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Working Class Tattoos

When you hire a skilled trades person, and they show up with highly visible tattoos, what might be among your first guesses: Rapper? Biker? Criminal?

Okay, first of all, it’s not 1950, and we aren’t in Mayberry, so get a grip on reality boomer…

Over past several decades, American stereotypes about tattoos have done a 180. While only 20-30 years ago, body art was deemed unacceptable, and only bikers, criminals and drug addicts got tattoos.

Today, most of society has “grown Up” and acceptance is so much broader moving all the way to matching mother-daughter tattoos even in the tidiest suburbs.

In the past, tattoos existed on the edge of society. They were found mostly on outsiders from the mainstream and usually represented individualism, even rebellion. But now tattoos serve opposite roles and are designed to depict belonging. They can be visible shout-outs to a person’s culture, orientation, profession, or some other group. Some memorialize a rite of passage. Others show symbols that reflect the wearer’s faith or reflect in-memoriam images that honor the passing of loved ones.

Tattoos have become a way to memorialize one’s life journey, and milestones along the way. Are there still some dinosaurs out there that see tattoos in a negative light? Sure… But the vast mainstream sees them for what they are, and respects that person’s memorialization of their journey. Those without are becoming the minority.

Not only are we commonly seeing the skilled trades, craftsmen, and technical workers with tattoos, we are even seeing the managers, doctors, and CEOs with them. The majority of people don’t see them in a negative light, and if your company leadership or HR are getting hung up on these outdated stereotypes, then your company is missing out on the bulk of the talent pool.

If your hiring practices take the existence of tattoos into account when hiring, then your company is destined to get left behind. And I would guess that leadership in are out of touch. Let’s focus instead on skills and character.

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