Do you ever hide a part of yourself away when you head into the workplace? It’s something many of us do every day.
Tattoos in the workplace can be a divisive topic.
I’ve been hiding a part of myself away for more than 20 years. Every weekday morning I get up, don a long-sleeve business shirt, and transform from the music-loving, football-watching obsessive I am after hours into the word-driven, client-focused Senior Content Writer I am for Hunt & Hawk.
There’s a reason I’ve never really given it much thought. I got my first tattoos in my late teens – long before I started working full-time.
“What are you going to do when you get a job?” my predictably dismayed mother exclaimed when she first saw them.
“I imagine I’ll wear a long-sleeve shirt,” I replied.
And that’s exactly what I’ve been doing for the past 20 years.
But recently I’ve started to wonder what my tattoos say about my personal story. I know what they mean to me, of course, but by hiding them away in the workplace, I wonder if I haven’t also been hiding away a part of my identity that many businesses genuinely encourage?
Note: I must point out that Hunt & Hawk is certainly open to my tattoos being displayed!
You can’t fake authenticity
I should start by pointing out that none of my tattoos are meant to have any profound sort of meaning. I didn’t get any of them on the back of some deep and meaningful spiritual quest.
I have punk tattoos.
Not cool tattoos. Nothing a tattoo artist spent hours hunched over their desk to painstakingly design.
I literally have the band logos of several of my favourite bands tattooed across my upper arms.
Why? Because I really like punk music.
And when I first discovered the 90s punk scene as a teenager, I loved the look of guys like Brett Gurewitz – the legendary Bad Religion guitarist and visionary founder of Epitaph Records – sporting tattoos of their favourite bands.
So I got a Pennywise tattoo as soon as I was old enough, and I’ve been rocking a poorly-executed version of Sick Of It All’s storied Alleyway Crew Dragon for more than half my life.
And as soon as I got a long-term office job after years of working as a freelance writer overseas, I felt an inextricable urge to go out and get more punk tattoos.
But what is punk?
Mention the word ‘punk’ and most people think of colourful mohawks and spiky jackets, but it’s never meant anything like that to me.
I was in my early teens when The Offspring released Smash and Green Day put out Dookie, and they were gateway records to bands I truly fell in love with; bands like Pennywise and Bad Religion and The Lawrence Arms.
I loved how intelligent and well-read many of these bands clearly were – both The Offspring and Bad Religion are fronted by PhD-holding academics, for what it’s worth, and The Lawrence Arms once released a concept album littered with references to Mikhail Bulgakov’s classic The Master and Margarita – and I slogged my way through a double-major degree at a highly academic university out of respect for my punk heroes.
But mostly, I just enjoyed the music.
When I started posting on a couple of Sydney-based online forums, I discovered a community of like-minded individuals who did the same. I started going to local shows – some of which attracted hundreds of fans – bought a used record player from Cash Converters I still listen to today, and started a vinyl collection that now includes dozens of rare and out-of-print records.
And I got tattooed along the way. Not because I thought it was cool or trendy or I was trying to fit in; I simply did it as a tribute to a genre of music that inspired me every day.
Tattoos in the Workplace – My Choice
More than 20 years after getting my first tattoo, I still listen to punk music to this day.
But I do lots of other things, too – things that reflect the fact that, somewhere along the way, I became unmistakably middle-aged.
I drink fancy wines. I stream popular TV shows. I still read the newspaper on weekends.
And I dedicate the better part of my weekdays towards helping a diverse portfolio of clients say what they want to say succinctly, successfully, and with impact.
I’ve never thought about bringing my tattoos into that relationship – although I wonder, now, what they say about my inner drive, my passion, and what fuels my creativity.
I wonder if, by hiding them away under the long sleeves of my business shirts, I’m not hiding something most businesses have long been searching for – authenticity.
But I’m not too worried about that.
My tattoos are for me, they’re for my wife, and on one occasion outside an A-League grand final, they were for the three pious Sydney FC fans who kneeled down and touched their fingertips to the Vanilla Muffins – The Drug Is Football tattoo on the back of my calf “for luck.” (It didn’t help… Sydney FC got smashed).
I once asked one of Brisbane’s premier tattoo artists if she would fix the dodgy linework on my now-ancient Alleyway Crew Dragon.
“Nope,” was her frank reply. “I’ll cover it up for you or I can re-do the whole thing, but I’m not fixing someone else’s mistakes.”
“If you’re prepared to get a bad tattoo, you should be prepared to live with a bad tattoo,” she added.
I liked that.
Sometimes our scars tell a hidden story. In my case, it’s the story of how I’ve always been prepared to wear my heart on my sleeves – even if, for work purposes, I usually choose to cover it up.
If you’re ever in need of a punk-loving Content Writer who knows all about being authentic, drop me a line at mi**@hu*********.com and let’s talk.