Visible Tattoos In The Office, Not Allowed

Not too long ago, tattoos were closely associated with gangs, bikers, sailors and criminals but the popularity of tattoos now and their meaning to each individual has changed this notion quite a bit. Although, the stigma hasn’t fully gone away, more and more are swaying toward accepting of tattoos. More and more people you wouldn’t have thought have tattoos, do and vise versa. You would have never known but these very smart and important people in history had tattoos:

  • Andrew Jackson
  • George Orwell
  • Thomas Edison
  • Franklin D. Roosevelt
  • Teddy Roosevelt
  • King George
  • Dorothy Parker
  • Winston Churchill
  • Barry Goldwater

I’m no Teddy Roosevelt or Winston Churchill but I have tattoos. Quite a few actually and I will most likely get more. In my personal life the stigma of having tattoos doesn’t exist, primarily because the people I’m surrounded by share in the appreciation of the art, but the stigma does exist outside it, specifically in the workplace.

canhdy ritter

My daughter Ava and I

The company I work for (for years) had enforced a new dress code policy at the end of last year. Business casual only and casual Fridays were now blue jeans Fridays. The only difference being we could wear blue jeans but all else was the same. No Hawaiian shirts, no tennis shoes and mainly, no visible tattoos. I was told mine are “nice”, but “unprofessional” and they need to be kept covered. This was a major blow because I’ve been there for years and now it’s a problem. I have a tattoo on my right leg, a full sleeve on my right arm and the lower half of my left leg is completely covered. I have other tattoos too but they are not as visible. I’m fine with wearing only pants to cover my legs but wearing only long sleeve shirts? It gets a little warm in the summertime.

I have little to no interaction with customers and having tattoos doesn’t affect my ability to perform at my job or excel at it. I don’t put myself on a pedestal but I am loyal, smart and perfectly qualified for the position I hold regardless of my tattoos. I may be bias in my opinion because I have tattoos, but seeing employees with visible tattoos does to change my opinion of a company. If a company’s representative treats me like crap, then that’s another story. You don’t have to have tattoos to be dick.

Luckily, I’m not the only one who doesn’t think having tattoos equates to being an unreliable person. There are organizations and communities trying to change this opinion. STAPAW is just one. Check out their website for some interesting information.


Image from

I bank at Wells Fargo and saw that the bank manager had a tattoo on his forearm. He was very articulate, polite and welcoming. He dressed very nicely with a buttoned shirt and tie but he had his sleeves rolled up so his tattoo was visible. I found out later, after interacting with him on several occasions, that he’s just as much a nerd as I am (really cool guy). I don’t think less of the bank or the bank manager’s ability to fulfill my banking needs for having a tattoo. I’m sure not having to worry about it make his life at work that much more pleasant.

Wells Fargo not alone, there are many big companies on board with the acceptance of visible tattoos as long as they are not offensive. Defining “offensive” is another topic in itself, but I’m talking about hateful, racist or obscene images or language. I think we all agree, having a dick tattooed on your forehead is quite offensive and inappropriate. Here are just a few more big companies:

  • Apple
  • Microsoft
  • UPS
  • Amazon
  • Sprint
  • UCLA
  • Bank of America

This tolerance hasn’t happened for the company I work for now and it might not ever happen. The irony is that our customers consists of electricians, integrators, and construction types, most of which are clad with tattoos, jeans and t-shirts. I’m not labeling these specific trades as all being tattooed, only that our customers are not so “formal”. There’s at least 9 hours out of my day that I spend needlessly in discomfort. I’m hopeful I won’t have to cover my tattoos forever.

Leave a Reply