I started dying my hair with Wella Colour Mousses when I was 12 years old, much to the dismay of my mother. I came from a Catholic background and I suppose any form of messing around with your god given body was a big no-no. So why did I want to change my 'lovely long blonde hair'? Simple answer, I thought it was cool. Philosophically? I suppose this was the beginning of me trying become 'me'. I hated the fact that when I took off my eyeliner and my clothes, I just looked like everyone else. I wanted to change ME, my body, permanently. There was no way my mum was gonna let that happen. I left home at 17 and within a year I had about 8 piercings, pink hair and best of all, a tattoo. I was a student and like most folk that age, thought I was indestructible and that even with my crazy appearance, I should be able to work wherever I pleased. Through sheer arrogance and persistence, I 'stuck it to the man' and blagged a job in House of Fraser keeping my piercing and pink hair intact.
Now, at the ripe old age of 30, I’m not stupid or arrogant enough to think that I can parade around my professional place of work displaying all my tattoos without attracting some form of attention – positive or negative. Six years ago I spoke with my then manager about my decision to get my first major tattoo (half sleeve) and asked whether or not this would cause problems for me at work. This is not to say that if she said “it is forbidden” I wouldn’t still go ahead, but at least I was fully informed as to the consequences of my actions. As it turns out, she simply asked if I would be willing to keep it covered up in certain circumstances. I thought this was a very acceptable compromise. Since then, I’ve continued to get some pretty large and visible tattoos (forearm, chest, feet), further transforming my body into ME. The company has gone through many more managers. Not one of them has ever brought up the subject of my tattoos. Maybe this is because they assume I've been given 'permission' to display them in the past and don't want to rock the boat, or maybe it's because my tattoos make me look aggressive and intimidating and they are simply too scared to confront me??!! At the end of the day, unless I'm sitting at my desk, most of my working day is spent face to face with school kids, families or stuffy old Trustees. I don't want to be judged by these people on my appearance. My ability to conduct myself in a professional manner is far more important. Therefore, 90% of the time I choose to cover my tattoos. Outside of work, I do like to be judged on my appearance (and I dare say every blogger who posts outfit photos does too - whether they admit it or not). In my own time I take great pride showing off my tats, my dyed hair and all sorts of ridiculous unpractical outfits. There is a time and a place for everything.
my chestpiece - All is Vanity
All forms of body modification are a choice made by the individual. Each individual should consider all the consequences of their actions before making any changes to their body - permanent or not. People tow the line when they 'dress up' for a wedding. It may not be your style, but you make the effort. Same if you attend a funeral. It's all about respect for yourself, respect for those around you and respect for the situation you are in.
Does altering my appearance change my ability to work? I've given this quite a lot of thought. And I my answer is YES. On the rare occassion I'm caught out at work with all my tattoos on display infront of a visitor, I begin to feel very uncomfortable and exposed. I instantly think that they are judging me and as a result I can't concentrate on doing my job effectively. In contrast, on the (equally rare) days I make the effort to dress in business attire, I feel super confident.
This is my personal expereience and I do not necessarily think this applies to everyone in the same way.
What are your thoughts on Body Modification in the workplace? BM in general? Elf ears anyone? How about tongue splitting? Subdermal implants? Tightlacing?
On a much lighter note, Pearl mentioned that she has been watching endless repeats of Miami/LA/London Ink. Not sure about everyone else, but I'm sick of hearing about 'memorial tattoos' and ridiculous, lengthy, 'heart wrenching' reasons for nameless people getting tattooed. What about art for art's sake? I want to know about the artist behind the tattoo, not the receiver. If you feel the same, tune in to Vice TV for new show, Tattoo Age. Each episode is introduced by an artist who then talks to other artists about their work and their infuences etc. They also explore different cities each week and take you on a tour of some of the cool hangouts. In episode one, Markus Kuhn introduces us to Virginia Elwood and Thomas Hooper are they explore a New York art gallery for inspiration. Watch it!
The Gypsy Gentleman - Episode 01: New York City from Marcus Kuhn on Vimeo.