Snapbacks, Vera Bradley bags and iPhones might be considered among the top trends for students today. But the one accessory students are rocking that isn’t always noticeable to the naked eye is tattoos.
Some students are adorned with sleeves, others with inconspicuous small designs. Tattoos have become mainstream to the point where they’re practically standard issue. Tattoos were considered to be taboo 20 years ago, but now, it’s almost rebellious not to get one.
Jacob T. Weber, a junior business major, has a tattoo on his back of a Celtic raven holding two coins in its talons with his grandfather’s initials.
“I got it because the raven symbolizes the bird that carries your spirit to heaven when you die,” Weber said. “And in ancient Greece [when you die], they [would] put two coins on your eyes to pay the gatekeeper to get into the afterlife.”
Kelly Connelly, a senior risk management and insurance major also has tattoos related to family members, with a portrait tattooed on her left thigh.
“It’s my tattoo for my dad,” Connelly said. “It has his portrait and a bunch of space stuff like Star Trek and Star Wars. It’s a lot of stuff that is important to him transferred onto me.”
Both Weber and Connelly’s tattoos have not affected their employment. They keep their ink mostly covered and, although Connelly has had to wear more sweatshirts than normal, she doesn’t regret her tattoo, and neither does Weber.
Professor Nick Peterson teaches honors English and literacy and society in the English department. He was 23 and 30 when he got his two tattoos, one of which is on his right arm and the other on his upper left arm.
“I got two Tarot cards. The first one I got is ‘The Fool,’ because the fool represents someone who is going out into the world. He’s also kind of naive and leaving the nest. It fit me pretty well in my situation,” Peterson said. He got the first one when he was just getting out of college.
“The other one is ‘The Hermit,’ which I got seven years later to pair up with the fool. The hermit represents gaining experience, and…stopping to reflect upon it. One goes out into the world, the other stops to reflect on the world,” he said.
Neither of his tattoos have affected his employment, he added.
Although tattoos are very common among students, there are those blank slates that don’t bear any. One such student is Veronica Hall, a sophomore theater major.
“Body art is a form of art, and treading the line is difficult between whether it’s self-expression or self-mutilation. It’s a subjective opinion,” Hall said.
Hall said she believes that if someone has a judgment or opinion about someone else’s tattoo, they should keep it to themselves because they’re not in the right place to judge.
Another student without any ink is Isabel Szelagowski, a sophomore theater major.
“I think that tattoos are a form of expression and I believe in expressing yourself in any way you want,” Szelagowski said. “So go ahead and do it. I think it’s beautiful.”
“I think they’re beautiful because they mean so much, even though it’s a little piece of art,” Szelagowski added. “But it’s art no matter what.”
For most people, getting a tattoo is a serious decision. Song lyrics, quotes and symbols can be meaningful tattoo options. But for people like Luke Staab, a freshman university studies major, not all tattoos have to be so serious.
“I was on senior week with my friends and they thought it would be funny if they paid for someone to get a dumb tattoo,” Staab said. “They wanted to do it on a visible part of the body, but I said I would get it on my butt. So I got the actual words ‘your name’ in cursive tattooed on my butt. I don’t regret it though because it’s a great pick-up line, like ‘Hey baby, I have your name tattooed on my a–.’”
Meghan Henry, a senior environmental studies major, has a tattoo of a star on her wrist that she strongly regrets.
“I got it because I was stupid and 16 years old. I regret getting it because I don’t like where it’s at and I don’t like what it is,” she said. “I didn’t think about it enough before I got it. It was an impulsive decision.”
Jackeline Vega, a career coach at the career center, said tattoos don’t always affect employment opportunities.
“I wouldn’t say a student with a tattoo [jeopardized his or her chance] of gaining employment. What I would say is in an interview, you should always be aware of first impressions and how that might affect the employer’s decision,” Vega said.
She said the most important thing when interviewing for a job is taking away all possible distractions, such as covering up tattoos and removing piercings. She also said that not all jobs care if employees have tattoos.
“If it’s a corporate position or if it’s in sales and you’re in front of customers then yes, absolutely [they would care],” Vega said. “It definitely depends on the environment you’re working in and the culture of the organization. Some companies are more lenient and are more open to it.”
The new norm or not, it seems this skin-deep accessory is here to stay.
Anna McAllister and Rebecca Zoll can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.