Workin’ It; Tattoos, Piercings Becoming More Common In The Workforce

With the increase in body art, from lip piercings to facial tattoos, comes a growing conflict with the employers of these devotees of body enhancement. However, some jobs are surprisingly accepting of the trends.

More traditional workplaces suggest that employees hold off on the piercings in favor of an appearance to customers. “It all depends on what you’re doing,” said Chad Koeppel, a manager at the family-oriented establishment Waffle Stop. He also added, “Having things on your face isn’t really appropriate. You’re dealing with the public.”

This is a general rule in many establishments. Visible piercings and tattoos are considered inappropriate, due to the fact that these establishments cater to a wide variety of people. A sample of these people may not approve of visible body art and modification, and that could turn them away from the businesses.

Other workplaces openly accept tattoos and piercings. “We’re very comfortable with it,” said Anthony Ryckman, a manager and employee at Mohair Pear, a popular boutique in Cedar Falls. “For a business like us, having people with piercings helps us sell jewelry … it’s an advantage,” Ryckman said.

Because Mohair Pear appeals to a more alternative crowd, it is actually more attractive to the target customers if the employees have body modifications and art. This method of advertisement is becoming more commonplace in the workforce. Places all over Cedar Falls and Waterloo are opening up to body art.

That trend is matching the changing available workforce. Nearly a fourth of men and women between the ages of 18 and 50 have tattoos, and 15 percent have at least one piercing, according to a survey taken in 2006 by Northwestern University, and the numbers are only rising as they become more available to children under 18 and more acceptable for adults over 50. It’s no longer unusual to get a tattoo or piercing at some point in one’s life.

Yet there will likely always be some workplace restrictions. “[There are limits] for certain professions, based on what society thinks,” Ryckman later said regarding how he felt about more radical body modifications. “You wouldn’t want to be a lawyer … with face tattoos and two inch plugs. I didn’t even get tattoos or piercings until I started working here,” Ryckman said.

There’s a general consensus on that point; there’s a time and a place for everything, and it’s all about how employers really want their image to appear. Ryckman said simply, “Society does judge you.”

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