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The Tattooed Generation

The Tattooed Generation

It is no secret that tattoos have taken a huge leap into the mainstream over the last decade. Less taboo and more a part of ordinary life, tattooing has become a $2.3 billion business in the United States. This means that that naturally the acceptance of tattoos has also increased.

It has become more difficult for companies and hiring managers to limit their chosen employees to only those without exposed tattoos. Being that arm tattoos are still the most common for males and females, the odds that a candidate may have a tattoo that at some point may become visible is becoming more likely.

Nearly forty percent of the Millennial generation has at least one tattoo. This number is quickly increasing as tattooing is becoming more common. However, less than ten percent of the Baby Boomer generation have been tattooed in their life and an even fewer number have visible tattoos. This creates a natural division between those making hiring decisions and those looking to be accepted by their potential employers.

Many companies have developed new tattoo policies in recent years and many have removed these policies all together. Notable companies such as Target, Google, Kohl’s, Amazon, Dunkin Donuts, and MAC Cosmetics, among many others, have removed their tattoo policies altogether. This creates a broader level of acceptance for the younger market and naturally helps to feed the tattoo economy. Still, some companies are more resistant to the change.

In a recent news story, Frontier Airlines announced that it would hire 200 new flight attendants before the end of 2016 effectively showing signs of reversal in their down market. But in their first communication of mass hiring in many years, I was surprised to learn their strict anti-tattoo policy. Frontier Airlines will only hire candidates who do not have tattoos on their arms, specifically shoulder to fingertip, or below the thigh area.

This came as a surprise when learning that other competing air carriers have less of a concern over tattoos. Marketplace competitors such as Southwest Airlines and Virgin America have a policy that tattoos are permitted as long as they can be covered. This means that if someone were to have a wrist tattoo, they would need to wear long sleeves as part of their uniform. Still, Frontier maintains that even tattoos that can be covered are not allowed. It seems that any tattoo restriction would limit the candidate pool for a mass hiring such as Frontier’s, but especially one so strict.

The more that workplaces become uniquely casual and especially as the Millennial generation takes key leadership roles, we will see a decrease in the workforce taboo surrounding tattoos. Yes, there still is a level of professionalism that must be maintained in the workplace. However, as many Millennials can attest to, professionalism can be upheld while showing some skin art.


About Seth Barnett

Seth Barnett is the Diversity Development Manager for the Promotional Products Association International, a trade association that represents the $20 billion promotional advertising industry. As an advocate for the industry's marketplace success, Barnett develops new ways for businesses to meet the growing demand of a diverse workforce and a changing buyer market. Prior to his present position, Barnett spent three years as the association’s Government Relations Manager where he coordinated legislative and regulatory obligations for the industry.

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