Share this content

Tattoos and Piercings in the Office

24th Feb 2016
Share this content

How do you feel about professional staff who turn up to the office ornamented and adorned with bodily decorations?

Not too long ago, the idea that anyone would appear at an accountant’s office with even half a dozen ear studs or one in the nose was impossible to contemplate. The only breach of this rule might come in the form of occasional rock star client.

The next stage along the route might have been a daring secretary or other member of support staff, who would indeed have an ear so full of metal that it would never get through customs, possibly supplemented by a tasteful jewel pinned into the left nostril.

However, the last few years have changed public perception beyond belief. Now, there is every prospect that fuddy-duddy accountants would be grateful for nothing more prominent than the jewellery described above, even on senior members of professional staff.

Indeed, a former partner of the writer, who favoured very thin shirts that must either have been extremely expensive or very cheap, appear to have the emblem of his favourite football club tattooed on an upper arm. This was clearly visible and might not have been a problem while drumming up trade amongst those that passionately supported an assortment of other premiership clubs and, by default, hated his team.

The conundrum of what is acceptable office clothing has been with us for decades but these new developments will present a real headache to those who believe that clients might head for the hills when confronted by an audit senior with a bar through their eyebrow or a tasteful facial tattoo.

The difficulty is that even if recruits are conservative-looking at the time of recruitment, it is probably impossible to shift employees who subsequently go native.

It can only be a matter of time before you face the serious dilemma concerning the presentability of a colleague, either because they have metalwork in the wrong places, tattoos across their faces or possibly the ubiquitous “love” and “hate” plastered over their knuckles.

While this columnist is not yet aware of any colleagues who have gone to these lengths, tongue studs are becoming popular while a recent departure took with him a tattoo on the inside of his lower lip, apparently a style becoming de rigueur with the footballing community, judging by a quick, frankly stomach-churning, Google search.

One possible solution would be to encourage such behaviour by offering free tattooing on the forehead provided that this represented nothing more sinister than your firm’s name and logo.

While employees of BDO might regard that as a bit of fun, those who worked for my old firm Chantrey Vellacott DFK (RIP) would have been obliged to endure a considerable amount of pain in order to look stylish and support the brand.

There seems little doubt that anyone reading this column 10 years hence will laugh, since by then the partners without prominent tattoos and bodies like sieves will probably be few and far between.


You might also be interested in

Replies (5)

Please login or register to join the discussion.

Out of my mind
By runningmate
24th Feb 2016 11:18

Call me old fashioned but the only metal that I have setting off alarms is my cufflinks.


Thanks (0)
24th Feb 2016 12:34

How old are you!

The world has been like this for the past twenty years - you must either walk around with your eyes closed or believe it is still 1953!

Thanks (0)
By andrewjohnevans
25th Feb 2016 14:56

I don't see anything wrong in a couple of ear piercings or tasteful tattoo sleeves etc (I myself have both pierced ears and tattoos). But the body modifications you're referring to (face tattoos, metal bars etc) you generally don't see that often in the office so I'd say it's hardly a dilemma employers need to worry about too much.

Thanks (0)
By ireallyshouldknowthisbut
25th Feb 2016 16:52


A direct report from years ago used to mention her "visible piercings" which always made me squirm somewhat on account of the implied "non visible" ones

Still up to her where she jangled.  Was a good at her job

Not really for me however. 

Thanks (0)
By ianthetaxman
26th Feb 2016 14:29

If you want to get a bank account....

This reminds me of the advert that was around in the 1980s that starred Aide Edmondson in his role as Vyvyan from The Young Ones.  He was trying to get a bank account and he thought his appearance would hinder him from being successful.

The bank of course went on to make the point that it didn't matter what you looked like, but 30 years on and I do wonder if we as a profession would feel the same?

I don't have piercings (well, not any more) or a tattoo, but that is a personal choice made over time.  The same can be said for those who do, but in our world of political correctness, it does seem that there is a difficult balance to maintain between infringing on personal choice and what others feel is acceptable for a particular situation.

Not wanting to side with either camp, I work with colleagues who have piercings and tattoos, but they are not obvious an so don't think it presents a problem.  Someone with piercings/tattoos/body mods that are clearly visible, regardless of their nature, is likely to cause themselves difficulties working in a professional capacity, as others who are more outwardly conservative are likely to be seen as more presentable to clients and others.

Everyone can be an individual, but the problem is that too may people use this as a stick to beat 'the man' and want their rights to be upheld.  In reality, is someone with that level of body adornment and general attitude about authority likely to be in this sort of position?  It perhaps wouldn't be an issue if all your clients were in an industry that happily accepted this type of thing, but the chances of this are slim to none.   

This isn't really a cue for every tattooed tax partner or senior accounts manager to chip in with their tales of how it does or doesn't impact on their business or otherwise - it's just an observation on how some areas of society's view on this type of thing hasn't really shifted that far, despite it becoming more acceptable generally, while not taking away the need for the individual to take a bit of responsibility for their actions, rather than trying to blame society or someone else. 


Thanks (0)