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Tattoos and work

In the last decade, Britain’s high streets have changed. And it’s forever.

There has been a huge rise of tattoo shops, hairdressers and coffee shops; places that people need to visit.

Tattoo parlour numbers have nearly tripled in a decade, but there have also been big increases in convenience stores and gyms as the closure of video rental stores, travel agents and photo shops has ushered in a new breed of high street retailer.

New figures on the makeup of Britain’s town centres paint a picture of high streets that are increasingly social, as well as retail. Many have seen a big rise in the number of evening attractions such as restaurants, bars and clubs as the presence of traditional specialists selling clothes, flowers or even newspapers has waned.

“In recent years we’ve seen a significant shift in the makeup of the high street, which has clearly become a more social environment, with more restaurants and leisure facilities emerging up and down the country,” said Richard Jenkings, senior consultant at data firm Experian.

“At the same time, we have seen a clear expansion in the number of retailers where the customer actually needs to be there in person to enjoy the experience, such as cafés, health clubs and even tattooists.”

The number of tattoo parlours has surged 173% over the decade according to Experian, which tracks changes in 2,000 key retail locations around the country.

Curly Moore, a veteran tattoo artist based at Lionel’s Tattoo Studios in Oxford, has watched the number of local parlours increase from just two to 13 in the last six or seven years.

“It’s insane,” he said of the expansion. “Generally speaking tattoos have become more popular. It’s not as shocking as it once was and unfortunately it has lost a bit of its edge.”

So the tattoo world is flourishing. Once the preserve of the forces and convicts, tattoos have become fashionable and acceptable. But how acceptable in the workplace?

Giles Cooper, 44, owns three tattoo parlours, Inkedbournemouth, on the south coast. He started off a chain of barber shops and diversified into tattoos. He says: “I had some spare space and felt tattoos would cross-pollinate well, so I started them 18 months ago.”

Giles says the image of tattoos has changed dramatically in the past decade, particularly due to the popularity of tattoos among professional footballers. He says that his favourite style of tattoo is Japanese art; “Tattoos are improving on a weekly, almost daily basis, as tattoo artists  challenge each other and themselves. It’s all about health and image now, 3D artwork is getting big, as are piercings, which are incredibly popular in Europe.”

Hans is one of a new generation of tattoo artists. Giles says: “Hans was a classical artist who has transferred his skills to a new canvas; skin.” I met Hans, who is tattooing a customer, who has ink over most of his body, including (it has to be said) some tasteful ones ones on his neck.

I ask him if he thinks his very visible tattoos might be a drawback when looking for work and he says: “Probably, that’s why I’m self-employed but I think it might be possible to get a job with a young company.”

I ask Hans if he thinks it is fair to tattoo someone’s face, a decision they might live to regret for professional and personal reasons. Hans says that if feels a tattoo is not right or inappropriate for someone, he won’t hesitate to turn them away, but accepts they will probably just get one somewhere else.

Whatever your views on tattoos in the workplace, they are here to stay and you might be surprised to learn how many of your colleagues are tattooed.



Nigel Phillips

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