Financial Ramifications Of Body Art

You are only young once, and that is a good thing — not only for parents and children, but for everyone else, too. Last year, one of my sons went to Boston for the summer to study creative writing. The program was designed to give him a taste of college life and living away from home before it was actually time for him to go away to school “for real.”

Before my son left for his three week program, I cautioned him (really, I gave him an emphatic instruction) not to get his ear pierced. That had been an on-going discussion in our household and I had based my instructions on (i) his high school’s prohibition of ear rings for boys, (ii) my concern that any place that would pierce a minor without parental consent would probably be less than hygienic, and (iii) my sincere belief that he should not pierce any part of his body until he reached adulthood and could consider the longer term implications of piercings, tattoos and other modern primitive adornment.

To make a long story short, he returned with a pierced ear and an infection that was attributed to the piercing. Lesson learned and, fortunately, there was no long term damage.

Pierced ears are not all that radical, I know, and piercings can be concealed. There are not many long term risks associated with them. Start piercing other parts of the body, especially visible parts of the anatomy, or start covering your body with tattoos, however, and there are long term ramifications.

Yesterday, for example, I went to lunch with another lawyer. We were dressed comfortably but professionally. Our server was dressed in what seems to be the obligatory black uniform of hair stylists and restaurant servers everywhere. She was very polite and otherwise appeared professional, but for the mere fact that almost all of her exposed skin (both legs, both arms and the exposed part of her torso at the neck line) was covered in tattoos. She could not have been more than 24 years old and her body was completely illustrated.

My friend and I both commented that we could not anticipate a day when professionals would be accepted if they were covered in tattoos. Neither of us would feel good about a doctor who had covered his or her body in tattoos and we could not think of a single lawyer or accountant we had ever met who was similarly decorated.

Perhaps we were just showing our age, but we both agreed that our young server had greatly limited her employment options by covering herself with tattoos. That is a shame, really. She seemed quite intelligent and articulate and, in reality, body art has nothing to do with ability. Unfortunately for her, however, most customers and clients want a less over the top appearance in their professional advisors. In a difficult economy, none of us has the luxury of eliminating potential jobs or customers from our respective futures, but I really do believe that tattoos, piercings and other “modern primitive” lifestyles do just that.

When I brought this up at dinner last night, my son suggested that people should be able to do what they want with their bodies — not a surprising perspective coming from a teen, and not one with which I disagree for the most part. The right to do something is entirely different from the prudence of doing it. I suspect my son is starting to recognize that, too. When I told him that he should wait until he is thirty to get a tattoo so that he will know what career he will be pursuing and whether a tattoo would harm his professional development, my son responded “But if I wait until I am thirty, I won’t want a tattoo on my body anymore.”

What do you think of piercings and tattoos? Do you believe that unusual piercings and bodies covered with art can limit professional advancement? If that is what you think, do you think that is fair? Are you a professional covered in tattoos? How has that affected your professional life?

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19 Responses to Financial Ramifications Of Body Art

  1. DebbieQ says:

    We have three daughters so multiple piercings of ears isn’t looked askance at. Our middle daughter has a small nose stud which her husband loves. Of course, he is a missionary kid who grew up in Pakistan where nose studs are culturally acceptable. I do have to say that our oldest, who is a professional cartoonist and illustrator, has one small tattoo on the inside of her forearm. She assures me that is the only one that she intends to get.

    The photographer for our daughter’s wedding had multiple tattoos and piercings and it was off putting, ESPECIALLY the imbedded stud piercings that she had in her forearm. She told me that she could swap out the different jeweled studs. Well how nice for her but it wasn’t a look that I thought was at all professional.

    Tattooing is an expensive habit to have and someone who is waitstaff and covered with tattoos isn’t, just perhaps, allocating their money in the best way. I am just saying.

  2. Annie Jones says:

    My husband has one tattoo, located on his right bicep. I neither like nor dislike it, but prefer he doesn’t get any more. He used to have one ear pierced, but has let it grow back together out of disinterest. He is an ironworker and neither affected his career prospects.

    My grown daughter has at least three tattoos, all somewhat conspicuous, and gauged out ear piercings. I don’t think any of these things are appealing, but whatever. She also changes her hair style and color very frequently. I have wondered if these things have kept her out of a job from time to time, but now she is working for her in-laws in a dental lab (they don’t see patients face to face) and her job is very secure.

    As for me, I can’t imagine ever wanting a tattoo. I know I probably shouldn’t see them this way, but I think they make a person look dirty. I have two piercings in each ear, but almost never wear my earrings anymore.

    This brings up another question, though. What about the length of a person’s hair, specifically a man’s? I really don’t think a man should be required to cut his hair in order to get a job, especially if a woman in the same position would not be required to cut hers. Of course, if their hair becomes a safety issue around machinery, then both should be required to cut it or at least pin it up.

  3. battista says:

    I am a 30 year-old female who has been working as a public accountant at a Big 4 firm for nearly 7 years, currently in Financial Services in NYC. I hold both a CA designation from Canada and a CPA from the US. And I’ve had a sometimes-visible tattoo for 10 years (a butterfly on the inside of my right ankle – so only visible when I wear skirts which is most days in the summer in muggy NYC). It has not hindered me career-wise in any way – I have been afforded opportuntities based on my abilities and performance, not because I dressed or physically presented myself in a particular way. I have also had a number of co-workers with tattoos and I assume they have had a similar experience. Now that I am 30, I am considering getting tattoo #2, which I’ve wanted since getting #1 @ 20 🙂

  4. snshijuptr says:

    Your sons attitude about not wanting a tattoo when he is 30 is precisely the reason why minors are not allowed to get tattoos. They don’t really understand that things like that are Permanent. I always said that if I wanted a tattoo I would pay to have henna of the shape I wanted in the location I wanted for several months before paying for it. I never settled on a shape worth even that investment.

    On the professional note, I used to work for a biker turned accountant who had several tattoos on his arms and back. The office was aware that he was tattooed, but due to a dress code of formal long-sleeved dress shirts, no client ever saw his tattoos.

  5. Jaime says:

    Ahhhh, a topic that is near and dear to my heart. 😉

    I am 32 and have two tattoos on my right thigh. I chose that location for two reasons. 1) I wanted to be able to see and enjoy my body art anytime I felt like, without the aid of a mirror. 2) I wanted to control whether I show it or not, based on my own choices. I am biased, because I love tattoos and piercings, though I have not covered my body with either. Mostly, I have not done so because of the financial cost and, to a lesser extent, the social costs.

    Do some industries negatively bias against tattoos/piercing so much that someone with extensive art would have a difficult time being hired today? Yes. Is that a COP OUT? Heck yes! How we dress or decorate our bodies has NO BEARING on how professionally we carry ourselves. Note, I said how professionally we carry ourselves – some ways of dressing or decorating our bodies can be unsafe in certain jobs (ie, long hair on a mechanic) but unsafe does not mean unprofessional.

    Let’s take the law profession. Exactly what is the difference between a woman’s earrings and a person’s tattoos? Does tattoo ink reduce brain cells, reduce reasoning ability, impair verbal/written eloquence or memory? No, of course it does not. Thinking that people are somehow less professional based on their appearance is a purely social construct. A construct that I think will start to crumble as all of us who got tattoos or piercings in the last 10-15 years (arguably when it started to become something of a fad), become the crusty “old guard” in all levels of society.

  6. Jaime says:

    And … it reminds of me of all those stodgy businesspeople who think you need to wear a suit to be successful and be taken seriously. Then all those youngsters with the dotcom companies came up and showed them that dressing in a relaxed fashion doesn’t mean your drive, ability and ambition is also relaxed.

  7. Jessica says:

    I am a teacher and have a pretty noticeable tattoo on my left forearm. The students love it and I have never gotten any flack from a principal. If I were interviewing, I’d wear a sweater to cover it to make sure it didn’t stop me from getting a foot in the door. But I am a good teacher, and my tattoo has nothing to do with my abilities. And it makes me happy. 🙂

  8. Cassie says:

    I work in a very conservative profession and truly, if you have a visible tattoo or facial piercings, you will not be hired. We had a discussion once in the breakroom about this.. really, it’s your body so go for it but just think carefully about placement.

  9. Gail says:

    Funny, but this really came to my mind again as I was out on our date night with hubby and saw a young lady with multiple body piercings and tattoos. For job hunting, this girl would have already been at a deficit as she was way overweight (whether we want to admit that or not it is a deficit). If I had been a prospective employer I would have had a very hard time looking at her during an interview, she had studs coming out of her chin, each nostril (think ring in a bull’s nose), eyebrows and ears, plus the tattoos. Sorry but she was very offputting as even her clothes screamed “I don’t care about how I look and I will do what I want to.”

    Two things bother me about tattoos. 1) what are they going to look like in 40 years and as an old lady/man will you really want all this ‘bodyart’ all over your body in years to come. 2) the expense of the actual tattoo. I know they cost money for quality tattoos and yet I have seen so many of them on people who claim poverty. Are they doing the tattoos and piercings instead of food for them and their family?

    I do realize that everyone is entitled to do what they want with their body. One or two descreet tattoos is one thing, it is another to see whole arms, legs, necks etc. completely covered with them. The homemade/jailhouse tattoos are the worst. I once worked as a nurse at a jail and was exposed to MANY tattoos and the meaning of some of them is appalling.

  10. rob62521 says:

    Although I agree that people can do what they want with their bodies, I also contend that if I go to a restaurant or business place, I also have free choice in not wanting to be waited on by someone who doesn’t look profressional and I don’t think multiple piercings in the mouth, nose, tongue, and huge tats are professional. It may be body art, but it’s not art I necessarily want to view.

  11. Jaime says:

    Gail said that her server’s numerous piercings, tattoos and her clothes screamed that she didn’t care how she looked. I have to disagree. Someone who goes to the trouble, expense and pain to get that much done cares very much about how they look. Rather, they probably don’t care so much that other people disagree with their choices. It seems nitpicky, but the difference is very real and important in my opinion.

    The reality is that body art does matter when it comes to job prospects, I just hope it comes to matter less and less.

    *grin* I’ve often thought that it has been an interesting shift in opinion about what is “proper” dress as it applies to the elderly. Once upon a time, a woman would not leave her house with a hat and gloves and dressed nicely. Then it became dressed nicely and with a hat. We, of course, see these played out in our elders since they often hold on to the mores of their youth. It’s quite amazing to me to see my Grammy out and about in her sandals and capri pants, when just 50 years ago her Grammy would have been appalled. 🙂 I find the changes in fashion and personal appearance fascinating. I don’t agree with everything, but I still enjoy seeing people explore their own personal sense of style and expression.

  12. Joan says:

    I don’t like tattoos, but they are so common I find them easy to ignore. I think a lot of people are quite capable of ignoring them, even if they don’t like them, so I don’t think they are a huge obstacle to earning a professional living. It is sort of like—I hate “helmet head” women’s hairstyles, but I don’t hold it against anyone professionally. I just get on with business whether the person has tattoos or helmet head. Tattoos are as common as helmet head, perhaps more common nowadays. No big deal. I can see that 20 years ago, tattoos may have been an impediment, but not so much anymore.

  13. Chris says:

    I just don’t get why anyone would tattoo their body at all. Or why body piercing is done. A woman piercing her ears is about as far as I can understand.

    I think you totally limit your ability to get ahead in a career because most people that are in a hiring position would think that having tattoo all over ones body is just plain WEIRD.

    The body is beautiful without putting some nasty images all over it that will be with someone for life!

  14. Shawn says:

    I was almost going to be immature and narrow minded and assume everyone responding to the poster was over 33 years old, in addition to the poster being the same.Then I remembered that a lot of people here are that age, it no longer became an assumption.
    I graduated high school before all my friends to join the Army with a diploma, spent time in the Army, separated, did college, long story short: I work for a large beverage company for 60k a year and I only foresee improvement. I’ll have you know my entire upper body is covered in tattoos. I know prominent doctors in LA with tattoos, lawyers, accountants, scientists, business owners. It goes on. Tattoos are as taboo these days as getting an ear piercing. Generally what I’ve seen are that hardcore religious judgmental folks or “older” people who still feel tattoos are affiliated with gangs are the ones that judge people’s personal choice to get tattoos. What about your choices to permanently ruin your bodies by eating fast food and other disgusting things to prematurely end your life and leave your kids and grandchildren. That seems a bit dramatic doesn’t it, to you? So does your opinion on tattoos.

  15. John says:

    Where i work (retail store) there is a no visible tattoo policy. There is also a policy of no visible piercings except 1 or 2 ear rings for females. I have some friends and family that would have to cover-up or not work there.

    If i’m hiring someone for a job i will take into account tattoos and piercings as a negative. I do feel that anyone with gauged ears; multiple piercings; tattoos etc. are less qualified. These items indicate a lack of judgment in my book. These individuals usually don’t think long term or big picture. Some are forward thinking and get a tattoo in a spot that won’t stretch or sag. How many account for the fact of age spots and blemishes; almost 0%.

    As long as some customers will hold negative views of tattoos and piercings my business will support my customer base. Whatever my or your personal views that is the smart decision for any business. Support your customers.

  16. sewingirl says:

    In business, it doesn’t matter that all we enlightened, live-and-let-live folks don’t care about body art, if the clients care, its a no-no. They pay the bills.

  17. Jenny says:

    what kind of marker do i need to do body art?

  18. mariposaman says:

    <> Assuming he did not pick up a case of AIDS or hepatitis.

    One of the most attractive assets of a beautiful woman is healthy unblemished skin, in my opinion, and that includes no decorations. When I see a woman or man with a nose ring I feel like giving her/him a Kleenex as my immediate reaction is it reminds me of a piece snot hanging down.

    Having a tattoo these days seems more a sign of conformity. Gone are the days when only radical men had an earring and criminals and sailors had tattoos, and women were restricted to pierced ears and no tattoos.

    Whether we like it or not our looks can influence our lot in life.

  19. Slinky says:

    Body modification can affect your career and the way others see you. It shouldn’t….but it does. So does your hair color and style. So do your clothes. People judge others based on anything and everything. Personally, I don’t have a problem with body modification or less mainstream styles. I know that it doesn’t change who a person is, so I form my opinion of them as a whole, not just the outside.

    I do have one opinion on tattoos though – they need to mean something. I don’t get pointless tattoos like the butterfly on an ankle someone mentioned. What’s the point of that? One friend of mine has a tattoo on his forearm – very visible. It’s also a Scottish clan crest – the same one as his last name. I saw one person who had a band of chinese characters around their upper arm. They added to it each time something important happened in their life. My mother in law has three stars on her hand – one for each of her children in the color of their birthstones. I don’t understand the need to put something permanently etched into your skin unless it means something.

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