Young generation faces stereotypes of tattoos in workplace

Erin McElhenny | Staff Writer

Express yourself, but keep it covered.

Tattoos are a way for people to express who they are, statistics show that thirty-six percent of people, 18-25, have tattoos–up 13 percent since 2007. Senior Danielle Somershoe has two tattoos of her own and said she realizes there is a stereotype that follows her.

“I think the stigma began because people in bad neighborhoods and jail would tattoo each other,” Somershoe said. “I think if I were to have gotten a tattoo 20 years ago it would have been like, ‘Oh, why are you doing that?’ whereas now so many people are getting them. I think they still have a stigma in some senses, like the cheap ones that people get. I think–as a whole–tattoos now are more normalized and it’s not as weird for me to have them as it would have been; the times are shifting, more things are becoming normal.”

With more things becoming normal, even some things are still socially unacceptable. Somershoe said some tattoos are still tabooed.

“A lot of people are like, ‘Oh, you got this tattoo when you’re young, you’re going to regret it,’ and I think that now people realize I’m not going to regret it,” Somershoe said. “I’m not getting One Direction tattooed on my arm. I think with young people getting tattoos, everyone thinks, ‘Oh, you’re going to regret it, it’s a waste.’”

The director of Support Tattoos and Piercings at Work, Nathan Madden, believes part of the problem is tattoos make a person look “unprofessional”.

“An inaccurate stereotype of being more professional is you can’t have tattoos,” Madden said. “Professionalism has more to do with how you conduct yourself in a place of business and less of how you look. We stand by the idea of dress to impress; you can have a suit a tie and still have tattoos. When businesses have a hypocritical dress code, stronger for tattoos, saying the fact that they have body art makes them unprofessional. It’s about merit, if you have the best qualities, and have tattoos, you should still be hired.”

Somershoe said she wants to be a teacher in the future and acknowledges the struggles she will face when she joins the workforce with her tattoos.

“It depends what school district you are going for,” Somershoe said. “If I wanted to do a private school I could never, because they are very strict. It just depends what school district you are applying for and the environment at that district. If you went down south it becomes more of a problem but the higher north, it’s not. As long as you don’t have full sleeves and stuff on your neck, it won’t get in the way of you getting a job.”

Somershoe acknowledges the hardships of having a tattoo and getting a job, but she feels if it means enough to her, it’s worth it.

“I would never get anything that wasn’t really important to me,” Somershoe said. “My tattoos are things that are my core fundamentals, what I believe in. Now people get them because your beliefs are a fundamental piece of who you are and tattoos are an artistic way to show who you are.”