Friday Question of the Day – Have Tattoos completely lost their stigma? Do you have one?


This week’s question is a reader submitted one:

“What’s the general feeling on tattoos these days? Still taboo or now widely accepted? What about [visible] tattoos in the “typical” DC work environment?”

For those that have one (or more) I’d also be curious to know what is it of? I used to do a Tattoo of the Week feature years ago and there were some awesome stories. Anyone have regrets? Anyone have visible ones?

138 Comment

  • I have a lot of tattoos, full sleeves, etc. I can keep them completely covered with long shirts and pants if I want. But my job (science program management) is pretty lenient when it comes to dress code and visible tattoos. That being said, compared to the other cities I’ve lived, it seems like I see fewer visibly tattooed people out and about in DC. Have always chalked it up to the conservative work culture. And I don’t think they’ve lost their stigma, at least to a certain subset of the population.

  • Quotia Zelda

    I have one and am getting another soon. There is still some stigma, of course, but I figure if my aunt, the conservative corporate lawyer, has one they must be fairly mainstream.

  • No stigma, except people naturally question tatoo owners’ judgment. Especially the neck and face tatoos.

  • Tattoos used to be edgy, but now they’re a little silly. You can thank the ubiquity of the “tramp stamp” for the change in attitude.

  • Eh. I’ve got a bunch. I work in academia, and could probably keep them uncovered if I wanted to, but I don’t. I figure students don’t need to see them or even know about them, and even though my colleagues probably wouldn’t care, I figure it’s better to keep them covered around colleagues too (ran into a colleague on a hot day last summer, though, and he saw them).

  • binpetworth

    I admire some that I see on folks around town, but would never get one myself, mainly because I can’t commit to identifying a design I like enough to be on my body for the next 40-50 years.

    • Ha! I’m the same. I’d like to get one, but it’s impossible to make that kind of decision.

    • Ha, yeah, I look back at my hair, clothes, makeup from even just five years ago, and am all “what was I thinking.” I can’t imagine getting anything done now that I would still like in a decade (heck I’ve even let my second earring hole close and that was actually handy for heavy earrings), that and I just don’t feel compelled to have anything permanently on my body. Maybe if it was something meaningful, like to honor a loved one, but I haven’t been compelled yet.

  • I’m a heavily and visibly tattooed 30ish woman (I can thank my 19 year old, punk rock obsessed self for many of them). I now have a PhD and work at the Smithsonian and teach at a DMV university. I do not think it has (so far) affected any job opportunities for me. I keep them covered at work if I can, but since I have one on my clavicle it can be difficult to cover. No one at either job has said anything to me about them in a negative way. Many of my coworkers are visibly tattooed as well. I’m sure in more corporate environments it might be different. I try to dress well and make sure I am professional in other ways.

    (I am, however, thinking of getting that clavicle tattoo removed. The others, two sleeves, are staying!) I certainly have noticed a difference between how they were viewed 10 years ago and how they are viewed today. It is much more relaxed.

    • You sound amazing!

    • Hah, I’m one of your visibly tattooed coworkers (maybe not in the same unit) and I haven’t gotten much flack for it. Actually, several times people have questioned me about the one that is visible as to when I had gotten it. When questioned, I had it for over a year and apparently they hadn’t noticed/remembered it.

  • Completely lost their stigma…. most who get tattoos are simply following the “cool” trends and getting something that they thought looked cool on someone else. You can chalk this up to the hipsters. Walk into a bar and there are a couple bartenders who all look the same (you know the look… beard, worn out punk shirt, possibly a flannel, and plenty of tats), all of their tattoos are the same. Its like they went to a tattoo shop, opened a book and got everything on the first couple of pages to create a sleeve. These days more people look at Us Weekly for tattoo ideas than any sort of tattoo mags.

    That being said, I do not have any tattoos, nor do I plan to get any.

    • Which is exactly why you would say something ignorant like this… All of my six tattoos are 100% custom. And I researched artists for years before I picked one and stuck with him. And they haven’t lost their stigma. As a pregnant woman covered in tattoos, I get a lot of ignorant comments about how I intend to raise my child. I don’t keep them covered at work in the summer, but I don’t work directly with patients either. The hospital I work at requires them to be covered if you work with patients. Some people get them to be “cool” but I like to think there are a group of us that do it for the art. But in reality it is no ones business why you get them. It is a highly personal thing.

      • Ignorant, come on! It’s called an opinion my friend…. The stigma tattoos once had has long passed as it is now just a trend and unfortunately the trend is really bad (think tramp stamps, tribal crap). It sucks for people like yourself who truly have inked art on your body, but like most good things, the bad follow close behind.

  • I have tattoos all along my arms and work in a very suit and tie gov’t agency with mostly lawyers. That being said, when people do see my sleeves rolled up while working, I feel as if I get a bye for the simple fact that I’m a veteran. There is definitely a different perspective if it’s a young lawyer with tattoos.

  • I have one on my calf (easy enough to hide, particularly in a professional environment). Plan’s to get a couple more, possibly one on my forearm but I’m going back and forth for this very reason (should I have my sleeves rolled up at the office).

  • I have four, with plans for more. I have two on my back, one on my foot, and one on my wrist. I have plans for the ubiquitous DC flag and would like to get a half sleeve of flowers. I used to make sure that they were covered for work as most places I have worked before required that, however, I have noticed the stigma loosening. I feel like there is more of a stigma against piercings and stopped wearing my a ring in my tragus piercing because of that, but it really depends where you work and what circles you run in.

    • This is funny because I’ve been contemplating getting a tiny little stud in my nostril, and have been wondering if that would be frowned upon (or even allowed) here. When I’m running around, I haven’t had a chance to notice if any of the people around here have any piercings…do you know if it’s allowed? Do you think it would be frowned upon even if it is allowed? Am I just too old anyway to do something like that?

      • I think you’d be ok. I can think of at least two people int the department with nose studs. As I recall, the dress code policy allows for one facial piercing. FWIW, my tragus was out before there, it was a previous position. Though now I’m feeling inspired to get something to put in it!

        • ok, I’ll keep putting feelers out there and try to find the actual policies just to be safe…Still not sure if I’m going to do it or not, but it’s one of those things I can’t get out of my head!

          • SouthwestDC

            I used to work with a woman that had a teeny tiny stud in her nose. It was so small that it took me six months to notice it, even though I was in the cube next to hers. So you could make it almost-invisible if you had to.
            I work mostly with men, so nose piercings aren’t common at my workplace, although my boss who just retired had both his ears pierced!

          • Yeah, Caroline, that’s what I want, a teeny tiny stud! I mean, for god’s sakes, I got a second set of holes in my ears when I was living in France, and it literally took my mother 8 months to notice – it was like, one day she just looked at me and went “When on earth did you get another set of holes?!” and I told her *8 months ago!” She was flabbergasted, and I was stunned that she hadn’t noticed until then! People (and I’m including myself) can be really unobservant sometimes!

      • Allison

        I personally don’t think a small nose stud is a big deal. There’s at least one attorney here with one. A nose ring might be another story.

  • houseintherear

    I have multiple tattoos, and many of my friends are heavily tatted up. I went to New Orleans last weekend and hung out in the French St area and the Marigny, and was blown away at how many people there are just covered in tattoos. I feel out of place in this area sometimes, having many tattoos. I teach in an elementary school and most of the young new teachers have at least one visible tattoo, so times they are a-changing! I love my tattoos and have drawn most of them myself, and I’ll continue getting them until the day I die. 🙂

  • Stigma is still there. People may not discuss it as openly, but it is certainly still there and when I see someone with a tattoo I feel the same sense of puzzlement and sadness I feel when I see someone smoking, i.e..”what were you thinking”.

    I’ve got an aunt who is now in her 70’s and has spent the last decade or so really regretting the ink she got all over her arms, shoulder and neck back in the 60’s in her 20’s. It looks pretty atrocious on skin that is ~50 years older than it was when it was put on and I think of her every time someone tells me they are going to get a tattoo.

    People are completely free to do what they want. It is your thing and I get that but don’t think for a second that there isn’t still a stigma associated with it and our HR department frequently eliminates applicants from even a phone interview once they’ve trolled the social media sites of an applicant and sees obvious tattoos. May be unfair, but it happens.

    • Dial down the dramatics a little. The “same sense of puzzlement and sadness when someone is smoking.” REALLY?

    • I’m sorry, but this seriously made me laugh. Please let me know the name of your employer so that I can be sure to never apply for a job there.

    • Puh-lease. Get over yourself. I don’t have any tattoos, not because I think there’s a stigma attached to them but because a) I have medical reasons that would discourage this and b) because I don’t have anything I’m attached to enough that I would want to put on my body permanently. However, I admire well-done and/or meaningful tattoos that others have. This notion that somehow tattoos are equivocal to smoking is insane, and makes you sound like a self-righteous jerk. That you wouldn’t give someone the time of day based on the fact that they have a tattoo says a lot about you and your company, and it’s not good.

      • Be shocked, surprised, upset…whatever makes you feel better but tattoo’s reflect upon a person. They say something about a person, just as does the way they dress, their education, their debt, their grooming does. You may not agree with the content of that message which is fine, and you can try to convince yourself that you wouldn’t like a job at my company (starting salaries for fresh MBA’s in your mid 20’s is $140K/yr + bonuses) if it makes you feel better about it

        Think of it this way. Half the stuff I’ve seen people tattoo on your body (and I am not talking about the little flower you got on your ankle) you wouldn’t paint on the side of your house which you can always remove, yet you think that people aren’t going to stigmatize you after you’ve permanently put it on your skin.

        c’est la vie

        • SouthwestDC

          We’re supposed to want a job at your company just because the starting salaries are astronomical? Yikes.

        • “but tattoo’s reflect upon a person”
          So do grammar, punctuation, and general writing skills, but you sound like you’re doing OK for yourself nonetheless. Your snobbery is over the top. Not everybody wants the same job or life as you, believe it or not. Così è la vita. So ist das Leben. Hallelujah.

          • You’d think a company that pretentious would want their overly paid employees to know how to write properly, at least.
            FWIW I think inappropriately placed apostrophes are a lot more tacky than a tattoo.

        • Again I say, GTF over yourself and your precious starting salary. You and people like you are part of what is wrong with the world – you value money above all else, and rank people based on appearance in ways that are morally reprehensible. You are vile and I hope I never encounter you in real life.

        • How many people are walking around your swanky offices, with their six-figure salaries, shirtless and in shorts?

          Unless someone has a face tattoo or their entire neck tattooed, I fail to see how this makes any difference to your working environment. Sleeves can be covered up with…real sleeves. If they happen to have a tattoo on their back WTF do you care?

          You claim that you’ve seen people’s social media pictures that expose tattoos and that halted the hiring process for them. What about people who didn’t have pictures of their tattoos online or don’t use social media? Have you ever considered that there are people who work alongside you who do, in fact, have tattoos that you just don’t know about? THE HORROR! I hope you manage to sleep tonight, considering how disturbing this practice is to you.

        • Oh, wait, so I’m supposed to fall all over myself in admiration of your company because they hire MBAs at a high salary? Personally, I have worked in the sort of industry with people like you, and you couldn’t pay me a million dollars a year to work there. Again, go ahead and tell us this magical place so we can all avoid it and the people who have been unfairly discriminated against because of their appearance can file the appropriate complaints.

  • Don’t something like 50% of people under 40 have tattoos? If there’s a stigma, it’s that when I see one I think: grew up in the suburbs.

    • ah

      No idea whether the statistic is right, but I’m guessing that includes everything from full sleeves to the modest butterfly on the ankle. Whatever “stigma” or judgment is made about tattoos, I’m guessing those people have different reactions to each type.

    • You hit the nail on the head!

  • I have some very small marks that are functionally tattoos that I got done by a Voodoo priest in West Africa. They “protect” me from “gris-gris” (bad magic, sometimes called “juju” in other languages). I got them when I was a Peace Corps Volunteer. They’ll start to fade though, so I’m considering having them done permanently. The only ones you can see when I have clothes on are some faint marks on the backs of my hands (that I will let fade) and 9 small, quarter-inch high marks between my boobs, which are only visible if I’m wearing something low cut. I’ve had a few comments about them (including “did you accidentally stab yourself with a black pen?” but because I work in a place focused on Africa people tend to find them interesting more than unprofessional. Not sure how they’d work at some place like a stuffy law firm or investment bank or something like that.

    • I should also say that my parents are horrified, but I think that’s more for the “got it done in a village in Africa with a razor blade” thing than the “tattoo” thing.

    • I think that’s awesome. I love tattoos, but I have none because I can’t think of anything meaningful enough that I’d want to explain it to people (who invariably ask). But you have a good story.

  • I have two – one I got at 17, one I got at 19. I don’t particularly regret either (they’re both hidden unless I’m in a swimsuit) but they are both fairly large and identifying so I’m not going to say exactly what they are. The one I got at 17 hasn’t aged very well so I’d like to get it touched up sometime soon. Probably when I get part of the other covered up and built into a different tattoo. That one is two separate things that both meant a lot to me at the time, but it’s been almost a decade now and it’s time to cover up one part and move on. I plan to visit a few parlors in the next few months and use my bonus money to do a large cover up.
    If anyone has any suggestions for places in the area (up to an hour drive away) that does cover ups well I’m all ears! I currently plan to visit Tattoo Paradise in Adams Morgan and Time Bomb Tattoo in Frederick.

    • Oh I forgot the other part of the question! I work on a contract at an independent government agency and would likely not get one that wasn’t easy to cover – no one I work with has any that show. I also typically have a weird color in my hair or all of my hair a weird color so I make an effort to look extremely professional otherwise to balance it out.

    • ah

      I think someone could make a lot of money off a tattoo ink that stayed bright for X years and then faded away completely. Including the tattoo parlors

    • Eggs – if you have some time, I’d suggest do research on amazing tattoo artists from around the world (usually sites like Thrillist have this). Find tattoo styles that you like and then start to follow those artists on Instagram. From there you’ll find more people that work in the same style and you’ll eventually be able to reverse it back to more local artists.

      • I know the style I want (old-school, primary colors – think the sailor tattoos with birds and roses) but the harder part is finding someone who can do cover ups. The style I want is not particularly difficult it’s the cover up side of things…

        • Antonio Roque up in Frederick, MD does great work. There are a bunch of great artists up in Frederick for American Traditional tattoos.

    • Cirque de Rouge on H St. comes highly recommended by people in the know. I can also vouch for James Marlowe at Comes A Time in Fairfax for regular tattoo work — don’t know about coverups, though.

  • It seems like a lot of people with tattoos are commenting on this subject, which makes sense. I’d be far more interested in hearing how social class relates to the presence (or lack thereof) of tattoos. Traditionally, tattoos have pretty much belonged to the working class. My impression is they still do- if not the wearer himself, perhaps his parents’ background (with there being obvious exceptions). I’d be interested in hearing how prevalent tattoos are for the lower vs. middle vs. higher socioeconomic classes. If they gained a critical mass in the upper classes, then there might be something interesting there.
    I don’t have any tattoos.

    • Yeah this is something I’ve thought about lately too. FWIW, I grew up in a solidly lower-to-middle income family – dad was enlisted in the military and mom was a stay-at-home mom, so very very little income until my dad retired from the military when I was in high school and got a “well-paying” job ($60k). I have two tattoos.
      One of my best friends grew up in a multi-million dollar home in Park Slope Brooklyn though and has tattoos too though so…

    • I come from an upper middle class family. I have one tattoo I got when I was 18 (on my hip, so easy to cover up). I would like to get a full or partial sleeve. FWIW – I am in my 30s – an attorney – married and have a small child…

    • I grew up in an enlisted military family with aspirations of middle class (which were not seen until well after I graduated). I consider myself working class/lower-middle class. My parents did not have tattoos growing up and my mom is very much against them and anything else that isn’t 100% within her social norms.

    • My parents always said “Officers don’t get tattoos.”

      • Yeah, this is pretty much the school I came from. I would consider my background upper middle class. Tattoos are/were something you don’t do. That said, my grandfather, a medical doctor, who was raised by a strong, streets-wise single mother (but also ended up in boarding school, thanks to wealthy relatives helping out) got a small tattoo on his back long after he had been established as a doctor, had a Jag, pool, the works. I’ve always considered him a mix of working class meets upper class…

    • I don’t know if I’d agree that tattoos “belong to the working class” so much anymore. They’re not cheap to get, if you go someplace reputable. (Of course, there are many places that do not fall into that category, but you’re risking a pretty disgusting infection if you go that route.) I grew up pretty solidly middle class, and I have three tattoos.
      That said, I see ink on people from all walks, so I’d say it’s a bit more egalitarian these days.

    • I grew up middle class, my parents grew up poor. I got my first (and currently only) tattoo shortly before my 30th birthday. I was working at a very prestigious law firm at the time. The tat is on my left wrist.

    • I don’t think they belong to the working class any more at all. Probably not so much to the “upper” class, but I think they’re very middle class these days. Tattoos used to say “I have a tough life but I’m hard”, whereas now they say “I have a pretty good life but I’m bored.” And as a result, I think much (but not all) of the stigma is gone, but so is much (but not all) of the edginess.

  • I can understand the appeal of a tattoo to help create an identity for yourself to project to the world, but I’ve never been into it. I like a lot of tattoos, but for me I’ve never really felt the need to get one. I guess I don’t know what I’d permanently want on my body that I wouldn’t regret years later.

  • I’ve worked in a few DC-type office environments. I can’t recall that I’ve ever seen visible tattoos on co-workers. I think maybe one of the IT guys has some on his arms.

  • I have one of a mayfly species that hatches all over the country, but is a famous hatch on the trout stream I learned to fish on in Michigan. It’s on my forearm so it is visible when I’m wearing short sleeves, but seeing as I work on environmental issues nobody has been bothered by it.

    Currently negotiating with the girlfriend for a Moby Dick themed piece.

  • Homer: If you want something to remember him by, I say get a tattoo. It’ll be a constant reminder of the one you love.

    [Homer pulls up sleeve to reveal tattoo saying “Starland Vocal Band”]

    Homer: [incredulous] Starland Vocal Band? THEY SUCK!

  • I have one on my shoulder – and my liberal, accepting mother freaked out. Would I get another? Yeah – just depends on coming up with something cool that I really like.

  • I waited until I was 30 to pull the trigger and finally get a tattoo. It allowed me to a) think long and hard about what I wanted, and b) have the money to afford a top-notch artist. I work in an office, and keep it covered most of the time. It’s shoulder to elbow and pretty aggressive and loud. Nobody seems to mind, and I get a ton of compliments on it whenever people see it for the first time.
    My parents, on the otherhand, are of the “tattoos are for peasants” mentality. Since I only see them for a total of probably 7 days a year, I keep them covered and hidden, rather than risking “ruining christmas”

    • Lol yeah, my parents were on the mindset that tattoos were for biker gangs and prisoners exclusively. They weren’t thrilled about mine but they don’t see them ever anyway.

  • I Dont Get It

    The laser tattoo removal industry will be huge in another ten years–people change their minds, color fades and skin becomes less elastic.

  • Ashy Oldlady

    Even having your arms completely covered with tattoos is no longer all that edgy. The biggest problem these days is the proliferation of really badly designed and applied tattoos. Now there are some really great looking tattoos out there, but the majority of them I see these days are just plain bad. And we’ve officially reached our quota on DC flag tattoos, thank you very much.

    • I agree there is nothing edgy about having a tattoo these days. My dad had a tattoo he got in China when he was in the Marine Corp at the end of WWII, that fairly bad ass.

      Having a tattoo of a Chinese character on the back of your neck? It means you went to the mall.

    • DC flag quota won’t be reached until Tom Sherwood, Kojo Nnamdi and Mary Cheh get theirs:

  • Get a tattoo on your neck and try getting an decent office job.

  • Allison

    I don’t have any tattoos and would never get one, simply because I fear their permanence. What I think about another person who has tattoos depends largely on what the tattoo is of and where it’s located. Hardcore face/neck tattoos (murderer teardrops) will definitely get you a second look. Also, tattoos of ridiculous/silly things without some deeper meaning make me question judgment a bit. (Really, you like that flavor-of-the-week cartoon character/celebrity/catch phrase enough to cover your whole forearm with it? How much are you going to like that in 10 years? Or even 5?) Other tats are totally cool though. Flags, hometown connections, family things, those make sense to me.

  • I have three tattoos and am working on designs for a couple more. Two are more visible in the summer, and the other one is only visible if I’m in a swimsuit. I’m planning my next two for my wrist and biceps.
    I work in a relatively casual marketing department, so I don’t feel huge pressure to keep my ink covered. I do think that the “stigma” has decreased in recent years, but there’s still a certain amount of curiosity, I guess, from people who don’t have any tattoos.

  • Another form of stigma that doesn’t have to do with work is the sexualization of women with tattoos. Women with tattoos are often groped and harassed more than women without. Although let’s face it. All women are subject to harassment. But I have had more men try to remove my clothes specifically to see my tattoos better than I care to recount. And I know I am not alone on this front. There is an assumption that women with tattoos are “loose”. And are thus treated as though we don’t mind being groped or that we got the tattoo for “attention”.

    • I have 6 large very visible tattoos that i can cover with clothes if I choose to. But the point is I shouldn’t have to.

    • Always someone who has to turn the topic to race/sex/religion discrimination…..

      • Yes, definitely blame the commenter here. If only people who experienced discrimination or harassment would just stop talking about it, it would go away, right?

        • There is a time and a place. When a comment like this is made and is completely out of context, it comes across as simply complaining and dilutes the severity of such issues.

          • The question asked if tattoos were still taboo. This is in response to that portion of the question. So, yes. Tattoos are still stigmatized and taboo. From being discriminated against for a job, which many people have already confirmed. Or whether it is about being sexualized and harassed. Still relevant. Sorry you don’t see that.

    • I feel for you on this. I find more and more it’s not very cool (in DC) to ask a woman about her tattoos in any type of “pick-up” scenario (bar, etc.). Too bad because sometimes I really just want to ask about the tattoo but it comes off as (really bad) flirting.

      • I think the key is to talk to them about the tattoo itself and don’t lear, make sexual induendo, and most importantly DON’T TOUCH them. I have had great conversations with men about my tattoos, and many not so great interactions. It’s ok to approach people with tattoos, just be respectful. But again, I think those rules should apply to all women. Not just the tattooed.

        • +1000
          The most disturbing moment I’ve ever had was when I walked out of my office building into a swampy summer day to wait for a friend to meet me for happy hour and shed my blazer as I walked out the door. By shedding the blazer, 1.5 of my tattoos became visible with the shell I was wearing underneath. You ever get that feeling someone is watching you? As I stared off into the distance, I had that feeling, turned toward it, and found two tourist women with their noses INCHES from my arm examining my tattoo. I jumped away, exclaimed “jeez, ASK before you stick your nose in my personal space!” and they called ME rude.
          As I said below, I’m probably not going to give you chapter and verse on how I came up with my tattoos (because, let’s be honest, you don’t want to hear about my dead grandparents…that’s AT LEAST a 5th date conversation), but I’m also not going to be a royal B if you mention them. *I* think the key is to compliment without prying. Go ahead and say “cool tattoo” and even ask me who did it. Even ask if it has a meaning, but let it go at “yes, a personal one” for the time being. If we get to the 5th date, I’ll tell you about how that was my grandmother I’m named after’s favorite flower and how I grew up in a house landscaped entirely with that flower and this and that and the other meaningful things in it.

  • To me, exposed tattoos (like big forearm tattoos) are a no-go under a “business casual” dress code. If I ever got a tattoo, it would be in a location where it wasn’t usually exposed.

    • And I’m always really surprised when people who already work in a “business casual” environment get new super-visible tattoos like huge forearm tattoos. I guess they figure it’s not enough to be fired for?

  • I have none. I think most are mildly tacky but a very few rise to the level of art, and I can appreciate a commitment to art.
    The least attractive thing is someone who has a half dozen unconnected smallish tattoos scattered around…. the DC flag on the shoulder, the flower on the wrist, the butterfly on the hip, AND the chinese character on the foot. It says “I follow trends, fail to think ahead, and never have more than $200 to spend.”
    However, I have occasionally caught a glimpse of an otherwise straight-laced persons’s hidden tattoo and found it kinda sexy.
    I don’t take tattoos into account when I’m hiring.

  • anonymouse_dianne

    Well, I have 6 tiny tattoos that I got when I was undergoing radiation treatment for breast cancer. They were used (along with sharpie lines) to align me in the machine. I love temporary tattoos but have not committed to a permanent one. Recently I have been contemplating transforming a blood red birth mark on my forearm via a water color type tattoo into cherry blossoms. My sister said she’d go with – she has two recently acquired.

  • I have one on the back of my lower neck. I love the location and the design. I’ve actually seen about 4 other people with the same design in the same place. I meet a woman from London that had the same design in the same spot. Weird!! I want another small one on my foot but don’t think I can take the pain again. IMO, a huge tattoo on a woman’s leg is appalling.

  • SouthwestDC

    No interest in tattoos but I’ve been wanting to get my nostril pierced– I was actually going to do it for my birthday last week but still haven’t gotten around to it.
    Where have you guys gotten pierced? Is Fatty’s in Dupont the only option?

    • Oh! I’m watching this space because I also have been thinking about getting my nostril pierced (just a tiny stud) and want to know the safest, cleanest place to do so, in case I make up my mind!

      • SouthwestDC

        I went to the Fatty’s on H Street to see if they do piercing there (they don’t) and it looked very clean inside. I haven’t been to the Dupont location yet and I haven’t found any other place that does piercing. Hopefully I’ll work up the nerve to do it soon and report back to you on how it went.

    • You can also get piercings done at Jinx Proof in Georgetown.

    • I had my last tattoo at Fatty’s in Dupont and they run a tight ship. It will only take a couple minutes for a nostril piercing. Call and make an appointment that’s convenient for you to get there and you’ll be in and out in no time.

  • Kinda perplexed by the reality-grasp of this thread. There’s a LOT of buttoned-up Baby Boomers who make hiring decisions in “typical” workplaces in this city (Washington DC guys!! Go downtown and just look around!) If you think rocking visible tattoos is a non-factor, regardless of the career you’re interested in, then you’re deluding yourself.

  • Oh boy… this topic…

    I have a number of tattoos, and two are visible on my forearms. They’re on the smaller side, one is just below my forearm. I had them done between the ages of 18 and 24. I’m almost 27 now, and I’d like to get a few more. I’m a working class Catholic gal from Boston. Tattoos weren’t generally accepted in my family or social circles growing up.

    I’d say that Boston is generally more friendly toward tattooed people and professionals regardless of their field. I think that’s true of most other “liberal” cities, actually. New York, LA, San Fran, Nashville, Portland, Austin, NOLA all come to mind as more tolerant toward tattoos. I know that the prevalence of the federal government keeps DC fairly vanilla, and I accept that as the reality of the situation. We’re sorely lacking a creative class and any subsequent greater societal understanding of and tolerance toward those types here. Sure, there are pockets here and there, but our city’s culture is not driven by a creative class.

    I work in a fairly conservative, button-up environment in government relations. I’m one of few young women in the field, which is already an obstacle in terms of presenting yourself. Part of my job as a lobbyist is meeting with Administration officials and Members on the Hill. I *always* covered up my arms in my first few years of work, regardless of the temperature. The environment is simply conducive to suit jackets.

    However, over the past two summers, I realized I have worked hard to build a good reputation with colleagues. I realized that wearing a short sleeve dress, especially at a conference in Texas in the middle of June, won’t be to the detriment of my character (hopefully).

    A number of clients and colleagues have inquired about the meaning of my tattoos over the years, but their questions seem to stem from a place of genuine intrigue rather than prejudice. However, I know that it’s VERY helpful when I answer that my tattoos are for family members, particularly my grandparents who raised me. It would be hard for anyone to condemn me with that answer…

    The most tattoo-related backlash and judgment I’ve encountered in the past several years has been while reading of this thread. It’s a little frustrating to see that so many people still have negative opinions of others merely based on appearance. I wonder if they feel the same “sadness” for people with bad hair cuts or for those who have had a “little work done” to make themselves feel better? People get tattoos to express themselves, like investing in the perfect coat before a long winter season. Yes, I understand that the coat is not a permanent state and I understand that tastes change over time. However, I know that the love and the meaning behind my tattoos won’t change. I’ll be happy to look down at my arm and think of my grandmother and grandfather when I’m a grandmother myself. In that regard, my tattoos make me feel more empowered. The physical appearance of others does not affect you, so why does it matter to you?

    • Well said!

    • “It’s a little frustrating to see that so many people still have negative opinions of others merely based on appearance.” IMO, how people choose to present themselves to the world matters — it’s why people usually try to dress up for job interviews. Is forming some kind of opinion/impression of someone based on a tattoo really any different than doing so on the basis of choice of clothing (stylin’/fuddy-fuddy/rumpled/etc.)?

      • Yeah, it’s pretty disingenuous to play the victim when it’s a conscious choice you made. Let’s reserve the frustration for people who experience discrimination based on their essential nature.

      • Yes, I agree that how we present ourselves to the world matters. It’s why I cover all of my tattoos at job interviews, important meetings, church, and other appropriate times. I understand that we’re a judgmental society. But I also happen to believe that we all sell ourselves short when we assume certain traits of another person merely because of how they look in any one passing moment on any given day. I wouldn’t question someone’s character merely because they look fuddy-duddy out in public. I feel as though there are far more misconceptions, even accusations toward those who have tattoos, rather than those who elect to go outside wearing sweatpants.

    • “The most tattoo-related backlash and judgment I’ve encountered in the past several years has been while reading of this thread.” I agree with you here. I am actually giggling at the tattoo hate. I really could not care less what people think of my tattoos, and what I found most interesting is people who out-right admit to discriminating based on tattoos for hiring purposes, and it also makes me wonder what else they discriminate against.
      The fact is, we judge people. It happens. But it’s when we say “I won’t even give you a chance as a human being because of X” that judgment becomes an issue, and this is exactly why we have anti-discrimination laws.
      Now, personally, if an employer is going to discriminate against me because I have a tattoo, I would like to know that upfront, because that is not a place I want to work. Considering the line of work I am in, I have options for work cultures in perspective employers, and I would not work where “my kind” is not accepted.

      • I agree 100% that I wouldn’t want to work for an employer that discriminates based on either 1) outdated expectations 2) honest prejudice or 3) some rigid, miscalculated belief that all those who chose to put permanent ink on their body (gasp!) must have “poor judgment” or are inclined to make “spontaneous decisions” trying to be “trendy.” All I know is that I have a great work ethic, a positive attitude, a good sense of humor, and a graduate degree. If you wouldn’t want me because of a 1.5″ tattoo on my forearm under my elbow, that’s your loss. *Z snap*

        • On the contrary, I think you’d have to have a strong sense of self, a willingness to take calculated risks, and strong decision-making skills to get a tattoo. If you were the type that never knows what you want, is afraid of going after what you want, and/or is paralyzed by tough decisions you wouldn’t have gotten a tattoo in the first place!

  • I don’t have tattoos and never will. I don’t particularly like them, with the possible exception of the DC flag because, well, the DC flag is just to damn awesome.
    Are they edgy? I don’t think so. I think they will be pretty passe within the next 10-20 years. The kids then will look at all the tattooed old folks and say, I don’t want to look like that. Then tattoos will be like 80s big hair except harder to get rid of.
    At least that’s my theory. Or maybe I’m just hoping I’ll finally be cool in my 70s.

  • So have tattoos gone down in price these days? I swear I see so many young people with full sleeves I wonder how they pay for them. Parent subsidy? I guess the stigma is gone seeing it is so normal these says. It’s all over pop culture, hollywood and sports (all leagues worldwide).

    I grew up poor and for me tattoos were just unattainable due to the cost, so I never got one. We had one friend who had a tattoo gun but his skills were pretty shoddy so nobody used his services. What was prevalent in my area were lots of jail house tattoo (india ink + a needle). Once I started making money, I never got one – just kept thinking how it would look on me when i’m in my 60’s…

    • A long time ago, I used to work in a nursing home. I always thought it was super cool to see old people with tattoos.

    • Good tattoos are far from cheap. I’m not going to judge how other people get them. I got one in DC just a couple of years ago and it was several hundred dollars, worth every penny and EXTREMELY well done. They can be cheaper elsewhere (I had my “home” studio quote me on that one, and it was cheaper, but the trip would have made up the difference in cost). Never forget, you’re letting someone *inject* potentially toxic substances into your skin, permanently. You REALLY want them to know what they’re doing, be safe about it, and do it well. If you can’t afford a good, safe artist, don’t do it.
      As far as how they will look years down the line, that depends on where you put them and how colorful they are. Colors fade, somewhat fast. You’ll sag less where there’s less fat under the skin. Boobs and tummies and thighs…will probably look bad later. Very upper arms, upper back, etc., will probably hold up. I lost 50 lbs after getting my deltoid (the muscle just below your shoulder cap) tattoo…it looks fine. That’s not a place that tends to gather fat.

  • Discrimination has been raised a couple of times in these comments, but I don’t think anyone has mentioned that DC prohibits discrimination based on appearance. I haven’t looked for caselaw, but I think the onus would be on the business to demonstrate they provided hiring managers sufficient guidance to discriminate against those with visible tattoos, for example, and that there was a justifiable business reason for having such restrictions. For District and federal government employees, I believe there would be a free speech argument. Of course discrimination is very difficult to prove since discrimination often operates subconsciously and most people consciously discriminating these days have the “good sense” to keep their discriminatory reasons inside their own heads.

    • Should have added . . . no tattoos, but have a sibling with a significant number which busted in my mind the stigma I was raised to associate with them. Though I would might have a hard time disassociating facial tattoos from my (admittedly limited) experience that they indicate an individual is “hard” and/or has poor judgment.

  • I have three, two not visible at all and one on the inside of my foot. I’ve found that by the time people at work notice the one on my foot (often months after we’ve worked together) they’re more curious than anything. I do get mildly shy about talking about it at work, but not enough to make me regret getting it. I don’t think it has affected my reputation as a talented, hard-working employee.

    I really want to go for a quarter sleeve. I’ve been thinking about it for awhile and know exactly what I want but I’m not ready to pull the trigger…mainly because I wonder if having something more visible than the foot will change my experience at work. I wear a suit for the majority of meetings and important events, so it may not matter either way.

    • My most visible tattoo is also my most personal. To the casual observer, it appears to be fairly generic, but there are carefully designed elements that mean something to me. I always get all tied up when people ask me to tell them about it. I usually say something along the lines of “it has meaning to me, but art is always in the eye of the observer. If you think it’s beautiful, think it’s beautiful for your own reasons.”

  • I don’t have any tattoos, but don’t have any issue with them. I actually do want to get one eventually. My twin sister has two, one on her back and one on her arm.

    I work in and hang in creative group of people, most of whom have tattoos. Funny enough, one of the reasons I’ve never got a tattoo isn’t because i’m too conservative, but because I act and worried about covering up a tattoo for a role can be challenging. Though a lot of my actor friends have tattoos and seem to be doing fine. I know quite a few with full sleeves who work regularly. There are a lot of great stage makeup lines that cover up tattoos really well. Or they work the tattoos into the role.

  • I have one tattoo, not visible, and would love more but am also very indecisive. I love LOVE a man with ink. especially up and down his arms (yummm). I work for myself, and hope that I will for the rest of my time working, so if I ever decide to get more, I don’t think it will be an issue. From reading some of the post above, it seems absurd to me that an office would not allow a nose stud. I would never want to work in a place like that. Guess that’s conservative DC for ya.

    • Interestingly, there is a cultural element to that. There are several women in my office who have nose studs and no one says boo. They’re all Indian. I was actually slightly called out a couple years ago because I have a teeny-tiny scar from where my eyebrow *USED* to be pierced. I did dress the caller-out down (in response to “so, what, do you wear metal in your face, too?” I said “I used to, does that scare you?”). I would call that an isolated incident. It was still actively pierced when I started my job, and I forgot to take my barbell out one morning. My boss at the time told me there was something on my face, CLEARLY AND TRULY not realizing it was the jewelry, and I said “OH S***! Excuse me while I take that out.” She was so fascinated that she asked if she could watch me take it out. KIND OF WEIRD, but I said “um, sure, but it’s really no different than taking an earring out…though I do need to go to the restroom and wash my hands before doing so?” She then made me explain how they pierce an eyebrow. Overall, the weirdest boss interaction I’ve ever had, but at least she was really cool about that little slip-up. (the piercing got irritated by taking the jewelry out and putting it back in all the time, so I just let it go about 2 years into working professionally)

  • New Yorker cartoon, with the caption, “The subtext of all tattoos.”

    The drawing shows a decent shoulder tattoo, spelling out in nice letters, “Ask me about my parents’ divorce.”

  • I have a tattoo of a hipster with a DC flag tattoo.

  • I have two (not visible) and appreciate the recommendations – I’ve been thinking about a third for years. Time to pull the trigger!

  • Ashy Oldlady

    Let’s take down the hipster beardos next. I’m sharpening my hedge trimmer.

  • I have lots of friends with tattoos but I am one of those people who are still silently judgey about them. Especially ugly/stupid/violent ones. I assume the person has given up on working outside of a creative field, and is not good about planning ahead.

  • I have a few. I don’t *always* have to cover them completely at work. I’m a fed, my office is pretty laid-back…if we’re meeting with outside parties, it’s expected that they’ll be covered. If I’m just putzing around my office interacting with my regular co-workers, no one blinks. If I encounter a higher-up in the hallway, it seems fine if they’re visible, but I think they’d expect me to cover them in a formal meeting with them (I always do for formal meetings, internal or external). I get more curiosity than derision, but I keep them in places that standard professional clothing will cover them easily (upper arms, upper back, etc.).
    Have they lost all their stigma? Maybe? Again, I get a lot of curiosity, but not much hate. Maybe (somewhat) visible tattoos that are clearly meant to be artistic are now common enough that people react in fairly neutral ways to them, except in the most professional of circumstances?

  • I have 7 tattoos, 3 of which are semi visible. The semi visible ones are located on the top of my feet and I have a 1/4 sleeve that can be seen depending on what top I wear. My company has no problem with my tattoos. Some of my coworkers have mixed feelings about tattoos but we have healthy conversations about them so it doesn’t bother me. My dad isn’t a big fan of tattoos but knows they aren’t going away so he is respectful, same goes for my stepdad. I will get more in the future, money is obviously a factor, but I intend on getting ones that I can hide because I understand that there are still people, companies ETC that don’t have the same views on tattoos that I have.

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