Historians used to believe the earliest examples of tattoos were the Ancient Egyptians, dating back to 2,000 B.C. But in 1991, archeologists found the Iceman near the Italian-Austrian border, and the tattoos found on his preserved skin dated back to 5,200.
With a history pre-dating Western Civilization, you’d think tattoos would have had an easy walk into modern culture. Not so. People with tattoos have been discriminated against since permanent ink’s introduction into mainstream society (around World War I and II)—especially in the workplace. Even in the modern age, many employers lean against body art. Just three years ago, 60% of employers said they wouldn’t hire someone with a visible tattoo.
However, as a wise singer once said, the times, they are a-changin’, and they are a-changin’ in favor of the tattooed population. It could be because that population has grown exponentially. In the 1980s, one in every 100 adults had at least one tattoo; today, it’s one in every five.
Adam Wollenberg, tattoo artist and designer at Artistic Skin in Fountain Square, believes the younger generations have been a significant influence.
“It may be that the older generations’ perspective is thinning out, and the younger generations are able to see tattoos for what they are,” he says.
This could be true. In recent years, polls have shown 40% of Millennials have tattoos, and 73% get them between ages 18 and 22. That’s a big number of the workforce to ignore. So, out of necessity, opinions have started shifting, and employers have begun looking at people for who they are and what they can do, as opposed to their appearance.
“I’ve been tattooing three years, and I’ve tattooed lawyers, doctors, lobbyists—I have a lawyer who is completely covered besides his hands and his neck,” Wollenberg says, admitting some of the professions have surprised him, in a good way.
Whether you agree with the idea of tattoos, there’s merit in the age-old phrase, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” After all, having a picture on your skin certainly doesn’t make you less qualified to practice law or become a spine surgeon or teach children.
“People are starting to see we’re not degenerates or drunks. It’s about putting something you love on your body forever.”
What do you think about tattoos in the workplace? Should they be allowed, or are they bad for business?