standing out from the crowd and you are confident to appear how you like.

As a tattooed person, it’s hard to read stories like Claire Shepherd and not feel pangs of anger and disappointment. When I chose to get tattooed, many questioned me on things that never even crossed my mind when I thought of tattoos before. “Will you still be able to get a job?”,” Can you cover them?”, “What about when you get married?”, all just because I was choosing to get two little pieces of ink tattooed onto my body.

Back when I was 16-years-old, I had my nose pierced and removed it in an effort to get a job, and when I look back I can’t help but feel disappointed that I didn’t try and stand up for my piercing, for my mode of self-expression, for my sense of pride in my own appearance.

Piercings and tattoos are a person’s choice and it shouldn’t have anything to do with an employer. Appearance is only a tiny percentage of a person – separate from qualifications, skills, talents and everything else that makes a decent employee. When I see a tattooed or pierced person working in a shop or company, it makes me more appreciative of the business as it is clearly open-minded and promotes diversity. It embraces this person fully without modifying what they look like.

Rebecca Keane

Photo Credit:Sarah Magliocco

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