Think before you ink – Tattoos commonplace, but are they a problem in workplace?

Kyle Blanchard works on a tattoo design at the Eternal Dragon Tattoo studio in Charlottetown. Ally Harris photo.
Kyle Blanchard works on a tattoo design at the Eternal Dragon Tattoo studio in Charlottetown. Ally Harris photo.
By Ally Harris
Sept. 24, 2014
Kris Snair has 25 tattoos and doesn’t plan on stopping any time soon.
His collection of ink includes several tattoos in what some may consider risky areas.
As well as tattoos all down his right arm, Snair, 26, sports a compass on top of his right hand, a ship on his neck, and the word ‘recovery’ written across his knuckles.
The first of these came eight months ago, when he got his knuckles tattooed to commemorate his past struggle with alcohol and drug addiction.
He wasn’t concerned about having a tattoo in such a visible area, he said.
“It’s way more socially acceptable today than it was 20 years ago to have tattoos in the places that I do, so I’m not too concerned about it.”
A common concern with tattoos in such visible areas is the prospect of appearing professional when applying for jobs.
Being a tradesman, this doesn’t worry him, Snair said.
“I’m not ever going to wear a suit and tie to work, so I’m not really concerned about that.”
Leah Ray, 21, has eight tattoos so far and she is planning to add the word ‘love’ tattooed across her knuckles in the future.
She has no concerns about appearing professional, either.
“I think I’m professional enough as a person for it to not really affect my job.”
Ray was15 when she got her first tattoo, a butterfly on her shoulder. Many people’s tattoos have meaning and shouldn’t be judged for that reason, she said.
“It’s hard for people to say ‘no that’s wrong for you to have’ when for you it symbolizes something important.”
Kyle Blanchard is the shop manager at Eternal Dragon Tattoo. His studio won’t do hand or neck tattoos on people unless they are already completely covered in tattoos.
“Even though they are more socially accepted, there is still a stigma attached to tattoos and body modifications, so it’s better to have them in other places so you know you’re more serious about getting tattoos,” he said.
He can see why some people might find tattoos unprofessional, Blanchard said.
“It would not bother me because I’m biased towards them, obviously, but at the other end of the spectrum there’s the business owner that has to have people portraying his business. You walk in and see someone covered in tattoos, it can go both ways, whether it’s because of intimidation or it’s not as professional, depending on what the tattoos are.”
Many people have concerns about how having a tattoo will make them appear, but it’s usually those who are getting one for the first time, said Blanchard.
“Once people get one, they feel a little more comfortable, but it’s usually those first-timers, or people that are older that never had tattoos when they were younger, that might question it a little more.”
Snair had a similar question when he got his first tattoo.
“I asked (the artist) if anyone had given him dirty looks or anything and he said he didn’t really notice it.”
Snair recently moved home to Albert County, N.B., from Victoria, B.C., and he gets more “dirty looks” living in a small town than he did in the city, he said.
“You definitely get the old people who are more set in their ways and they definitely give you dirtier looks.”
Tattoos are more accepted in bigger cities due to there being more diversity, he said.
“In Victoria, I was completely fine. I got more, ‘Oh cool man, where’d you get your tattoos done?’ in Victoria.”
Blanchard said tattoos are becoming more accepted simply because so many people have them.
“I think what happened was it was not necessarily forbidden before, but it was something that people weren’t really accepting of.
“It’s almost like your mom tells you not to take the cookie from the cookie jar so you want to take one just because you’re told not to do it.
“So I think as more people started to follow that kind of mentality, they would get tattooed because they weren’t supposed to and then it just became more socially acceptable because everyone’s getting them.”
Plus, people are getting tattooed at younger ages, said Snair.
“It’s opening up to a new interpretation of the world where everyone’s more expressive and trying to be themselves and I find tattoos are just one way that people can do that.”
Eternal Dragon Tattoo won’t tattoo anyone younger than 16, said Blanchard.
“It’s a moral thing in the sense of, at 14 years old how do you know you’re going to want this on you for the rest of your life?
“There’s kind of an age where you have a little more sense and a little more understanding of what you are doing. It is a permanent decision, so we will put the best tattoo on you that we can possibly do, and it will look good for the rest of your life, but do you really want that for the rest of your life?”
Snair plans on balancing out his arms and getting more tattoos soon.
“Right now I have my entire right arm done and now I have to get my entire left arm done.”