Express Yourself – in the Workplace?

Self-expression is a basic human necessity. Younger generations have employed tattoos, piercings and unnatural hair colors for decades to show off their style and personality.

But employers have traditionally frowned upon ink, piercings and bright hair colors. Is that still the norm? Thankfully, no.

Body art and bright hair colors are becoming more mainstream, and more and more employers are embracing their colorful co-workers. About 46% of Americans have a tattoo, regardless of age, according to And National Tattoo Day was July 18.

Black woman wearing a white shirt. She has tattoos and piercings.

Most employers are fine with tattoos that aren’t offensive or unprofessional, Indeed says. But it’s up to each employer to decide what’s acceptable and what isn’t – so tats, piercing or hair color policies can differ from workplace to workplace.

Body art and other fun forms of self-expression are usually acceptable in creative fields, but they’re a no-go in politics, aviation and administrative industries. Some of those fields are more accepting of ink that can be easily covered. Body art is becoming more common in medicine, education and law.

Gender, placement of ink and other factors may play into whether or not your tats are SFW. Face and neck tats are often a no-go in the corporate world, even though face tattoos are becoming more popular. Women with ink face more discrimination than tatted men, Zippia says.

What’s your company’s policy on ink, piercings and other forms of self-expression? 

There are plenty of pros to hiring people with tats, bright pink hair or nose piercings. If you’re limiting your hiring pool to only folks with no (or no visible) tattoos, you’re likely missing out on talented people who can really bring some fresh thinking to the table.

Self-expression encourages individuality and promotes confidence. When your employees feel more comfortable with being themselves, it will help boost morale. Plus, you’re telling your employees that you value their work and credentials more than how they look. 

Speaking of looks, some customers may view your company as open-minded and modern if you hire folks with ink or piercings. 

Of course, there are some cons – some people really dislike body art and may not want to work with someone who’s tatted up. Tats may open the door for wilder forms of self-expression that the company isn’t comfortable with, too.

If you’re thinking about implementing a body art policy at your business, consider these factors: how visible are the tattoos, the number of tattoos, and where you draw the line for offensive tats. You may want to draw the line at racist, homophobic or transphobic tattoos; tattoos with offensive language; tattoos that feature nudity, drug use or alcohol; or ink that feature weapons or threats of violence. Also, consider what employees can have tats – is it only the folks in the corporate office and not the front-line workers who deal with customers, or is it for everyone?

RELATED: Search for queer-owned body art parlors on

Sheena Barnett
Author: Sheena Barnett