Monday, 18 July 2011

Consequences of Body Modification

I had a lovely relaxing day yesterday just catching up on all the posts on my Google Reader. One post that resonated with me was Pearl's discussion about Body Modification in the workplace. I started to write a comment, but then quickly realised I had quite a lot to say on the matter and that alot of you, my lovely readers, have 'modified your bodies' with hair dye, piercings and tattoos, so I thought I'd try and write it all down here. I don't normally get into such wordy posts, but this is a topic I feel I can comment on at length.

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.


  1. Ive no idea if we have that Vice channel will have to get someone to figure it out - I cant even turn on our ridiculous TV is so big and complicated!

    That is interesting how you say you can feel uncomfortable when caught at work unprepared, I would feel the same and have done when unexpected people turn up and I am in casuals. It is all about how you want your professional persona to be isn't it. I decided to write a series of posts on the topic as there are so many issues.

  2. very well written. I have several tattoos (which my mum hates!) but I have them in places that can easily be covered up (ankles/shoulder) I have always wanted larger more visable tattoos (eg chest/arm) but more than thinking about what I'm getting when I get them done, I think about where. I know how my mum feels about my tattoos so I don't know how I would feel if I had to meet someone in a business situation that reacted the same way. I also have my lip pierced and more often than not I remove it for interviews, and as the situation calls for it.
    One thing I do find strange the attitude about hair dye. I understand pinks/greens/blues might not be acceptable but I've dyed my hair pretty much every colour under the sun since I was 15. when it's jet black I get the usual "goth" comments and when it's bright red or copper (much like your own) I get looks and comments about my choice. However I've noticed no matter what shade of blonde it is from silver to bordering on yellow) no-one seems to have an issue? (my nautral hair is a dirty ash blonde type colour. and although I have never came across any problems from managers, I have had a lot from colleagues (of course they are slightly more subtle with their snide comments etc) which of course can affect confidence therefore I agree that it can affect your job, but not nessessarily your ability.
    Also I know what you mean about LA/London Ink, my biggest thing about it though is the emphasis they put on Kat Von D when there are so many more talanted artists in that show I can't even watch it half the time!
    oops this was longer than I anticipated...but yeah thanks for the interesting read :)

  3. I totally agree with everything you said here. I have a friend of a friend who refuses to cover up their tattoos and piercings when they go to job interviews because they feel that they should be judged on their experience and not their appearance. I'd love to live in a world where that's the case but unfortunately I don't think we do, and sometimes you have to accept that people do judge you and make choices based on that. I have tattoos on my feet that I usually don't cover up (as I usually wear pumps) but I do feel uncomfortable if ever anyone asks about them or I catch senior managers looking at them. Luckily I work in an organisation where a some of the senior people are ex-Navy or Merchant Navy so I'm not the only one with swallow tattoos! If I'm meeting external people or going to an important meeting however I always cover them up and dress in a smart dress/suit and heels. I feel so much more confident dressed like that and I feel exactly the same as you that there are almost two 'me's' - work me and non-work me - and I just adapt to whichever situation I'm in.
    Really good post - thankyou for writing it!

  4. Really love the tattoo but the body modification is kinda creepy. lol.

  5. I hate all the whining and crap on Miami/LA Ink, as well as all the reality show bullshit. What's wrong with watching cool people do cool tattoos and leaving it at that? I don't know you, and I don't care that your mum's brothers dog died and this tattoo represents it. Bloody hell.

  6. I completely believe that people should be able to express themselves by what they wear and how they choose to look. You're right there is a time and a place for certain things and sadly you do have to take into consideration what is 'mainstream', 'safe' or 'respectful' when it comes to certain people or places.

    I think you have a really good attitude to it - like you say, you are not arrogant. I love your tattoos, if only I could brave one myself i'd be over the moon but unfortunately for me I am super dooper squeamish so body mods like the tongue and horns really make me feel a little queazy. More so because my mind works overtime when i see them and I start to think about what they did to achieve the look... yikes, starting to go a little green just typing it!!


  7. YOur tattoo is lush! You lay have just inspired me for my next one!

    Luckily I work in animation so dont have to worry about my appearance. Maybe Im too far at the end of the scale. Dont care about people seeing my tattoos...or brushing my hair...or dressing well!

    I kid!


  8. Strange that you and this post are right next to eachother on my blog feed...

  9. I agree with everything you wrote. I very occasionally resent having to cover up/wear retainers in my piercings for formal situations, but the fact is that sometimes you have to compromise on the little things to get ahead. I covered up completely for all my job interviews, but now that I have a job that doesn't involve working with the public I don't bother.
    On the hair colour, I never get negative comments, though small children and old ladies seen terrified of it now that it's blue...

  10. very interesting subject, i can totally understand what you're saying.
    where i live almost evrybody has a small one or two but there are only a handful of girls with large/visible tattoos like mine (which aren't really THAT big!). so getting tattoos in a visible place in cyprus where we wear short sleeves for over half the year was a big decision. mum/garndparents hate them naturally. even though i dont regret them, i do sometimes feel uncomfortable in situations where no other girls have visible tatoos and wonder if it would've been best to leave my arms bare. having said that, my boyfriend is intent on getting his arms covered and im so excited about how he will look. he seems to get a different reaction because he is a guy though..

    when i went for my interveiw last year (for a promotion within the same company) the head boss couldnt stop looking at my tattoos and even though she didnt say anything specific about them, she commented negatively on the hole that my old madonna piercing had left on my lip. i was very surprised because i wonk in young women's fashion. shortly afterwards there was a memo circulated by the company about staff having no visible piercings and i couldnt help but think that the only reason tattoos weren't mentioned is me (they can't forbid them if i already have arms of them, no?). im lucky that i was already in the company and had several people's reccomendations because i have a feeling that if i was an unknown, i wouldn't have got the job

  11. holy cow, please forgive my spelling lol x


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