Ryan Chartrand

My first “real” job interview is coming up this week and, in addition to concerns over face-to-face performance with potential employers, I have put much consideration into my attire for the big day.

Part of this contemplation revolves around my lip ring.

This piece of body jewelry is not just a valued possession but it also feels like it has become a part of me. I love my little rhinestone stud for the way it individualizes my appearance in a simple and, in my opinion, innocuous way.

Unfortunately, many people do not agree with my opinion (including my mother, who would not let me enter the house until I took it out). Employers especially may shy away from piercings and tattoos (which I also have) and refrain from hiring individuals with such accessories.

According to a 2006 study by Dr. Anne E. Laumann and Dr. Amy J. Derick that involved men and women 18 to 50 years of age, 24 percent had tattoos and 14 percent had body piercings. The study linked tattoos and piercings to a lack of religious affiliation, extended jail time, previous drinking and recreational drug use. So I guess that explains the uneasiness of employers over tattoos and piercings.

Obviously not all inked or pierced people are hooligans, but why should a company bother giving someone the benefit of the doubt if there’s a clean-cut and unadorned applicant also at the front door?

Well, some companies consider piercings and tattoos beneficial in that they attract younger and possibly more innovative and exciting workers.

Nearly half of 20-something-year-olds have either a tattoo or a piercing other than traditional earrings, according to a study published this year in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. Those who are 25 to 29 years old have the highest incidence of tattoos (36 percent) and 30 to 39-year-olds follow with 28 percent. Many of the people in this age range are right out of college or grad school – youth loaded with energy and potential – and the percentages show that piercings and tattoos are not uncommon among them.

Basically it depends on the industry to be entered; it’s all about catering to the clientele. Sometimes piercings and tattoos may be OK or even attractive, and sometimes they can be absolute deterrents.

Thus, to seem professional and yet inviting, many employers opt to leave their dress code vague, which often leads to confusion.

For instance, in 2004, Costco was sued for religious discrimination after it fired an employee for breaking its policy against facial jewelry. The employee, a member of the Church of Body Modification, said wearing her facial piercings was a part of her religion. That same year, Red Robin Gourmet Burgers, Inc. agreed to pay a former employee $150,000 for a lawsuit of the same nature because the restaurant chain’s no-visible-body-art policy clashed with the employee’s Kemetic (ancient Egyptian) religion.

I can understand the offense if someone, say, had a swastika tattooed on his or her arm, but I don’t see the need for policies against harmless images, especially if they look good.

The company I am applying to work for advises conservative dress for the interview. Personally I wouldn’t want to hire someone who makes an attempt to look boring. There’s definitely a line between gaudy clothes and ostentatious tattoos and piercings, but it shouldn’t be so thick as to blur them out completely. Getting a tattoo or piercing isn’t a slip in judgment; it’s a sign of personality, daring, maybe even good taste. I think my lip ring looks great and I’m not even a crackhead felon.

Sara Wright is a journalism junior and a Mustang Daily reporter.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *