Fashion Bytes — Tattoos and the Job Market

Back in December, The Guardian ran a piece about the rise in tattoo removal in Spain due to increased competition in the job market. With so few jobs, it seems, many young Spanish citizens were having their tattoos removed to make them “better candidates”. As the news has shown, the economic situation in Spain — and anywhere, really — has not improved, and the article was not able to say whether the tattoo removal did improve anyone’s prospects.

Historically, tattoos have had several meanings and purposes. In several Balkan states, Catholic populations had sacred tattoos, and the traditions of the South Pacific are well documented. In the West (and the Far East), tattoos have traditionally been associated with sailors, criminals, prostitutes, and many others considered “disreputable” or outsiders by the rest of society. Thus, the adoption of tattoos by various counterculture movements was a powerful statement of separateness from the “mainstream” — it has even been argued that the “disreputables” tattooed themselves to increase their “outsider” status. That being said, both Winston Churchill and Franklin Delano Roosevelt each had one. With the rise in the number of actors and actresses with tattoos, a general acceptance has developed, in the United States, at least, of tattoos as personal expression and art. The successful lawsuit by Mike Tyson’s tattoo artist against the makers of Hangover 2 shows that tattoos are not only considered art, but their designs can be intellectual property, too.

Spain can be more conservative culturally than many of its neighbours, but I did wonder while I was reading the article if the economic situation had signalled the return of conservative attitudes regarding not only tattoos, but piercings, hair styles and colours, or even clothing anywhere else in the world. Has anyone witnessed a rise in tattoo removal in their country? If so, what were the causes? Do you think that those in Spain spending the thousands it can cost to have a tattoo removed are improving their job prospects, or are they “clutching at straws” over a situation beyond their control? Has our society truly become more accepting of tattoos? Does an acceptance of tattoos, etc., show an increased acceptance of the individual in society, or is it just another way to conform? What effect has the popularity of tattoos and piercings had on counterculture statements? Can not having a tattoo now be considered a counterculture statement? Do any of you know someone who was denied employment due to tattoos, piercings, or hair colour? What was their response?

Please share your thoughts.

Image via

Related Articles


  • Jane Killmar June 05, 2012 02.49 pm

    In the two industries that I have worked in in the most recent years, the service industry and museum industry, I have encountered a more accepting attitude toward tattoos. The reason for that may be because those establishments have tended to be more on the liberal side of the spectrum. I have heard of people being denied jobs in hair stylist and make-up artist positions because of their tattoos, however. I don’t know if the rise in acceptablity is because society is actually more accepting or if institutions are having no choice but to be more accepting because of the rising number of people with tattoos.

  • Monica June 05, 2012 03.10 pm

Leave a Comment

Monthly Archive


Available now: Punk Style by Worn Through founder, Monica Sklar, PhD. Find it at :, Powell's Books, or a bookseller near you.