The “Business Look:” Tattoos, Yes or No?

By: Naomi Metoyer
OwlFeed Journalist

Recent years have seen an ever increasing desire for body art, tattoos quickly becoming the new wave. But with a lingering stigma from previous years, the workplace is slow to accept this trend.

Photo by: Jessie Edwards


It is no surprise that businesses have dress code guidelines, but with the rapidly growing tattoo base, it is a surprise so many companies are still so prejudiced against them.

“77% of employers,” Job Monkey found, “will or might be less likely to hire you if you have tattoos,” as will “76% of employees,” according to a website offering various statistics concerning the topic, saying they “feel tattoos and piercings hurt your job interview chances.”

Also on this site, it is stated that the “number of [Americans] with 2 or more tattoos has doubled since 2007.” To put this into perspective, Job Monkey confirms that, “45 million people in the U.S. have at least one tattoo,” meaning approximately one in seven people in America fit this criteria.

Many have referenced the United States’ Constitution in this debate, and whether or not such policies are truly constitutional.

“All human beings have right to enjoy freedom of opinion and expression,” claims Article 19 of the Constitution, “…to have an opinion without interference and to pursue, obtain, and convey information and thoughts regardless of a border.” But does this protect, say, the expression of body art in, say, the borders of a work environment?

With tattoos swiftly rising from subculture to popular culture, one might speculate that there would be specific laws concerning them. This however, is not the case. Tattoos are not protected by law in any of the fifty states, said Reed and Scardino, except on the basis of suspected discrimination.

But should this be a problem in a professional setting? Save for obviously racist, sexist, or other blatantly offensive pieces, these self expressions rarely affect a customer’s experience or an employee’s work ethic. But then again, business is allowed rights of their own in restricting and denying individuals based on what is best for the interests of the company.

Similarly, schools have disagreements and complaints with students on dress code guidelines and the appropriateness of certain forms of “expression”. Such things like shirts that show shoulders or midriff for girls and pants that sag to expose underwear for boys. Such “expressions” by students and additionally, the reaction to them by the staff and school, are debately regularly at the high school and middle school levels, and probably in other platforms as well.

The issue with this “business look” can go both ways. In either situation, one side feels their right to choice has been taken from them, unfairly.

If it were me, I’d hire the girl with the lion lounging on her thigh or the man with the picture of his young daughters tucked onto an arm. I’d even give you a shot if you had a butterfly flapping by your ankle. It’s art. It’s not for some, sure, but it’s not on their body either.