February 6, 2008 / 4:11 PM / 11 years ago

Tattoos and piercings still not accepted at work

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Facial piercings and tattoos may be becoming more common and prominent — but that doesn’t mean they are any more accepted in the workplace, according to a new study.

Tattoos are seen on the head of a man at the International London Tattoo Convention, October 5, 2007. Facial piercings and tattoos may be becoming more common and prominent -- but that doesn't mean they are any more accepted in the workplace, according to a new study. REUTERS/Alessia Pierdomenico

Visible body art is often still seen as unprofessional and unwanted by coworkers, researchers from Texas State University found, with people saying they would rather not work with someone with piercings and tattoos when face-to-face contact with customers is required.

“Our analysis suggests that body art wearers have not yet overcome employment prejudices, and that they may have simply punctured their employment possibilities,” said Brian K. Miller, who headed the research team.

“People tend to prejudge people with body art because it has created a bit of a stigma that is historically based, in that tattoos were, to be really stereotypical, worn by motorcycle-riding outcasts,” Miller added.

In the study more than 150 people were given the scenario of selling business insurance. The researchers found even those who had piercings and tattoos themselves were critical of others with body art.

Some people said they did not want to share sales commissions with body art wearers, as they are concerned they could negatively impact their own job performance.

While only one percent of Americans had a tattoo 30 years ago, by 2006 the number had jumped to 24 percent, according to data published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.

The trend is most prevalent with young people, Miller said, with approximately 16 percent of people aged 18 to 24 sporting both tattoos and piercings.

Miller cited another survey led by Vault.com, a Web site for career information, which found 58 percent of managers said they would be less likely to hire an applicant with visible tattoos or body piercings.

Jason Ryan Arment from Des Moines, Iowa, who has a number of tattoos and is a member of an online social networking group for people with body art, said as long as you can’t see them tattoos shouldn’t be a problem.

“I think they don’t really affect you that much unless they are on your hands or neck or face and if you’re in a white collar job you’re not going to wear a T-shirt,” he said.

“I think if you’re intelligent, people will accept you no matter what.”

In some jobs body art is not frowned upon and can even be a plus.

“Think about the audience for concert tickets or skateboards,” said Miller. “It might be desirable for these sales people to have this sort of adornment.”

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