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Tattoos at Work: Are tattoos still taboo?

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Kacy Meinecke shows off her tattoos.
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YUKON, Okla.-- Tattoos can resemble many things. They are a form of self-expression and an art form for many.

For some, it can be the determining factor on whether or not they get a job.

This was the case for 26-year-old Devon Brailey.

While attending the University of Oklahoma, Brailey needed to get some extra income to pay for his books and his rent. He applied to multiple stores including a bookstore and a Chick-Fil-A and each turned him down.

“The reason they said I was turned down was due to the tattoos,” Plymouth said. “They didn’t like the fact that my cross tattoo showed slightly under my sleeve. But some companies are like that and I get it.”

Two decades ago, tattoos were considered taboo. Employers across the country were widely known not to hire people on the basis of the artwork they had placed on their body.

While some companies still prohibit visible tattoos, others have grown more lenient or accepting of the art form.

Brailey has since started working as a server and bartender in downtown Oklahoma City. He says there has been no judgment from management or his staff.

“I guess if you have tattoos, find a place that is accepting of you and your lifestyle,” he said. “Until tattoos become accepted as a whole, be careful.”

According to the Labor Bureau of Statistics, more than 45 million people in the United States have at least one tattoo.

With no law prohibiting people to not have tattoos, each business designs its own dress code which applies to the visibility of tattoos.

Afton Jameson is a teacher at Canadian Valley Technology Center. Though she does not have any tattoos of her own, she doesn’t care if you have them or not; however, Jameson advises her students to be cautious as to what you get.

Jameson teaches media design and broadcasting to older teenagers at the technology center.

“I always tell my students not to think about what looks good now but to think about what will look good in 10 years,” she said. “You never see broadcasters on TV with tattoos up and down their arms so I always tell my kids to choose wisely.”

Jameson went on to mention that the Canadian Valley Technology Center prohibits any tattoos from faculty to be shown. One of her coworkers who works at another facility, Rachel Phillips, has been allowed to show her tattoos.

When asked if the attitude towards tattoos will ever change, she said, “it already has been.”

“I remember being in high school and teachers and parents would always tell us never, ever to get a tattoo because you’d never be able to get a job,” Jameson said. “I think as time goes on, I think we’ll all grow to just think of tattoos as nothing more than art.”

A Forbes article shows some of the businesses in which tattoos are strictly prohibited are places like Abercrombie & Fitch, Bass Pro Shop, Geico Insurance, and others.

In a 2013 Psychology Today article, researchers showed the possible reason for employers not allowing tattoos in the workplace was due to an old stigma saying only “thugs and veterans wore tattoos openly.”

This idea, though fading, is one that is not gone from the social conversation.

Megan Poarch is a drama teacher at Yukon High School. She said that while she was attending a school-sponsored CPR class, a nurse told her something that took her by surprise.

Poarch said the woman told her that, “she do mouth-to-mouth on someone on someone with tattoos and piercings.”

With newer generations growing older, the stigmas about having tattoos in the workplace have lessened.

In fact, the Labor Buerau of Statistics showed that 73 percent of employers in the United States would hire someone with visible tattoos. Some of the more tattoo friendlier states include Texas, California, New York and Florida.

Piper Stowe works at the West End Pointe Theaters in Yukon. She expressed that she believes tattoos are something the modern generation finds nothing more than beautiful. Stowe says her manager has many tattoos and sees nothing wrong with the matter.

“Being a younger generation I don’t see the big problem with tattoos but my managers tattoos don’t go all the way up her neck or her face,” she said. “Which I could see a problem with that.”

As more than 25 percent of the United States’ population is going under the needle, many tattoo artists caution certain tattoos and certain locations.

Tattoo-artists across the metro assert the worst places to get tattoos for any line of work is the head, neck and face.

Steven Holmes, a traveling tattoo artist out of Stillwater, cautions those wanting to be in a business setting.

“I would definitely tell people to be careful where they put the ink. You can’t think just about the now, you have to think about the future. What will happen tomorrow or five years from now?” Holmes said.

Fourteen percent of people with tattoos have reported that they regret a tattoo they have received. The United States showed over 96,000 tattoo removal operations have been done in 2014.

For many, tattoos still remain an icon of self-expression.

The University of Cincinnati Law Review reported in 2016 that the issue of tattoos can be linked to the First Amendment.

“In consideration of this modern understanding of tattooing, some courts have determined that the act of tattooing is protected under the First Amendment.[6],” it reads. “This is a much-needed change in First Amendment jurisprudence; tattooing should be considered artistic expression and protected under the First Amendment.”

Many Oklahomans agree with this measure saying tattoos are something that should be a personal choice, not a company’s choice.

So, if you’re considering a tattoo, be careful of your decision.

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Brandon King

Brandon King is a journalism student at OCCC, working towards becoming a professional writer....

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