Tattoos should not remain socially taboo

First impressions mean passing judgment. They're an inevitable, unfortunate and typically misguided form of introduction.

Highly dependent on physical appearance, those first few seconds of a new encounter are crucial for college students looking to succeed in school and work. For many peers and colleagues, an intimidating sleeve of multicolored ink is off-putting.

"Trashy" comes to mind. Judgment ensued.

Are tattoos still taboo? We live in a society that prides itself on acceptance of all individuals, regardless of physical appearance and personal beliefs.

Why is this form of self-expression oftentimes rejected?

I have several tattoos and have heard every argument in the book as to why they symbolize poor decision making. Everything from "they'll look terrible when you're old and wrinkly" to "that's ruining your body."

Although my tattoos remain relatively discreet, "you won't get a job" is perhaps the most curious remark.

For the simplest argument against this sentiment, the majority of my employers have had ink.

I don't mean to insinuate every person who's hired me was adorned in permanent skulls, but I've noted a remarkable amount of tattoos in the workplace.

During the two office jobs I've held that required business-casual attire, quotes and images stuck out from underneath collars and sleeves. The employees completed assignments, dealt with clients and went about daily duties without stares. It just wasn't a big deal.

Despite growing acceptance for the tattooed population, disapproval remains. The idea of tattoos being tacky and irreverent isn't just dated discrimination but an ancient misconception.

According to PBS's "Skin Stories: History of Tattoo," tattoos were first present in ancient Polynesian society. Although Western explorers labeled these symbols as barbaric and unholy, their purpose was a spiritual, cultural tradition described as a "unique craft."

In fact, the uniqueness of the tattoo process seems entirely overlooked. Instead of viewed as handcrafted and intricate pieces of art created solely for one person, it's brushed aside as reckless and in poor taste.

An article written by Lawrence Rubin and Michael Brody for Psychology Today titled "Tattoos and Body Piercing: Adolescent Self-Expression or Self-Mutilation?" explores the significance behind the tattoo trend and how it reflects a range of personal expression.

Although the article initially addresses tattoos and piercings as self-destructive, it presents positive psychological reasoning.

"Perhaps, as postmodernists might argue, this self-marking is a means of asserting mastery and control over our bodies, and anchoring ourselves, quite literally during a time of life when the only constant is change," Rubin and Brody said.

Perhaps there is some greater, psychological purpose behind getting tattooed.

Or maybe we just think they're cool.

Regardless, I stand by my belief that if a small patch of ink is what I regret most in 30 years, I've lived well.


Reach the columnist at or follow her at @IsabelleNovak


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