Tattoos. So many people have them nowadays, from the guy washing your dirty dishes at the diner to your doctor scratching out prescriptions. While body art still has rebellious connotations it doesn’t have quite the stigma that it used to, thanks to so many celebrities, athletes and plain-old average people getting more and more work done. Heavy helpings of ink are beginning to seem like the norm, making it feel almost mischievous not to get one. And while many employers aren’t keen on body art in the workplace the rules have changed drastically in the past few years as tattoos become more mainstream than ever.
My husband and I are a pretty good example of working in opposite ends of the spectrum. I work in a creative environment, and he’s in a much more conservative setting — yet we both have enough artwork between the two of us to open our own miniature gallery. We’re not exactly slathered in ink but thanks to a combined 70 hours under the needle I’d say that’s a fair amount of permanent conversation pieces. Neither of us have had a need to cover up at work for several years, and he says when his clients (he’s a licensed counselor) see his tattoos it actually makes some feel more at ease and comfortable to open up to him, rather than an unapproachable guy in a dress shirt and tie.
Some people are even getting jobs because of their tattoos. Rick Genest, otherwise known as Zombie Boy, is a 26-year-old Canadian with 80% of his body covered in tattoos, including the skull tattooed on his face. Genest was homeless, sleeping in abandoned houses and living a vagabond lifestyle when he was discovered and starred in a Lady Gaga music video this past March. Since then he’s been embraced by the fashion set and has walked runway shows in Paris and has become a spokesperson for Dermablend, a high grade makeup product that hides blemishes, scars and among other things, ink.
Donn Davis, a professional tattoo artist of 18 years and owner of Tattooagogo on Magazine Street has seen all types of clients, from corporate lawyers to biker guys and everyone in between. And while the worry about turning off future employers is still there, Donn thinks tattoos in the workplace will be much more commonplace the more people lose the fear of getting one. I asked him to share some experiences and insight into what his clients are like and if he thinks anything is off limits.
Q: How concerned are your clients about their tattoos affecting their careers?
Many of my clients are concerned with tattoos in the workplace but not as much as when I first started. Now that tattoos have become more accepted by the general population there is much less stigma with having visible tattoos. Upscale restaurants have made tattoos visible to the public because I think half the chefs I meet now have large or visible tattoos. My wife is a nurse and recently needed to find a new job and just got her first visible tattoo last year, a moth on her forearm, and wondered if it would effect her getting hired but it wasn’t even mentioned. The generation that is coming up now is so used to seeing tattoos that I think that there will be no stigma attached to them. In fact I believe in my lifetime I will see a president with a large tattoo. It may not be visible but it will be known about.
Q: What are a few reasons that people get ink?
After almost 18 years in this craft I have realized that people get tattooed for any reason they can come up with. Some do it to belong to a group and some to stand outside from society. Many people get tattoos to remember relatives, trips they have taken or good times with friends. We do fleur dis lis’ on people visiting the city on a regular basis because they feel a connection to New Orleans.
Q: Are there tattoos you think people shouldn’t get?
Usually when people think about tattoos, the “shouldn’t get the old boyfriend/girlfriend’s name” thing comes up, but I don’t really care anymore about that because I believe people are entitled to be stupid and let the world know it. I tell people I will tattoo a name on your neck but that is one of the few places I won’t do cover ups. If you really think about it we all make bad decisions in life, and while they may haunt you, it eventually fades, but the tattoo won’t.
Now, thanks to Kat Von D and Lil Wayne, so many 18-year-olds think it’s “soooo coool” to have your face tattooed, but most of them won’t be getting residuals from iTunes or TV shows for the rest of their life. I turn down hands and faces on a semi-regular basis unless you are almost out of room — it really looks silly to see someone with little-to-no tattoos walking around with only their hands or neck tattooed.
Christy Lorio, a native New Orleanian, writes on fashion at slowsouthernstyle.com and is also a freelance writer whose work has been featured online and in print magazines both locally and nationally.