Of course, my music tastes, fondness for the color black, and love of knee-high boots during my off-hours probably don’t help my case, but I find it startling how much prejudice I tend to see in the instant which people realize that I’m not the preppy, unmarked individual that they see standing behind the counter. Have we not come past this point yet? Are we not at a crossroads in which people are allowed to self-express without any judgment, hate, or prejudice?
When it comes to the service industry—retail, food and beverage, et cetera—the general public has certain expectations when it comes to your appearance. Don’t put funny colors in your hair, don’t have a face full of piercings, don’t have your body marked to the high heavens. Of course, this is relative to the company you’re working for…for example, if you work for Hot Topic, these rules don’t apply to you. However, the mainstream service industry holds its employees to a certain expectation.
I myself am a retail store manager. I have been for many, many years…too many, if you ask me! I have found that specialty retailers, ones that would allow you to carry on a certain level of self expression in your appearance, generally don’t pay as well as the larger, more generalized retailers. And, let’s face it, when you have a family of six to feed, you tend to follow the money. I am currently working for a retailer, who shall remain unnamed, that targets a certain type of clientele (both in age and style)—a clientele which generally tends to frown upon ‘wilder’ appearances.
Over the years, I have learned to keep my penchant for tattoos hidden away from my employers. I’ve tamed the colored hair (keeping to a few small streaks below my top layer so that they only play peekaboo now and then) and, other than two small (very small) tattoos on my hand and wrist, I’ve managed to keep my collection of ink in areas that wouldn’t show while I’m at work. But, there’s one thing that I’ve noticed in doing this… how fast peoples’ opinions can change when they find out that I’m fairly heavily inked (and with what) below the neckline.
While I try to keep my ink hidden away from the grumpy customers with their own opinions of what service industry workers should look like, I don’t hide it from my employees. I mean, on top of adoring tattoos myself, my other half is a tattoo artist, so the topic always comes up at some point. While I’m standing there in my skinny jeans, riding boots, and plaid shirt (work attire, I promise you!), I can see their expressions change as I explain the number of tattoos hiding below my preppy clothing. Their eyes tend to widen as I show off photos of my buttocks-to-knee Medusa tattoo, with her intricate detailing and realistic appearance. The moment I say that I have six decent sized pieces hidden away, suddenly, I’m looked at as a bad girl.
One can only hope…