back

Tattoos Not-so Taboo at Work

PetSmart, Starbucks, Jimmy John’s (known for its stringent dress code) and the U.S. Army have recently modified their dress code policies to allow for “appropriate” tattoos.

Tattoos are everywhere – from high-fashion models to politicians (Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau) to, quite possibly, the third-grade teacher who lives down the street. These days, body art is increasingly accepted, even in the workplace.

Tattoos are hot with younger Americans, a 2015 survey by The Harris Poll found: Almost half (47%) of our Millennials and 36% of GenXers have at least one, followed by 13% of Baby Boomers and 10% of Matures. Multiple tattoos can be found on 37% of Millennials, 24% of GenXers, 6% of Baby Boomers and 2% of Matures.

Millennials fond of ink (18% have six or more tattoos, according to a Pew Research Center study), can be pretty private about it, as 70% say their tattoos are concealed under their clothes. That choice might be theirs and not their employers, depending on the field.

The Harris Poll data found Millennials would have no problem if a person working in some professions had visible tattoos:

  • Police officers – 54%
  • Real estate brokers – 52%
  • Bankers – 50%
  • Doctors – 51%
  • Judges – 49%

Retailers and fast-food companies have loosened up restrictions on visible tattoos at work. Such changes suggest two things: More people have moved into management positions where they can support ink-friendly policies, and dress code restrictions can make it difficult to find qualified employees, according to a Washington Post article.

PetSmart, Starbucks, Jimmy John’s (known for its stringent dress code) and the U.S. Army have recently modified their dress code policies to allow for “appropriate” tattoos.

It took worker petitions to force some changes, first at Starbucks, where efforts inspired a similar initiative at Jimmy John’s. Both campaigns were launched on the Coworker.org site. Starbucks’ petition was signed by more than 25,000 people; Jimmy John’s by nearly 9,000. Both petitions pointed out that long sleeves (covering the tattoos) get in the way and can be messy, and argued for embracing self-expression: “Letting us express our individuality isn’t really much to ask for,” the Jimmy Johns campaign declared.

Explore Programs