Are Tattoos Still An Issue In The Workplace?

By Elsie Boskamp
Aug. 23, 2022
Articles In Life At Work Guide

Find a Job You Really Want In

For years now, visible tattoos have generally been frowned upon in the workplace, but as more and more folks get inked, countless companies are loosening their once strict stance on tattoos in the workplace. Although some industries and professions continue to view body art as taboo and unacceptable at work, attitudes are shifting.

To give you a deeper understanding of whether or not body art is still an issue in the modern workplace and help you navigate the complexities of tattoos at work, we’ve rounded up everything you need to know about showing tattoos while on the job.

Key Takeaways:

  • Tattoos are starting to become more acceptable in the workplace, except for jobs in the military, politics, administrative industries, and aviation.

  • You should research company’s industry and understand their company culture before showing off your tattoos at work.

  • You should inform your interviewer of any tattoos that could be visible during your interview that way there are no surprises if you are hired.

Are Tattoos Still An Issue In The Workplace?

Are Tattoos Still An Issue in the Workplace?

In today’s day and age, tattoos are increasing in popularity faster than ever before. While body art has been around for well over 10,000 years, society is seemingly more accepting of tattoos now than in the recent past. Studies show that more than 90 percent of senior managers at hiring firms across the nation claim that tattoo restrictions at work are loosening.

It’s estimated that 46% percent of all Americans have at least one tattoo regardless of age. While some professionals, especially those over the age of 60, continue to disapprove of body ink, others are becoming more tolerant and accepting of tattoos in the workplace.

Research shows that millennials are the most accepting of tattoos on working professionals, and approximately 35 percent of American companies completely accept visible tattoos.

Although tattoo discrimination in professional environments certainly does continue across several markets, different industries and occupations, like sports and creative trades, tend to be more accepting of visible ink at work.

On the contrary, other fields, especially those in the military, politics, administrative industries, and aviation, are especially harsh on individuals with visible tattoos.

Getting Hired With Visible Tattoos

If you’re one of the nearly one million Americans with a tattoo, you might be wondering how your visible body ink could potentially affect your career prospects. When searching for a new job and going through the hiring process at your dream company, visible tattoos can sometimes play a role in the recruiter’s hiring decisions.

When it comes to hiring professionals with visible tattoos, some groups are judged much more harshly than others. For example, research shows that women are discriminated against more than men for having visible tattoos.

Individuals with facial tattoos also may have a tougher time getting hired, as six in ten employers would shy away from hiring someone with visible body art on their face.

  1. Research the industry. No matter what industry you’re looking to work in, it’s important to do your research to determine how accepting that particular field is of visible tattoos. A simple Google search could significantly improve your chances of getting hired by allowing you to get a deeper understanding of what’s typically accepted and what’s not.

    Based on your findings, you may consider covering up your tattoos with clothing or makeup or allowing non-vulgar visible tattoos to show during your job interview and throughout the hiring process.

    For example, pro athletes are usually celebrated for having visible tattoos, with 86 percent of the public accepting visible tattoos on athletes. At the same time, judges and legal professionals are judged very harshly for having visible tattoos, with only a 38 percent approval rating for those with visible tattoos.

  2. Understand the company’s culture. Researching the company you’re applying to work for and gaining a thorough understanding of the company’s culture is essential in determining how your visible tattoos could affect your career prospects.

    Companies with a more innovative, creative, casual, and lenient culture are typically much more accepting of visible tattoos in the workplace than those with a more authoritative, orderly, and results-driven atmosphere.

    While researching the company culture, it could also be extremely helpful to research the hiring manager conducting your job interview. It’s important to keep in mind that, in general, older Americans consider tattoos to be more taboo and unprofessional, while millennials and younger Americans tend to be much more accepting.

  3. Read the organization’s code of conduct and dress code. Understanding the company’s values and reading up on the rules and regulations they hold their staff to is a great way of determining their acceptance of tattoos in the workplace.

    As a good rule of thumb, if a company frowns upon visible tattoos on their staff members, as outlined in their dress code, it may be a good idea to try to cover up your tattoos during your interview process.

    Talking to a current employee is also a great way to understand the organization’s stance on tattoos and understand their leniency when it comes to visible body art.

    If, after conducting your research and doing your homework on the company, you’re unsure of the company’s dress code policy, having an honest and open conversation with the hiring manager or your supervisor could also be a great way of figuring out a company’s policy on tattoos.

  4. Discuss your tattoos in the interview process. If you are in the interview process, let your interviewer know about your tattoos. You don’t want to get hired and be working when your superior sees your tattoos and are not happy. If you let them know during the interview process, it eliminates any surprises later on.

    They might even go over the tattoo policy right there during the interview. For example, if your tattoos are above the elbow or only on your lets, they might tell you to wear long sleeves and long pants for your dress code.

  5. Stay true to yourself and your values. It’s important to stay true to yourself and your values. Your tattoos are a part of you and certainly should not overshadow your professional skills, qualifications, and abilities.

    If you find yourself worrying about your tattoos when on an interview, scouting for a new job, or any other time while at work, take a step back and consider your morals.

    Chances are, even if you’re applying for a job that is generally opposed to tattoos in the workplace, if your personality, professional qualifications, skills, and abilities are strong, your chances of getting hired will be as well.

  6. Keep your confidence. Confidence is key during the hiring process. Being confident in yourself and your skills and abilities is essential when going through the interview and onboarding process in any field or industry.

    If showing your tattoos helps boost your confidence or if you feel more empowered when your ink is covered up, it may be a good idea to go with your gut and do whatever makes you most self-assured.

Career Factors to Consider Before Getting a Tattoo

Your job might be the last thing you consider when deciding to get a new tattoo, but in some cases, it can be essential to weigh the professional pros and cons of getting inked before heading to your local tattoo artist.

  • If you serve or plan to serve in any branch of the United States military, tattoo consideration is especially important. Most branches of the U.S. military have strict tattoo policies banning servicemen and women from having body art on their faces, neck, hands, and some visible areas of their arms and legs.

    Generally, these tattoo policies limit tattoos on military personnel to no more than 25 percent of their body.

  • If you’re not in the military, you should still think twice before deciding to get tattooed. Although employers are more open to visible tattoos in the workplace than ever before, professionals should still be mindful of tattoo placement and content, as body art could put you at a career disadvantage.

  • Generally speaking, facial tattoos and body art on the neck, hands, and other visible areas of skin continued to be frowned upon by most employers, especially in industries where face-to-face interactions are common, like real estate.

  • It is also essential to consider the specific content of a visible tattoo before getting inked. Even in industries where tattoos are more accepted and common among employees, vulgar, aggressive, overly offensive, gruesome, graphic, and sexually explicit imagery is almost always considered inappropriate and unprofessional in the workplace.

6 Tattoo Friendly Industries and Occupations

Overall, industries and professions across the board are becoming more accepting and open to visible tattoos in the workplace. Still, some workplaces are more lenient when it comes to visible tattoos at work. If you’re looking to work in an industry that’s accepting and even welcoming of body art, you’ve come to the right place.

We’ve rounded up the top 6 careers and industries most accepting of visible tattoos in the workplace.

  1. Creative fields. Creative industries tend to be much more lenient regarding dress codes, piercings, unnatural hair colors, and visible tattoos in the workplace.

    If you’re a creative thinker looking for a job that’s open to visible body art at work, a career as a graphic designer, artist, performer, stylist, writer, or stage manager could be right up your alley.

  2. Skilled labor. Skilled labor jobs, including carpenter, plumber, HVAC repair personnel, electrician, construction worker, crane operator, or mechanic, are celebrated for their openness towards visible tattoos in the workplace.

  3. Restaurant industry. While some restaurants and retail stores are hesitant to hire people with visible tattoos because of the high face-to-face customer interaction required for the job, others are drawn to hiring tattooed professionals.

    If you’re looking for a job as a server, bartender, chef, barista, or baker, chances are, your tattoos won’t affect your chances of getting hired and succeeding in your line of work.

  4. Remote positions. Remote positions are generally more relaxed regarding visible tattoos since most virtual positions don’t require much face-to-face interaction.

    For this reason, remote positions can be a particularly lucrative career choice for individuals with facial tattoos, who may have a harder time getting hired in other professional industries.

  5. Outdoor jobs. Outdoor jobs are yet another field that is typically very accepting of visible tattoos since the workplace is not the traditional office or corporate environment. Some great outdoor jobs for people with tattoos include forest and park rangers, landscapers, boat captains, farmers, and wildland firefighters.

  6. Public safety occupations. Many public safety employers don’t shy away from hiring people with visible tattoos. Today, it’s not uncommon to see police officers, firefighters, security guards, paramedics, lifeguards, and personal bodyguards with body art.

In the past, many employees associated visible tattoos with a rough or tough personality and stereotyped inked professionals as being unintelligent, prone to drug use, dishonest, and unstable, leading to less tattooed individuals getting hired.

While the professional scene has shifted to become more accepting of individuals with visible tattoos in the workplace, some employees still consider body art as a reason for dismissal.

  • In the United States, there is currently no employment law against workplace or hiring discrimination based on visible tattoos. To put it simply, that means that employers in the United States can legally refuse to hire, or even fire previously hired individuals, for displaying visible tattoos.

  • Since no labor law protects tattooed professionals from workplace discrimination, companies are permitted to envoke no tattoo policies and dress codes.

  • The airline industry, for instance, is notorious for this, with visible tattoos discriminated against virtually 100 percent of the time. Aside from visible tattoos, airlines also typically don’t allow their flight attendants to have piercings or unnatural hair colors.

  • Although the legal issues surrounding tattoos in the workplace can be complex, the good news is that as more and more people continue to get tattooed, companies are less likely to promote such discriminatory policies based on an applicant or an employee’s physical appearance.

Final Thoughts

While the negative stigma and stereotypes associated with visible tattoos in the workplace continue to exist in some industries in companies across the United States and the world, more and more employers are becoming open and accepting of body art in professional environments.

By considering the placement and content of a tattoo before getting inked, working to understand the industry and company you’re applying to work with and their stance on workplace tattoos, and staying true to your personal and professional values, you’ll allow your skills and qualifications to shine, with or without visible tattoos.

If you’re one of the millions of people around the world with at least one tattoo, following the tips outlined in this article and expanding your knowledge of tattoos in the workplace can help bring you one step closer to landing and succeeding in your dream job, especially if it’s at one of the many industries that are welcoming of tattooed employees.

How useful was this post?

Click on a star to rate it!

Average rating / 5. Vote count:

No votes so far! Be the first to rate this post.

Articles In Life At Work Guide
Never miss an opportunity that’s right for you.


Elsie Boskamp

Elsie is an experienced writer, reporter, and content creator. As a leader in her field, Elsie is best known for her work as a Reporter for The Southampton Press, but she can also be credited with contributions to Long Island Pulse Magazine and Hamptons Online. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism from Stony Brook University and currently resides in Franklin, Tennessee.

Related posts

Topics: Guides, Life At Work