Even in this ‘progressive’ age where tattoos are extremely popular, it’s no secret that visible tattoos affect a person’s chance at many jobs, entering certain venues and generally the public’s opinion of them. However there is one industry it effects that seems to go somewhat unnoticed by many. Ask yourself: have you ever seen a high fashion model with visible tattoos? Facial piercings? Unnatural hair colour even? Yes, there are alternative models that are used for smaller scale companies and niche markets but the tattoos are always used as a specific definer in the modelling, rather than seeing the model the same as any other; somewhat used as an accessory. This is completely appropriate in some situations but it sometimes taken to far, like the bizarre trend of fake tattoo sleeves, where a stocking like material with tattoos printed on it can be worn for that trendy tattoo look without the pain or commitment. This was also taken to the next level at Milan Fashion week in Dsquared2’s spring/summer 2016 menswear collection where the models wore full body tattoo stockings.
I speak for myself but I’m sure I’m not alone when saying, as someone with many visible tattoos and a dedication to the process and permanence of tattoos, I find this somewhat offensive. A huge part of getting a tattoo is the process of finding or creating a design for your individual taste, going through the usually many, many hours of pain and discomfort while getting it done and the healing process, then of course, the life commitment. It’s ornamentation of the body, a lifestyle, a hobby and a whole culture- not just a fashion accessory. The main reason these fake tattoos bother me is that they are usually worn by those who feel tattoos are unprofessional or somewhat related to crime and rebellion.
When googling ‘tattooed mainstream models’ I found images of models such as Cara Delevingne and other well-known high end models and my first thought was “but they have no tattoos”. However upon closer inspection of the photos I found that they all had very small tattoos on their wrist, behind their ear, the back of their neck or somewhere else subtle.
Yes, technically tattooed, but as someone who works in the tattoo industry, I can say there is a huge difference between having a tattoo and being tattooed. It’s not possible to say exactly why high fashion models don’t have large visible tattoos but it can be pretty easy to guess. In surveys conducted in 2012 it was found that 24% of adults surveyed thought people with tattoos were more likely to be associated with deviant behaviour, which although is slightly lower than in 2003, is still around a quarter of adults (Vanishing Tattoo 2012). On top of this, according to Salary.com 76% of people with visible tattoos or piercings hurt their chances of getting a job, with the tolerance to this getting lower and lower as the age of the employer gets higher- no surprise there. So taking these statistics into account, it can be assumed that visible tattoos are generally seen as ‘trashy’, ‘low class’ and associated with crime- unless of course they’re fake, then they’re super trendy.
Although Queensland’s new laws around tattooing and biker gangs seem to have taken a huge step back in the acceptance of tattoos- to the point where tattoo artists are asked to visually record tattoos they do and document the identity of the people who got it (so they can be easily identified when the commit a crime, those dirty tattooed delinquents)- society seems to be slowly moving towards accepting visible tattoos in professional environments- about time, tattoos are just another form of art.
The Fashionisto 2015, “Dsquared2 Spring/Summer 2016 Menswear Collection | Milan Fashion Week”, http://www.thefashionisto.com/gallery/dsquared2-springsummer-2016-menswear-collection-milan-fashion-week/
Salary.com 2016, How Tattoos Affect Your Career, http://www.salary.com/how-tattoos-affect-your-career/
Vanishing Tattoo 2012, “Tattoo Facts and Statistics”, http://www.vanishingtattoo.com/tattoo_facts.htm