The cultural perception of tattoos has had a tumultuous history. They have been viewed as status symbols as well as for marking criminals. They have been associated with kings, chieftains, warriors, and thugs. How a tattoo is perceived culturally has depended on time, geography, and tradition. So where does the tattoos in the workplace stand today?
The art of tattooing has traditionally been driven by youth culture, and today’s youth have embraced it wholeheartedly. Statistic Brain Research Institute reports that nearly 40% of Millennials have had at least one tattoo, and that over 1.5 billion dollars are spent on tattoos in the USA every year.
This seems to support the idea that tattoos are becoming more ingrained and accepted in popular culture. The truth, however, is that there remains a cultural stigma against tattoos, perhaps most evident in the workplace. Tattoo placement displays a telling story of the acceptance of ink in the workplace. Today, 70% of Millennials ensure their tattoos are placed in locations that they can hide from their bosses. Typically expressive and proud of their individuality, this fear among Millennials of showing off their ink in the workplace is prime evidence of the remaining cultural stigma against them.
Recently Brad Buehrie, a Flordia tattoo artist, fought a city ban preventing him from opening a tattoo shop in the Historic District. The city argued that the tattoo shop would impact tourism by reducing the character and fabric of the district. While tattoos cannot be banned outright as they are a form of free expression, the city had to this point been successful at banning tattoo shops. Ultimately the court ruled that the First Amendment protects the act of tattooing, not just tattoos.
So what does this case mean for the present and future of cultural tattoo perception? While Buehrie was victorious in this case, the need for the case is indicative of a larger problem, tattoos in the workplace or in public are still not fully socially acceptable. The attempt to ban tattoo parlours demonstrates the level of stigma still leveled against tattoos. If you don’t allow tattoo shops to exist, then you’re as good as banning tattoos altogether. At Chronic Ink, we’ve been lucky in that in recent years, we’ve had very little issue with our identity as a tattoo shop. We’re proud of the artwork that we do and we’ve never felt the need to hide it.
For the near future it appears that visible tattoos in the workplace are still frowned upon. However as today’s younger generations move into senior positions and take over the majority of the workforce the stigma is likely to dissipate significantly. Hopefully, we’ll eventually be able to live in a city where an investment banker working on Bay street can roll up their sleeves and show off their full sleeve to their office.
The Chronic Ink Team