What's With the Ink?

For as long as I can remember, every time I’ve walked down the street I’ve seen at least one person with a tattoo somewhere on their body. Now, I personally think the artistry of tattoos is fascinating and I’d be the first person in line to get a tattoo myself – yet pressing questions that often plague me are: why have the amount of people with tattoos skyrocketed in North America? And why are people getting tattoos that cover their bodies head to toe? Is having a tattoo going to affect someone getting a job in the future?

The Stats

Living in the twenty first century, I’ve learned that having a tattoo has become a ‘norm’ in our society. From the rebellious teenager to the army veteran to the midlife crisis. Of course, that doesn’t stop people from giving judgmental looks when they see a tattoo on someone’s body.  In 2017, Statista Survey recorded that four out of ten Americans have at least one tattoo already. Of the people asked, 19% were considering getting a tattoo. This leaves only 39% of the American population without any ink on their bodies. That’s less than half of a 325.7 million person population.

Now what about the Canadians? Though we don’t top our Southern neighbours when it comes to tattoos, as of 2012 two in ten Canadians have at least one tattoo somewhere on their body. In both Canada and the United States, women are found more likely to get a tattoo before males. And to no surprise, most tattooed North Americans are in the age group of 18 to 34.

What do these numbers show?

These numbers show that most people in North America are either already tattooed or have it in their mind to get a tattoo once they turn the legal age to get inked in the United States or Canada. In her research, Anna Sanford found that the tattoo industry has become the second fastest growing industry in the United States. The industry has brought in around one billion in revenue by the end of 2016 alone.

One thing is for certain- the number of people getting tattoos in North America has increased drastically since the beginning of the twenty-first century, and will continue to increase in the next few years.

Express Yourself

Anne Villiquette, a professor at the University of Arkansas, found that “tattoos help people create identities very easily”. She also stated that the increase in tattoos are the result of people “living in a world that is chaotic and fragmented”. People are getting tattoos now-a-days not because they are army veterans or because they have some significance to whatever is happening in their lives, but because they need an outlet to express themselves.

Research shows that people are getting tattoos to express their identities, and they continue to get more and more tattoos because of the constant changing world around them. People are covering themselves head to toe in tattoos to express who they are. Perhaps for some people, getting a tattoo is simply their creative outlet from the world that they live in, and that’s okay. Everyone has different outlets. And yet, knowing that tattoos are creative outlets, makes me wonder:

Does this mean our society has made it hard for people to express themselves freely? Have people turned to permanently inking their skin to represent who they are?

A Career Stain?

With more and more people getting tattoos in the twenty-first century, the more people I see sending judgmental looks at tattooed people. Does having a tattoo affect people’s chances of getting hired at different workplaces? Having a tattoo does not mean that it will affect if you get a job – at least not completely.

Workopolis decided to tackle the issue around tattoos and the workplace. They asked around 300 people their feelings about tattoos and hiring people that have any sort of ink on their skin. The results that they came up with might be shocking to the younger generations, but not as shocking to people who have worked for different companies for many years. The results they came up with are as follows:

14% of employers would be less likely to hire someone with tattoos

23% of employers don’t care if someone has tattoos

0.31% of employers would be more likely to hire someone with tattoos

35% of employers said it would depend on the position they were trying to fill.

28% of employers said that their hiring process would depend on how many tattoos the person had and where the tattoos were located on the person’s body.

These results showed that around 77% of employers would consider the fact that a person has a tattoo when they make the decision on hiring someone.

In many traditional companies, there is still a stigma around tattoos, as they might look unprofessional and impact the workplace negatively, as one of the comments from the Workopolis survey stated. If you’re considering a job that deals with important clients or a job that has a corporate office, having a visible tattoo may affect the employer’s decision to hire you.

As much as these numbers might make someone question getting a tattoo before getting a fulltime job, the good news is that Andrew Timming, a professor at the University of Western Australia Business School says, “Companies seeking to target a younger, edgier demographic, tattoos are likely to be seen as an asset because they are consistent with the 'brand identity'.”

This view and stigma on tattoos can either surprise people or not phase them at all. It’s as if society has made tattoos in the workplace both acceptable and not acceptable at the same time.

You Do You

Why do people have to judge others by their choice to get a creative tattoo? Why can’t people just leave others alone and let them do what they want with their bodies?

The more I look around at all the people who have tattoos, or who talk about tattoos, the more I see people judging others because of their choices. Perhaps I take the side of the tattooed person, but it shouldn't matter if you have a tattoo or not. If you’re good at your job and you have a tattoo that shouldn't make people look at you any differently. If you have tattoos that cover your arms completely, people shouldn’t treat you differently. People with tattoos can be just as smart or smarter than people without tattoos. Winston Churchill, a brilliant man in history had an anchor on his forearm and no one judged his choices. Perhaps one day there will be no stigma around tattoos and people will be able to get whatever job they want even if they have tattoos or walk around and not get looked at funny if they have tattoos covering their arms.

No matter how much research is done or how many people are asked, questions still remain: Does the increase in tattoos and young people getting them have anything to do with what’s happening in the world around us? Or are tattoos simply a way to rebel against your parents? How many tattoos are too many tattoos? Does there really have to be so much judgement about tattoos in the workplace? Why does there have to be judgement about tattoos at all?

There might never be answer to any of these questions, so perhaps it's better to let people make their own decisions and simply enjoy tattoos for what they are- memories, statements, art.