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Tit for tat: Ink in the office

Tattoos are most common these days and sported by all sorts. But beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and all that.

 title= So, in pleasing news, I have a friend. Yes, I know! Ace for me. May she be the first of many.

And she’s a friend with a question. One that I cannot give a definite yes or no for, despite my obvious wisdom. So I turn to you, bolshie Idealog reader: In a professional office atmosphere, are visible tattoos ever appropriate?

When pondering such questions, I often like to think, what would the Queen do? And that’s easy; she’d get a lovely little corgi somewhere discreet.

But in the land of the office I appreciate that anything obscene, hilarious though it may be, is not acceptable. No matter how beautiful the calligraphy, ‘I heart big jugs’ written across your manager’s forehead is probably quite a distracting thing to see and ponder in meetings as you discuss that month’s figures.

It would be nice to think we don’t judge on appearances, but we do. No, stop your fibbery. You do it, too. We judge, often with gusto and vitriol. But sometimes just with a sneer and a text message to someone who probably doesn’t care.

These days tats are a great deal most common and all sorts of people sport them. Many are very beautiful. Sadly, many are not, but that’s also a matter of opinion. This is really where the problem lies. Whose opinion matters? Yours? Your manager’s? Your client’s? That guy you pashed up last night?

Should you think it’s necessary to cover them, for the male of the species it’s a bit easier with long sleeved shirts and trousers. Although, the average white shirt doesn’t actually hide arm tattoos that well. They just sort of tease you from within and, if you’re like me, you spend more time trying to see what lies beneath than listening to the wearer of the shirt. You might say I’m a perve. I like to say I’m curious.

For the ladies, however, it’s more of an issue. Should you wear stockings and long-sleeved shirts in summer? Should you whack a massive plaster over it? Although surely that would merely lead to someone asking what you’d done to yourself and you’d have to tell them and then they’d want to see it ... thus making the plaster quite the ice breaker but ultimately utterly useless.

Of course, in a professional office setting, there are rules about appearance. In general, looking a right shambles is not acceptable, even if you think it’s fashionable. But what if you’re sporting a well-cut suit, tidy hair, minty breath and a neck tattoo of a porcupine in boxing gloves?

As always, I asked around for opinions that I could claim as my own. Annoyingly, my friends and colleagues could not agree.

The Captain, who doesn’t flash his tats because he does something terribly important for a bank, said: "Showing tattoos in the workplace? If you’re a road worker, plumber or a member of a triad, then absolutely. If you’re in the city, not so much."

The lightly tattooed IT nerd: "No problem as long as they’re tasteful." Yes, but who decides what is tasteful? Your mum?

The non-inked friend in HR was more circumspect, "Unless there is a policy or it was written in a contract, or you are informed at the interview, then there isn’t much an employer can do about visible tattoos without ruffling a few feathers."

Are you a feather ruffler? Do you want to be a feather ruffler? Where’s your tat and to whom do you show it?

And before anyone asks, I don’t have any tattoos. I wanted one, got it done in henna as a trial and then had it pointed out that my beloved Trojan warrior apparently reminded my nerd friends of a computer game I’d never heard of. Turns out my love for that sort of nerdery only stretches so far.