Tattoos
From the London Tattoo Convention 2013. [Not Alice Bell] Reuters

Although it's a terrible cliché, I'm very much one of those people who 'found themselves' at University.

In my case this mostly amounted to cutting my hair off and dying the vestiges bright red, and getting a lot of tattoos. This displeased my mother.

Tattoos are what Humanities grads like myself call 'performative'. They serve no practical purpose whatsoever, but tattoo enthusiasts get them because they want you to see them, and know something about their personality as a result.

It might be "I'm really into a certain animal", or "I lost somebody close to me", or "I'm eye-wateringly proud of my baby", or even the ever popular "I'm a bit of a hard man, way-hey, let's get dahn the pub, but don't eyeball me the wrong way because I'll nut yah, except I probably won't because if I would I wouldn't need this tribal tattoo to make you think that".

Whatever the case, tattoos are for showing off, which is why it's pretty galling when you get told to cover them up.

Progressive Employers vs the Dinosaurs

Making employees cover tattoos is a hangover from the past, when tattoos were only in vogue with unsavoury characters like salty sailors and criminals (both organised and disorganised), and I understand why, for example, a law firm wouldn't want to appear to employ a Mafioso.

The problem is that these days the majority of people with tattoos are far from unsavoury; they're positively umami.

If you bump into any random UK resident in the street they're between 20-25% likely to have a star inked on their elbow, or even a full chest piece lurking under that button down shirt.

I've worked in different jobs in different industries, and the harder an employer clung to this out-dated anti-tat attitude the worse it was working for them.

When I worked for a high street games retailer tattoos were positively encouraged, since a lot of the customers had them, and everyone got on together and we had a great laugh! Hooray! This carried over to working at a games magazine.

Journalism isn't a front facing industry and the company was smart enough to realise that forcing employees to adhere to unnecessary appearance policies would not make said employees more enthused to come to work.

By contrast, two other high street retailers had a strict 'cover up' policy, and were infuriating to work for. They had non-existent employee benefits or bonuses, and one in particular seemed to approach retail from approximately 1985.

The Types of Employers that are Anti-Tats

It seems to me that a refusal to allow employees to show their tattoos indicates that an employer lacks an understanding of how the world, the people in it, and, importantly, how these people do business, has changed – and it's well documented that a business that cannot change with the times is a business that goes out of, erm, business.

Surely it's a ringing capitalist endorsement that some tattoo artists are able to charge hundreds of pounds an hour for their services?

Is it not something to note that Apple, the current most successful business in the world, allows all their employees to strut their permanently-drawn-on stuff with impunity?

The fact that the law allows businesses to refuse to hire a candidate because they have a tattoo, or, even worse, fire them for the act of getting one, is simply discriminatory ridiculousness that leaves me frothing at the mouth with rage (I would like to point out that as a middle class white girl, yes, I'm aware that tattoo-prejudice sits low on the barometer of discrimination).

How does cutting down your pool of potential employees by almost a quarter, as well as subtly indicating that the business of the same number of potential clients is not welcome, make any good financial sense?

If nothing else, these crotchety old employers could at least think of the money they're missing!

Unless you've got a tattoo of Swastika on your face, I challenge anyone to give me a good reason why a tattoo stops a person being able to do their job - that doesn't involve inflaming the prejudices of somebody else that doesn't like tattoos.

Three out of the four nurses who've taken my blood recently had tattoos. I know a classics teacher at a prestigious private school with a bunch of 'em. The chef in who made my ramen in Wagamama yesterday was definitely rocking a half sleeve.

The only way a tattoo harms your job prospects is if you're determined to work with small-minded d**** the rest of your life.

Alice Bell has opinions about things and occasionally writes about them, including video games, books, and, latterly, tattoos. You can find her on Twitter as @MiniLadyBell if you really want to.