Dress Code part 1: Are You Modified?

Body modification: the deliberate altering of the human body for aesthetic or non-medical purposeThat is the definition from wikipedia, other sources very slightly but are fundamentally the same, the only word deliberated over is ‘permanent‘. When we think of body modification I bet most of us think firstly of body piercing, perhaps tattoos. How about plastic surgery? Circumcision? These are other permanent modifications, yet hair dye, make-up, fake tan are all modifications too just temporary. Where do clothes, accessories and jewelry fit into this? They are all aspects of changing our bodies in some way or another.

What’s with all the deep thoughts on a Sunday I guess you are wondering. Well a few things have got me thinking about this lately, mostly watching repeats of Miami Ink, London Ink and all the other types of Ink on TV whilst I have been stuck at home ill. But also a few things in the headlines.

Rick Genest walks for Mugler

The appearance of Rick Genest aka Zombie Boy on the runway and in the ad campaign for Mugler caused a huge stir up. Rick’s entire body is covered in tattoo to make him look like a zombie. He says he has had trouble finding a steady job due to his appearance.
Then there was the case of sales assistant Melanie Stark who felt she was forced to resign from her Job at Harrods when after 4 years of her working there the company decided to enforce their ladies dress code. The code requires female employees to wear full make-up.

It reminds me of when I worked at a Supermarket on checkout whilst I was at Uni doing my undergrad degree. We got a new manager who sent around an update to our contracts we had to agree to uphold and sign. Amongst things like wearing full uniform and abiding by health and safety regulations were rules that all long hair must be tied back and all visible tattoos were to be concealed with plasters (band-aids). I told the supervisor that I would not sign it and wanted an explanation for those rules in particular. Apparently our hair was to be tied back for health and safety, to prevent it getting caught in the till conveyer belt, I never did get an explanation for the tattoos. I never did sign that agreement nor did I comply with it, I said I would prefer to leave and nothing was ever said about it again. If I had been given it to sign at the start of working there I probably would have complied as I wanted the job and to be honest it wasn’t really a big deal. The thing that grated with me however, was that I had been doing that job perfectly well before hand so how could altering my appearance improve my working ability. (In case you were wondering – we tested this – the only way to get your hair caught in the conveyer belt is if you lay with your head on the thing).

What gets me is why is everybody so hung up on controlling the appearance of others?

I was getting coffee at a service station the other day and the girl serving me had an entire arm of blue plasters, you could see a tiny part of her tattoo poking out (they probably ran out of plasters). Would my coffee have tasted bad if her tattoo had been on display? Would she have been unable to do her job? Of course not so why make her look ridiculous trying to conceal it with plasters.

The rarely seen three tattoos on my thigh, I originally intended them to make up a bigger design yet haven’t quite got around to that
(excuse the PJ’s and Snuggie like I said Ive been sick)

I know some people don’t like tattoos, fair enough but you know what I don’t like Croc’s shoes, yet that doesn’t give me the right to prevent people wearing them. I really like tattoos so maybe I am biased? Well I would never have facial piercings, but each to their own if people want to have them. It makes no difference to me and it certainly doesn’t offend me, I just choose not to have them. How is an eyebrow piercing really different to ear piercing any how?
I have my ears pierced, 3 times in fact not that I ever really wear earrings these days. I also had my tongue pierced for a couple of years.
People often ask why I had my tongue pierced and why I got tattoos – I have 6, but I never really have an answer. There wasn’t a specific reason, just like there isn’t a specific reason why I have my hair in this style or wear certain clothes. They are just things I like and I guess are an extension of myself.
Most people don’t even notice I have tattoos, I had them all in places which are usually covered up. I just had them where I wanted them, I never felt the need to have them ‘on show’ all the time, yet neither was it a conscious decision to have them hidden. I often forget they are there. One time on a work trip to Egypt I shocked a fair few colleagues when they saw me in swim wear. One said ‘Ohh I would never have guess you were like that’, like what exactly I am not entirely sure.
I liked having my tongue piercing at the time, I liked buying pretty body jewellery and would wear a silver bar with either a pink or green jewel on the ball. I decided to take it out one day, I guess for no more of a reason than I had on the day I had it done.These are just some of my thoughts, but I guess my biggest wonder is why people waste their lives getting wound up about things that don’t really matter at all.
It is beyond me how anybody could be offended by another’s appearance,

29 thoughts on “Dress Code part 1: Are You Modified?

  1. Very interesting Pearl! Tattoos are so commonplace now that I think I know fewer people without tattoos that those with. Of course tattoos don't affect how people do their job but in more conservative industries I can understand that showing them at work or wearing non conventional facial piercings would be either unwise or banned. In corporate environments the company wants to project a certain professional image that those kind of appearance modifications don't gel with, and that's fair enough. I do think that if you are going to have a tattoo, piercing etc… then people whether right or wrong (including a company's clients) are always going to judge you on your choice – as humans we judge people on their appearance. While I'm au fait with most tattoos, I do question the sanity of someone who goes to the extreme of permanently making himself look like a zombie, maybe I'm just getting old but it smacks of body dysmorphism and an unhealthy obsession with death to me. I'm not surprised zombie man can't hold down a steady job, he probably scares the crap out of his interviewers and apart from perhaps the entertainment industry, he has limited himself to the types of jobs he could be put infront of clients for. Would you put the guy infront of toddlers? Incidently I read somewhere once that a research project showed the surprising result that children tend to view people bearing tattoos as more likely to be criminals.

  2. Because I like the way it looks. That is the reason I had my nose stud. That's the reason for my tattoo. Likewise for the clothes I wear and how I style my hair. It's because I like it and I think this is all the reason needed.
    Great post.

  3. @Veshoevius – hmmm I think you are onto something there, if we employ Zombie boys as headteachers maybe the kids will actually behave 😉

  4. I personally think it's about association and generalisations that people make as well as their prejudices. I have to hold my hand up here and confess I associate tatoos with a slovenly appearance but of course I know in actual fact that it isn't true at all. I would go further and say that tattoos and body piercing have a darker association with drugs and crime that is deep enough in the social psyche it makes them afraid, understandably. It's changing slowly.

    In terms of make up and hair, you can't get away from the fact that certains jobs and professions where image is a lot more important than others and I'm not just talking about the corporate world. I mean in the humble supermarket, as a consumer I expect to see neat and tidy staff because to me that = cleanliness, although they may not in fact be shower fresh, no matter, at least they look like they are!
    In the case of places like Harrods, I do understand both points of views because on the one hand the store is projecting an image of beauty and to a certain extent, exclusivity and the woman feels she has the right just to be herself. We all know about going the extra mile at work, whatever it may be and whereas for some, wearing make is a matter of course, for this owman it obviously wasn't and she was unwilling to compromise.
    The same with the skirts only dress code for women in certain professions – I mean, how absurd is that? Fairly recently a woman was sacked for aledgedly dressing too 'sexily' in the corporate world. She, the individual, lost out to mass generalisation, associations and prejeudice.
    A couple of generations ago I don't think your tattoos would have been tolerated in Academia.

  5. Times are definitely a-changing. Tattoes are mainstream these days and even the Police have relaxed their recruitment procedures, in the past visible tats weren't allowed but nowadays they are.
    I agree with the others, although we shouldn't judge people on their appearances we do. Around here facial tattoes, love and hate knuckle tattoes and "cut-here" inked across the neck are fairly commonplace. I'm not narrow minded but even to me this makes the person look aggressive and threatening. I can't imagine that a job as a civil servant, school teacher or authority figure would be suitable for a person who chooses to make such a strong statement.
    Working in the corporate sector for many years meant I did have to compromise my appearance for work. My hair was always up, my nails were unpainted and I didn't wear a nose ring. I've made up for it now I'm self employed. x

  6. Totally agree. As a piercing apprentice my tattoos and piercings don't in anyway affect my job (if anything they advertise it!) But I have worked in places where I have been asked to dye my hair to a more demure colour and to hide all modification. Or even ones where there is a limit to the amount you may have on show.
    Personally, I'd prefer to see someones tattoos – besides it looks a lot more unprofessional having plasters stuck all over you, and more of a health hazard than if it were just bare skin!

    Ps; rick genest is my personal hero. Just goes to show that creativity can spread to using your skin as a canvas. Plus he's bloody beautiful!

  7. Brilliant post pearl – I'm sick of having to try and explain to other why i have so many piercings (11) when its really not important. I dont think i look heavily piereced and all my tattoos(5) are discreet.Now i am looking ofr work i understand i may be asked to remove them but the thought of taking my piercings out really upsets me. I'm not sure why it gets to me so much but I will avoid it at all cost i feel like this is me and i dont want to be changed. :[ XXX

  8. Interesting post with lots of insights. Sadly, many people believe society should dictate how individuals look and they don't feel inhibited about enforcing cultural norms. I learned this when I was 20 years old and pierced my ear. Back then (in 1978), that wasn't common like it is today and my earring attracted a stream of negative comments. Like you, I wondered what gave people the right to criticize me.

    In response to your recent comment, I highly recommend Cafe Press, the website that allows us to print our photos on t-shirts, coffee mugs, cards, etc. I use them often and love the quality, low price and ability to craft something you won't find in the mall. I started an imaginary club (Mad Dog Motorcycle Club) with a cute logo of a dog wearing goggles! I designed the logo myself and gave mugs, etc. to all my friends.

  9. I don't have tattoos — as you can probably tell from the amount of clothes I buy I like to change things up frequently and I get bored with looking at things a little easily. I've just never seen a tattoo that made me think "oh I want to have that on my body for the rest of my life". If I did have tattoos I'd do a huge torso wrap as tribal belly dancers do — look up Zoe Jakes or Rachel Brice or Jill Parker to see what their awesome tattoos look like.

    In the US, face tattoos are gang signifiers. Some of the Latino gangs put them on recruits against their will. So you've got to look at what that might be saying to other people, if you do it. Especially words on your face. Full sleeves used to be referred to as "prison tattoos", but now they've diffused out into the culture and are more acceptable. I know quite a few people here in conservative Charlotte who have full sleeve tattoos and are employed, but mainly they're in service industry jobs where being a little arty (high-end stylist, chef, bartender) is valued.

  10. I remember once a boss called me into her office about my hair (which I'd just had done pillar box red) – actually just to ask what brand it was because she liked the colour!

  11. I don't understand why people get so wound up about others either.

    I love tats, I have eight, yours is cute!

  12. It's a really interesting topics. I'd like to say that I think things are changing slowly but I don't think tattoos & piercings are quite mainstream just yet. Hopefully with time 🙂

    I have a couple of additional ear piercings but no tattoos. I love them on other people but I've never found a design or style that appealed to me enough to want to have it permanently inked onto my body.

    The plasters thing is just weird. I'd far rather look at a nice tattoo then a mess of plasters!

  13. This is an incredible, extremely interesting post. I completely agree with all your points.
    Thank you so much for following me! I have done the same. <3


  14. It'd bother me more to see somebody covered in band-aids than in tattoos! OK, I have a tattoo myself too, so, in a way I can't be objective! :)) I can understand when something is forbidden in corporate environment. I can. But I think it's totally stupid to ask a guy to remove his ear piercing and let his manager have a tongue piercing. (Real life story, it happened in my company, and I still can't believe that!)
    For many years my tattoo was covered but the moment I cut my hair it suddenly got on the permanent display. I never intended it to be but I have no regrets. 🙂 It's my signature and I love that it still sometimes surprises people who have known me for ages. And as a surplus note to the ambivalence of my company – I haven't been asked to hide my tattoo as I don't deal with clients in my field of work.

  15. I have tattoos on my legs and back and arms, most of which are easily visible if I wear a skirt or a sleeveless dress/top. Unfortunately, at the moment, I am attending a fairly conservative school where I student teach undergraduates and am also (as I graduate next year) embarking on a search for a full time job. As such, I've thought it prudent to cover my tattoos (I wear opaque tights with dress and skirts and actually edit them out of my blog photos) until I become established somewhere. I LOVE my tattoos and I really want to be able to show each and every one of them off (and I don't deny having them, I just don't advertise it either) but I just don't feel like I'm at a point in my career where I can safely do so which is sad because they don't affect my academic performance in any way.

    xoxo ~ Courtney

  16. I only have my ears pierced and don't ever wear earrings. Personally tattoos are not for me, all my friends have them & my best pal is an amazing tattoo artist. I guess I just could never think of something I would want done… xx

  17. Great post I have gotten a lot of flack for my tattoos because I am a so called "Christian" and I wear the mark of the beast :O I have been told this often ~I just laugh at this though and I totally agree people worry about the wrong things!! The upper part of my arms are covered in tattoos and I love them they are mostly birds as I love birds…but they are also symbolic of all the places I have been so blessed to live at …not the mark of the beast or Satan at all!! I am not a legalistic Christian as I am sure you have seen from my blog. I will say though although tattoos are very common place especially here in California where I live they are still not commonly accepted by people I still think we have a ways to go with that yet! ~This is exactly why I love your fashion style and your blog ~You get it!! You have to be true to you ~Love Heather

  18. I am so with you on this.

    I never understood why people can't just accept others for who they are, and how they like to look and dress.

    It's a major problem back from where I was born and was one of the reasons why I migrated as well.

    I love your tattoos, and have always been a big fan of tattoo art. It's beautiful to me. 🙂

    The Cat Hag

  19. It is interesting to think about all the modifications we do to ourselves. On top of some of the basic ones like tattoos and piercings-what about shaving our legs, plucing our eyebrows, curling our eyelashes and painting our fingernails and toenails? We change our bodies everyday and don't think a thing about it!

  20. I love this post! Thanks so much! I think you just summed up what I've been thinking for a long time. Like you, I don't even think that much of my tattoos. I don't regret getting any of them at all and most people often assume that sooner or later I will. I've never encountered a place where they asked tatts to be covered up but yeah, it's more weird to see people walking around with a bunch of band-aids rather than tatts, I think. 🙂 ps. I HATE crocs too! xx Thanks for the comment!


  21. great post with many good points raised.

    i guess with certain establishments like harrods, one would expect a certain level of appearance of it's staff since it's a luxury retailer. if you apply for a job there, then you would be expected to adhere to a certain beauty regime.

    as for other employers, i think they should also have the right to alter the dress code of their employees to project a certain image.

    i mean some establishments have staff dressed so badly that you just aren't enticed to purchase anything from the place.

    all in all, if one is ready to work for someone else, then expect to be told what to do and that includes what you wear while at work.

  22. Hi Pear.. at last I am finding sometime to catchup with my blog roll ..
    I loved this post.. I have always been modified by choice. Beginning with Hair and piercings at 13..I had more piercings but have removed most and now have just ears and nose. I have been considering having a small tattoo recently although not really thinking about everyones opinion I was not telling anyone as I did not want them to talk me out of it.. I cannot believe that the workplace still has these issues today..
    I am still considering it.. I actually wanted it in a paler colour than black and they say it will bleed or that I really only want a henna.. which is not the case.. so I am going to a different ink place now that takes me seriously.. Just cos I am a slightly posh bird does not mean I am not serious about getting inked..I just want it to suit my skin tone. Irish Origin.. and getting old .. giggle..
    As I said love this post xx

  23. very interesting post!
    I love tattoos and similar stuff and I'm lucky enough to work in the creative field where it's ok to be "different" from the mass…but unfortunately for other people could be hard matching job and tattoos..

  24. Somehow, these questions of personal taste can never be policed though people try.

    I do agree with Veshoevius–in professional settings, it should be one's expertise, not their appearance, that matters. Appearance should not distract.

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