Tattoos are becoming a more and more common feature across society. While attitudes and stereotypes about them are changing, some industries still don’t allow tattoos.
Here are 11 common jobs that don’t allow tattoos:
- Airline service professionals
- Teachers and educators
- Law enforcement professionals
- Medical professionals
- Hospitality servers
- Soldiers and army professionals
This article explores everything you need to know about how different professionals approach tattoos. Aside from information on jobs that don’t allow tattoos, it also explores some jobs that do allow tattoos. It also offers insights into navigating applying for a job if you have or are getting a tattoo.
1. Airline Service Professionals
Airlines have strict dress codes, especially for flight attendants. They want to present a specific brand image, so they focus highly on tidiness and uniformity. Some of the airlines which don’t allow visible tattoos include:
- American Airlines. At present, American Airlines doesn’t allow its staff to have visible tattoos.
- Delta airlines. Delta doesn’t allow flight attendants to have any visible tattoos.
- Etihad Airways. Etihad doesn’t allow you to have visible tattoos if you’re a cabin crew. Their rules are relatively strict; they don’t allow cabin crew to camouflage tattoos with make-up or bandages.
Recently, some airlines have begun to allow small visible tattoos to allow flight attendants and airline staff to express their individuality. For instance, United Airlines announced that it would be allowing employees to have visible tattoos. However, there are some conditions to these announcements:
- Tattoos must be smaller than the size of a work badge.
- They can’t contain or symbolize anything offensive.
- They can’t be on an employee’s face, neck or hands.
Some airlines may also allow tattoos for cultural reasons. For instance, Air New Zealand announced that it would permit Tā Moko and non-offensive tattoos to be visible. Tā Moko is a traditional Maori tattoo that reflects personal and ancestral history.
2. Teachers and Educators
Teachers and educators are essential parts of society as they play a significant role in shaping future generations. As a result, they need to act as role models for students. Many schools and universities ask their staff not to have tattoos on display. There are a couple of reasons for this:
- They don’t fit within a professional dress code. Tattoos are typically not considered professional, and when on display, won’t fit within the formal dress code of many institutions.
- They create preconceived ideas. Teachers must be able to connect with students and their families. If they have tattoos that represent particular views or even symbolic tattoos, people they engage with may judge them. This impacts their ability to connect with their community.
There are several debates about whether teachers should have tattoos. If you’re a teacher, you should check your school’s policy on tattoo visibility.
A variety of factors are at play here, including the school’s location, the age of the students, and the views of the parent community. More high-profile institutions such as ivy league schools and universities may insist on employees covering up their tattoos.
3. Law Enforcement Professionals
Some jobs within law enforcement don’t permit employees to have visible tattoos. Some law enforcement agencies, like the police, ask that employees present themselves as neatly as possible.
According to some law enforcement policies, tattoos may reduce the amount of public respect and trust that law enforcement officers receive. This could impact their ability to connect with the public and perform their job.
If a law enforcement agency has a policy against visible tattoos, employees are expected to cover them up using bandages or make-up. However, most agencies won’t penalize an employee if a hidden tattoo is mistakenly displayed.
In addition, law enforcement agencies may also permit tattoos if officers are working undercover — in some cases, tattoos may help the undercover personality they’re presenting.
4. Medical Professionals
Many hospitals and healthcare clinics will have strict policies against visible tattoos. Research has found that patients care about their health professional’s appearance. Studies have provided evidence that patients feel more comfortable when their doctor or nurse is neatly presented. Many have also found that patients rated tattooed medical practitioners lower than non-tattooed medical practitioners.
This study suggests that it’s essential for medical practitioners to get a high rating because patients are more likely to attend follow-up visits, take their prescribed medications, and follow medical advice. So, it’s essential that patients respect and feel comfortable with their medical practitioners.
However, recent research has also found that attitudes towards medical professionals having tattoos are changing. For instance, many respondents in the survey said that it was acceptable to have tattoos as long as they were following a dress code.
While many famous actors have tattoos, if you’re an aspiring actor, it may be best if you don’t have visible tattoos. Having visible tattoos may cause directors and casting directors to typecast you or only fit you within particular roles.
Before getting a tattoo, you should think about the type of roles you want to play and whether having a tattoo will suit the characteristics of those roles.
Once you become a more established actor, having a tattoo may become a part of your brand. Here are some famous actors that have tattoos:
- Johnny Depp. Depp has a wide variety of tattoos across his arms and legs. Some of these tattoos have featured in the roles he plays.
- Angelina Jolie. While Jolie has several tattoos, she covers most of them in films.
- Jason Momoa. Momoa has several tattoos and is typically cast as characters who suit that particular persona.
If you’re an aspiring actor, there aren’t any barriers in the industry that prevent you from succeeding based on your tattoos. However, it’s always best to be mindful about the placement and symbolism of your tattoos.
There are no rules about lifeguards having tattoos. However, if you’re a lifeguard and you’re planning on getting a tattoo, you should note that you won’t be able to perform your duties while the tattoos are healing.
Fresh tattoos are considered open wounds and may interfere with a lifeguard’s ability to rescue. After getting a tattoo, you may have to get a medical certificate certifying that it’s healed and that you can resume work.
7. Hospitality Servers
Different restaurants have differing policies on whether waiters and servers can display tattoos. Most restaurants will decide about tattoos depending on the type of ambiance and clientele they have. For instance, Hard Rock Cafe has no policy against tattoos.
However, if you’re working in a fine dining restaurant, you may be required to cover up your tattoos. Traditional restaurants and chefs who work in high-end kitchens tend to have more biases against tattoos as they may think it speaks to the character and attitudes of their server.
If you’re a Conservative politician, it’s advisable not to get tattoos. Since politicians appeal to a specific demographic and collection of voters, you may find that certain voters might not approve of tattoos.
However, it’s essential to understand your demographic and target voters to understand their opinion toward tattoos. A range of successful politicians have tattoos that align with their beliefs and ideas, making them more appealing to voters.
Here are some politicians who are an exception to the tattoo rule:
- Rep Duncan Hunter. Duncan Hunter is an American veteran and politician who was part of the US House of Representatives. He has tattoos on his arms which symbolize his deployment and experience in war. This may have endeared him to voters as someone who served.
- Senator Barry Goldwater. Goldwater, a late American politician, had a tattoo that represents the Smoki people, a social organization dedicated to protecting Native American culture.
- Winston Churchill. The late British Prime Minister had an anchor tattoo to reflect his time spent with the Navy. The tattoo was generally hidden at the top of his arm.
So, while tattoos are generally not recommended if you’re a politician, they can be helpful to your career if carefully chosen.
Bankers and financiers typically don’t have visible tattoos. This is for similar reasons to medical professionals; bankers and financiers need a high level of trust from their clients. Customers may not be comfortable giving their bankers the authority to make financial decisions if they think they’re unprofessional.
If you’re a banker or financial advisor, it’s best to get tattoos that can be easily covered.
10. Soldiers and Army Professionals
The army has strict rules about tattoos and their visibility. They prohibit tattoos of any sort on the face, neck, wrists, and hands. However, soldiers are allowed to have one ring tattoo on each hand.
As a result of these regulations, commanders check soldiers for unauthorized tattoos once a year. If soldiers have unauthorized tattoos, they’ll be asked to remove them. If a soldier refuses to remove an unauthorized tattoo, it’s considered a violation of a lawful order, and the army authority may take lawful action.
The army does allow soldiers to have tattoos on their legs. However, they should ensure that the tattoos aren’t:
- Extremist. Extremist tattoos are anything that represents extremist philosophies or beliefs. These may include extreme views on race, gender, ethnicity, and religion. Any tattoos that go against the US Constitution are considered extremist.
- Indecent. These tattoos may be offensive to modesty and professionalism.
- Sexist. These tattoos advocate for having a bias against someone based on their gender.
- Racist. These tattoos advocate for biases against individuals based on their race or ethnicity.
If you’re in the army and are considering getting a tattoo, you should talk to your unit leader to get a complete understanding of what you’ll be allowed to do.
The Navy and airforce have slightly more relaxed rules for tattoos. In 2016, the Navy changed its policy on tattoos. Tattoos are now allowed on the neck, and sleeve tattoos are permitted. Meanwhile, in 2021, the air force announced that it would be allowing scalp tattoos as a part of its revised dress code.
However, similar to the army, the Navy and airforce don’t permit offensive or derogatory tattoos.
While many receptionists might be allowed to have tattoos, there are many establishments that won’t allow it. Some high-profile companies, such as hotels, need to preserve professionalism when it comes to their front-of-house staff.
First impressions are vital in these businesses, so it would be standard practice to ask employees to cover up any tattoos they have.
Why Don’t Some Jobs Allow Tattoos?
It can be helpful to understand why some jobs and professions don’t allow tattoos. Here are the most common reasons that tattoos may not be allowed:
- Society perception. Some people associate tattoos with stereotypes about a person’s characteristics. Some clients don’t want to associate with someone who has too many visible tattoos as they may question their expertise or character.
- Safety. In some cases, getting a fresh tattoo may not help you perform your job safely. A fresh tattoo is considered an open wound and may not allow you the mobility you usually have.
- Professionalism. The content of tattoos may be offensive, unprofessional, or represent views that your company doesn’t agree with. Many companies would rather have a blanket ban on tattoos rather than navigate the content of each employees’ tattoo.
Jobs That Allow Tattoos
Attitudes towards tattoos in society, in general, are changing, and some jobs and professions have more permissive attitudes towards them. If you work in the beauty or entertainment industry, are an artist, or are a personal trainer, tattoos are acceptable.
Here’s a breakdown of some of the jobs that allow tattoos:
The beauty industry is focused on the art of individual expression. It’s generally acceptable for make-up artists to have tattoos as it helps them express their individuality and personality. Tattoos can also make a good talking point between make-up artists and their clients, building comfort and rapport.
It’s acceptable for fashion stylists to have tattoos. Having tattoos will allow you to express yourself and your style. It also shows that you’re creative and confident — all traits that may help you impress and get clients.
Additionally, if a fashion stylist has a distinctive style and persona, having tattoos to augment this can actually make a stylist more memorable.
Many artists have eclectic styles, and personalities and tattoos are a great way to represent that. Several artists are known for having tattoos that represent their art. Some of the stand out artists include:
- Tim Lehi. Tim Lehi works with several leading tattoo artists to transform his art into tattoos. His designs feature animals and fire.
- Mike Davis. Mike Davis is a fine art artist who uses his art to depict human hubris and themes like temptation and morality. He represents many of these themes in his tattoos and has impressive tattoo sleeves.
- Shawn Barber. Barber produces realistic paintings and portraits with an emphasis on tattoos. Some of the subjects of his paintings are heavily tattooed, and he pays close attention to making sure the tattoos are beautifully represented. He has several tattoos which represent his love for art and tattoos.
If you’re an artist, having a tattoo is acceptable primarily if the tattoos represent the kind of art and work that you do.
Many personal or fitness trainers have tattoos, and it’s generally acceptable. Personal trainers are expected to be in shape and have well-built bodies.
If you’re a personal trainer or are hoping to be one, tattoos may also be able to enhance your physical features. They can also motivate, and tattoos of slogans and symbols can represent your commitment to fitness.
It’s understandable and even expected that tattoo artists would have tattoos. Many tattoo artists have tattoos to represent the kind of work. However, if you plan to use your tattoos to showcase your work, you should make sure they’re high quality and that the tattoos you’re displaying aren’t controversial.
How To Make Sure Your Tattoo Is Appropriate
If you’re planning on getting a tattoo or already have one, you should consider whether it’s appropriate for the kind of work you’re doing. Regardless of your job, here are some things to think about:
- Whether your tattoo has anything offensive or contains anything that may be defined as derogatory, sexually, or religiously offensive. In any case, it’s best to cover it up. It may offend co-workers and may even potentially result in a lawsuit as co-workers or clients may be personally offended by the content of your tattoo and claim they’re being harassed or bullied.
- Whether the tattoo is appropriately placed. Many people have tattoos placed in hidden places like ankles or wrists. If you have a smaller tattoo, it’ll be easier to hide with clothing or make-up if necessary.
- How many tattoos you’re getting. If you plan on getting a full tattoo sleeve or getting a tattoo across your whole neck, you should take a more careful look at your company’s policies.
- Style of the tattoo. While most companies won’t be concerned with the stylistic features of your tattoos, there are some industries where this is important. If you’re in the beauty industry or a tattoo artist, you should make sure your tattoo is stylistically impressive.
Additionally, before getting a tattoo, it’s always useful to consider if you might have a career change in the future. Being prepared for a potential career switch is helpful when thinking about the kind of tattoo you want.
How To Apply for a Job if You Have a Tattoo
If you’re looking to apply for a particular job and are concerned about having visible tattoos, here’s what you can do:
- Check the company’s policies beforehand. If you get an understanding of how strict a company is about its tattoo policy, you can understand whether it’s worth applying or not.
- Don’t mention your tattoo on your resume. You don’t need to mention your tattoo on your CV when applying for a job. Instead, you should focus on getting past the interview hurdles and present yourself as a good candidate.
- Be candid about your tattoo. If you progress past the preliminary stages and get called in for a face-to-face interview, be honest about having a tattoo if it’s moderately visible. This presents you as an honest candidate.
- Check whether an exception can be made. Even if your company has a strict no tattoo policy, depending on how you present yourself as a candidate, you may get a waiver for your tattoo. Talk to your employer and HR department to work around the tattoo policy.
How To Check if Your Company Allows Tattoos
While this article provides a general list of jobs that do and don’t allow tattoos, you should also check specific companies’ approaches towards tattoos. Here’s how to check a company’s attitude towards tattoos:
- Check the company’s policies. The company’s policies should be your go-to for understanding how a company works. Typically, companies will have a dress code or code of conduct policy. These will include information on the company’s approach to tattoos and piercings.
- Check with the HR Department. Ask the HR representative at your company what their policy is on tattoos. Make sure you’ve read through the company policies to ask more specific questions. The HR representative may help guide you through more gray areas like what areas of the body tattoos are allowed on and how you need to cover them up if they’re not allowed.
- Talk to employees or colleagues. Employees of the company may give you an on-ground understanding of the company’s approach towards tattoos. While the policies may outline a specific approach, some managers may be stricter or laxer in enforcing tattoo policies. Colleagues will help you understand how to navigate the question of tattoos in a particular office or team.
If you’re interviewing for a new job, it’s wise to play it safe and make sure you cover up your tattoos during the interview. Once you progress in the interview, ask the HR department about the company’s tattoo policy.