tattoo workplace situation

Tattoos in the Workplace: A Guide into Industry Acceptance and Changing Norms.

Tattoos, once primarily associated with rebellion or subculture affiliation, are now increasingly accepted in various aspects of life, including workplaces. As societal norms continue to evolve, so too does the prevalence of tattoos, reflecting a shift in personal expression and aesthetics. This cultural shift has inevitably spilled over into the professional sphere, prompting a reevaluation of workplace norms and policies. The growing acceptance of tattoos has led to ongoing discussions about their place in professional settings.

Managing employee attire in corporate environments poses challenges when it comes to visible body art, such as tattoos. These tattoos can evoke diverse reactions, influenced by factors like culture, industry-specific traditions, and the personal preferences of top management executives, shaped by their upbringing and significant life experiences. While tattoos are seen by some as a means of self-expression, creativity, and individuality, others perceive them as detracting from professionalism and the corporate image. As tattoos become more common in society, it’s important for professional corporate settings to adapt while maintaining respect from clients and employees, in line with local societal norms.

We’re here to delve into the complex issue of tattoos in the workplace, exploring the current landscape, legal implications, changing attitudes, and future trends.

Tattoos and Workplace Culture

The acceptance of tattoos in the workplace is a complex issue that varies greatly depending on the industry, the specific company culture, and even the geographical location. Here is a general guide to observing different sectors:

Corporate Offices

In traditional corporate environments such as finance, law, or consulting, there is often a conservative approach to personal appearance, including tattoos. These industries place a high value on professionalism, which often translates into expectations about dress and grooming. Visible tattoos might be considered unprofessional or distracting, and employees could be expected to cover them up during work hours.

However, this is not a universal rule and can vary between different companies and regions. Some progressive corporations are starting to relax their dress codes in an effort to attract a diverse range of talent and foster a more inclusive workplace culture.

Technology and Startups

The technology sector, known for its casual dress codes and flexible work environments, tends to be more accepting of tattoos. Startups, in particular, often value individuality and self-expression, and tattoos can be seen as a reflection of these values.

Although, even in this sector, the acceptance of tattoos can depend on the specific company culture and the nature of the role. For example, customer-facing roles might have different expectations compared to roles that involve less direct interaction with clients or customers.

Creative Industries

Creative fields like advertising, graphic design, music, or the arts are generally more accepting of tattoos. These industries often celebrate individuality and diversity, and tattoos can be seen as a form of personal expression.

In these environments, having a tattoo might not impact an individual’s career progression or opportunities. In fact, in some creative fields, tattoos can even be seen as a form of artistic expression that adds to a person’s unique identity.

Service Industry

In the service industry, such as restaurants, bars, or retail, the acceptance of tattoos can depend on the specific brand image of the company. Some trendy or alternative brands might welcome employees with tattoos, seeing them as a way to connect with a younger, more alternative customer base.

However, more upscale or traditional brands might prefer a more conservative appearance from their employees to align with their brand image.


In the healthcare sector, tattoos being accepted may vary. Some hospitals or clinics might have strict dress codes that require tattoos to be covered, while others might be more relaxed. The primary concern in this sector is often hygiene and the ability to present a professional image to patients.


Allowing tattoos in the education sector varies depending on several factors, including student age groups, institutional and cultural perspectives, as well as geographical location.

While certain schools impose strict dress codes for teachers, others adopt a more flexible approach, allowing greater freedom regarding tattoos.

Beauty and Personal Care

In industries like hairdressing, beauty therapy, or fitness training, tattoos are often approved and can even be seen as a form of personal style that complements the creative and personal nature of the job.

Legal Aspects of Tattoos in the Workplace

When it comes to the legal aspects of tattoos in the workplace, the situation can be complex and varies widely by region and country. In the United States, for instance, employers generally have the legal right to establish dress codes and appearance policies, which can include restrictions on visible tattoos. This is especially true if the employer can demonstrate that such a policy is necessary for the type of work or the image the company wishes to project.

However, these policies must not discriminate based on protected characteristics such as race, color, religion, sex, or national origin under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. For example, if a tattoo is part of a sincerely held religious belief, an employer may need to accommodate the employee unless it causes undue hardship.

Despite these protections, there is currently no specific law against workplace or hiring discrimination based on visible tattoos. This leaves a significant gray area in the legal landscape, leading to ongoing debates about the need for more explicit protections for individuals with tattoos in the workplace.

Interested in learning how to place small tattoos even in discreet areas- see more here.

The Impact of Tattoos on Professional Perception

The presence of tattoos can significantly influence perceptions in the workplace. Despite the increasing acceptance of tattoos in society, some biases persist. Visible tattoos, particularly those that are large or located on the face or neck, can influence how an individual is regarded professionally.

In some instances, tattoos might be seen as unprofessional or inappropriate, particularly in industries or roles where employees interact frequently with clients or customers. There’s a concern that tattoos might distract or even offend some individuals, potentially impacting business relationships or the company’s image.

On a personal level, having visible tattoos can also lead to judgments about an individual’s character or competence. While these biases are often unfounded, they can potentially impact an individual’s career progression or job opportunities.

It is important to understand that there has been a big change in the way tattoos are perceived. With the rising prevalence of tattoos, especially among young adults, they are now predominantly viewed as a form of self-expression rather than a sign of complete unprofessionalism. While workplace norms continue to adjust to this evolving perspective on body art, it remains crucial for job seekers and employees to recognize the potential influence their tattoos might have on their employment opportunities.

Changing Attitudes Towards Tattoos in the Workplace

The landscape of tattoos in the workplace is not static but is continually evolving alongside societal shifts and changes in generational attitudes. While the previous section discussed the current impact of tattoos on professional perception, it’s equally important to consider the trajectory of these attitudes and what the future may hold.

One significant factor driving change is the evolving perception of professionalism itself. The rigid, traditional image of the ‘suit and tie’ professional is being challenged and redefined in many sectors. As part of this shift, the presence of tattoos is becoming less of a taboo and more a part of the diverse tapestry of the modern workforce.

Moreover, the dialogue around tattoos in the workplace is becoming more prominent, with more individuals and organizations advocating for the right to self-expression in professional settings. This conversation is prompting some companies to reassess their policies and attitudes toward tattoos.

However, it’s crucial to recognize that this change is a gradual process, and acceptance levels still vary widely across different industries and regions. The future likely holds a continued push and pull between tradition and change as workplaces navigate this complex issue.

Tattoo Case Studies from Different Workplaces

To better understand the complexities of tattoos in the workplace, let’s consider a few case studies that highlight different company policies and attitudes towards tattoos.

  • Starbucks: The coffee giant Starbucks is an example of a company that has evolved its policy on tattoos. Prior to 2014, Starbucks had a policy prohibiting visible tattoos. However, after receiving feedback from employees and customers, the company revised its dress code to allow visible tattoos, excluding those on the face and throat. This change was part of a broader effort to create a more inclusive environment for its diverse workforce. Source
  • U.S. Army: The U.S. Army has a strict policy on tattoos, particularly those that are visible when wearing a uniform. While the policy has been revised over the years to be slightly more lenient, it still prohibits tattoos on certain parts of the body, such as the face, neck, and hands. This policy reflects the Army’s emphasis on uniformity and professionalism. Source
  • Google: Known for its relaxed and inclusive work culture, Google does not have a specific policy on tattoos. The tech giant emphasizes diversity and individuality, and employees are generally free to express themselves through their appearance, including having visible tattoos. Source
  • Wells Fargo: As a traditional financial institution, Wells Fargo maintains a more conservative dress code. While the company does not explicitly prohibit tattoos, employees are expected to maintain a professional appearance, which may include covering visible tattoos, particularly in customer-facing roles. Source

These case studies illustrate the wide range of policies and attitudes towards tattoos in the workplace. They highlight the importance of considering the specific culture and expectations of a workplace when it comes to tattoos.

Final Thoughts: The Future of Tattoo Acceptance in the Workplace

The topic of tattoos in the workplace is a complex and multifaceted issue. It’s a dynamic interplay of personal expression, professionalism, legal considerations, and evolving societal norms. As we’ve seen, attitudes towards tattoos in professional settings are shifting, albeit at different paces across various industries. As these changes unfold, it’s crucial for both employers and employees to engage in open dialogue about what professionalism means in the 21st century. By fostering understanding and inclusivity, we can work towards a professional landscape where individuals are judged on their skills and abilities, rather than their choice of personal expression through body art.