By Michidael Ceard
Today, everyone knows someone who’s tatted, pierced out, or sporting some sort of body modification. During our college years at Barry, it’s easy to flaunt our body art to people who see it as acceptable. However, what happens when we get our degrees and are pushed into the professional, corporate world?
Let’s begin with the employment practices at Barry University itself.
Jasmine Santiago is the associate vice president of the department of human resources. She said that Barry is an equal opportunity employer, maintaining fair and equitable hiring practices across the institution.
“We do not have a policy specifically related to tattoos and piercings; however, we do have a personal standards policy that states ‘that each employee is responsible for presenting a personal appearance which recognizes the need for good grooming and neatness’,” said Santiago.
Still, Santiago maintained that the university’s views on grooming have nothing to do with the presentation of tattoos and piercings.
Recent Barry alumnus Felix Vega-Pagan currently works in the Office of Mission Engagement at Barry as a graduate assistant and has an expansive sleeve tattoo.
He has never felt stigmatized at Barry but he knew that there were some places where it would never be welcomed.
“In 2016, I worked at Disney, but I knew I couldn’t be employed if I had tattoos because you can’t show tattoos or piercings,” said Vega-Pagan.
After leaving Disney, Vega-Pagan acquired his first set of tattoos and has encountered no problems since then.
In another vein, nursing senior Anel Ramirez has a nose piercing but has found herself removing it due to the profession she hopes to enter.
In the medical field, piercings and tattoos are taboo.
“As a nurse, I can’t wear my nose piercing. In some cultures, it’s viewed as offensive and, in a hospital setting, it’s unprofessional,” said Ramirez. “In healthcare, it’s very big to cover tattoos or piercings.”
Sustainability AmeriCorps Vista at Barry, Jaedyn Amaro, has several nose piercings and tattoos.
He decides not to wear his piercings because he now works in higher education. He admitted that he experienced professional trouble with his piercings and tattoos in the past.
“In the food industry, I hid my tattoos because the customers didn’t want to see it,” said Amaro. “As a man, it’s not seen as professional and mature to have piercings.”
Nonetheless, many students choose to have tattoos and piercings even when it might pose professional barriers.
According to a USA Daily poll done in 2013, 76 percent of employers felt that tattoos and piercings hurt an applicant’s chance of getting hired.
However, this hasn’t stopped students from getting tattoos.
Another poll conducted by Pew Research Center showed that 38 percent of young people ages 18 to 29 have at least one tattoo.
The reasons for getting tattoos or piercings are plenty, especially for Barry students.
Vega-Pagan loved tattoos since he was seven. His father had a tattoo and he remembers it being normal in his family.
“For me, it’s a way to show who I am, where I come from, my motivations, and where I want to go,” said Vega-Pagan.
Still, Vega-Pagan does not believe that all tattoos are created equal.
He states that there are formalities for those who choose to wear a tattoo or piercing in the workplace, explaining that face and neck tattoos are still very taboo.
“The content of your tattoo is important,” said Vega. “As long as your tattoos are not offensive or vulgar, it’s fine.”
Amaro also complies with this unwritten rule.
“My tattoos are discreet and hidden,” said Amaro.
Many wonder whether the perception of tattoos and piercings will ever change.
“I don’t think this will change in the future because now as a nurse, we have to cover all of it up,” said Ramirez.
However, Vega-Pagan has witnessed society progress over the years.
“Tattoos and piercings are becoming normalized,” said Vega. “I also think face tattoos and neck tattoos are in the process of being socially acceptable.
“I do feel there will be a change in society where they are acceptable,” said Amaro. “It’s more about who you are.”
It seems like new wave industries and companies are already on board with a tatted and pierced future if people are embracing this form of body modification as their true selves.
Careers in the beauty industry, information technology, art, construction, and entertainment all currently allow employee self-expression through body modification.
Apple issued a statement in 2012 stating their appreciation of employees sporting “body mod” through tattoos and piercings.
And, later, in 2016 companies such as Amazon, Google, Ticketmaster, Zappos and Applebee's were deemed body mod-friendly by CBS News.
As we gear up to enter a new decade, an employer’s view on tattoos and piercings is something that college students should keep in mind as they look forward to futures that encompass all their needs, professionally and socially.
Photos by Staff Photographer, Emma James