You may have noticed more tattoos lately, with celebrities and musicians seeming to have more body art than ever before. But this trend is making its way into the office as younger generations enter the work force.
Here are two statistics that might surprise you: by 2025, Millennials will comprise an estimated 75% of the work force. And, 43% of college aged Americans have tattoos. That means there’s a good chance that the work force of the future will be inked.
Sara Fogle is a tattoo artist and owner of Chico Lou’s Fine tattoos on Prince – you might know the place by the purple dragons on the front lawn. She says that while there are quite a few tattoo shops in Athens, local tattoo collectors and the college population keeps artists in town busy.
Chico Lou's is an all-female tattoo shop, even the apprentices are female. Sara says that's by design, "as a female tatoo artist myself, I want to apprentice female artists." More women are becoming tatoo artists and more women are getting tattoos than ever before.
Veronica Hahn is a tattoo artist at Chico Lou’s as well. She and Sara have been colleagues for almost a decade, and Veronica says that there's more respect now for women artists than there was when she first started her career.
Tattooing used to be counter-culture, but in recent years the art form has come into the mainstream. In the beginning of her career as a tatoo artist, Veronica hoped to have enough work to keep her busy on a daily basis, but now she says she books appointments months in advance.
Some of Veronica's clients are older. "Some of the older generation, maybe 50's and 60's plus, where they alway wanted a tattoo their whole adult life, with it being frowned upon, they didn't get what they wanted. And now that it's more acceptable, they end up getting quite a few, actually."
But many tattoo collectors are millennials or younger. And they’re bringing this form of self-expression into the work-place.
Kalena is a young digital professional who has many visible tattoos – she says a mentor convinced her that being tattooed wasn’t a reflection of her work ethic. "I was working at the Business school at the time and I was very concerned about should I continue to cover my tattoos...and one of my mentors at the time just said, 'It doesn't matter if you show your tattoos or not, it just matters if you're professional and knowledgable. If you can talk confidently, no one will care.' That's when I decided to go below the elbow with my tattoos."
Millennials seem to be driving this workplace change - many consider a company’s ethos and work flexibility to be more important than the pay it offers.
In fact, Kalena says that when she interviewed for her current position, her tattoos we visible. "I wore a dress and a 3/4 sleeve cardigan, so part of my forearm tattoos were visible and the tatoos on my legs were visible and it didn't seem to be a problem in my interview...no one was looking at those instead of looking at me while I was talking."
She does admit that while her co-workers are accepting of body art, there have been times in public when her tattoos caused unwanted attention. A Cambridge Study showed that women with visible tattoos are more likely than women without body art to be victims of unwanted sexual attention. Kalena says that there have been times when she's been approached by men and women who would touch her tattoos or enter her personal space without permission.
Despite this unintended consequence, Kalena is still a tattoo enthusiast and often accompanies friends and family members to get tattoos. "I think a lot of people are scared of getting their first tattoo...they don't know where to start, where to go, how to figure it out...it [can be] a mysterious and scary process."
While some industries like the medical field and education do still require employees to cover any tattoos, many are evolving to accommodate a changing work force, even the armed forces – in recent years, all arms of the military have released more relaxed policies on visible tattoos to be more inclusive. Research by the Harvard Business Review suggests that workers who feel free to be themselves, tattoos and all, tend to be happier and be more satisfied by their jobs, and that’s good business for Sara Fogle and the crew at Chico Lou's.