Tattoos have been around for centuries, representing culture, religion, and memories. Although they are becoming more accepted amongst today’s society, the negative and prejudice views against them are still present. With these negative views, many professional environments are unwilling to accept tattoos into the workplace. Who would think something as harmless as a tattoo could affect someone’s future career so much? There are arguments against tattoos at work, but acceptance may differ from business to business. Many employees find being made to cover up tattoos is discriminatory and feel their tattoos should be freely expressed.
Tattoos began thousands of years ago, represented in all cultures and religions. The Egyptians would tattoo the mummies for the afterlife, the Native Americans would tattoo images for their tribes and spirit animals, and the Japanese would tattoo their faces different designs. These designs would signify something special and meaningful, while lasting an eternity. Later, the Navy was credited with bringing tattoos over to the U.S. in the early 1900’s (Geete, par. 1). In the U.S. today, one in five people have a tattoo, with forty percent of people being between the ages of eighteen and forty-nine (Greenblatt, 1). Yet, how did our views change on them so much? They were a sign of beauty, spirituality, and patriotism, but now they are viewed as unprofessional and meaningless.
Often, the negative opinion is derived from gangs, prisoners, bikers, and druggies. While there is a decent portion of people with tattoos who are involved in those activities, most people with tattoos are not. In fact, many well-known celebrities have tattoos, but are still highly respected. So, why is it only acceptable for some people? Depending on the field of interest, employers’ opinions on tattoos in the workplace vary greatly. Corporate offices tend to be stricter than in a retail store. Hospitals, government positions, police, and teachers are just some of the other fields that are much stricter when it comes to tattoos. This is often because these employees are required to act and look professional, so the public feels safe and cared for. While these dress codes are reasonable, a tattoo on any of these workers do not eliminate their qualities in saving a life, teaching students, or protecting our country. Recently, New York relaxed their dress code for police officers not only allowing tattoos, but turbans and beards as well. Many departments say it’s tougher to attract candidates to a physically demanding job that offers low pay and is under increasingly intense public scrutiny. That has led many to make a nod to shifting fashion trends, particularly among millennials, and ease longstanding bans on beards and visible tattoos (Syed, par. 7).
In select cases, such as in the hospital, there are fair reasons to cover up tattoos. Sam Foster, a chief nurse at the Heart of England foundation said in an interview, “Patients, particularly older patients, see facial piercings and tattoos can be unsettling and distracting. However, tattoos on the forearms and hands must be left uncovered for hand hygiene during direct patient care activity” (Foster 1). The body modifications may be unsettling to the older generations today, however, if we make tattoos and other body art acceptable, it will become normal. This will help the future generations of elderly people to accept medical staff who have visible tattoos and not find them unsettling or distracting. The more people can get used to seeing and experiencing tattoos, the more normal it will become for society.
The military and government have had a few different views about tattoos. “The tattoos were often related to military insignia and patriotic themes. Members in the Navy were the greatest patrons of the art during World War II with approximately 65% of Navy personnel sporting tattoos” (Geete 1). While solders have the freedom to show their tattoos in their force in the past and today, there was a ban of visible tattoos at the Pentagon in 2013. During the height of the wars in the early 2000’s, recruits were very much needed, and the Pentagon couldn’t be picky. However, when the wars ended, the military had to cut back its’ ranks, and they became picky again in choosing their recruits. This led to recruits being told, “The soldiers will be responsible for paying for the removal of any tattoos that violate the new regulations” (Geete 1). Thankfully though, the Coast Guard, Air Force, Navy, and Army all lifted bans on tattoos and made more lenient guidelines towards them. Since they are so popular amongst millennials, and they are the new generation of solders, this was the best choice. Just like the lift on the rule for police in New York, this created a much larger window of opportunity for people to reach those professions. Solders often get tattoos to show where they have been, what they’ve been through, and possible memories of fallen friends. They deserve the right to show their tattoos more than anyone for all they do.
In conclusion, tattoos are a growing part of society. Everyday more and more people receive tattoos. Anyone from a homeless person to the President of the United States can have a tattoo, without it effecting their intelligence or ability to work. One day we will hopefully accept tattoos into being visible and apart of society, but for now people are working daily to prove themselves. People should remain cautious about the placement of their tattoos for the future, but we should also remain optimistic that society will change the idea of professionalism in order to freely express our tattoos.