I’m stealing this topic from Bob Borson at Life of an Architect – tattoos and the profession

The question being raised here is “do tattoos make someone appear less professional as a potential intern/architect?”



view of my left sleeve. line work goes all the way to about 1 inch above my wrist.

In my experience the short answer is NO. Which is as it should be. If we learned nothing from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. it should be that we are to judge people by the content of their character and not by the color, or decoration, of their skin. But unfortunately there is still an entire generation of America still in charge of business that remember the 60s and 70s rebellion from “normal” society and so this question of the appropriateness of tattoos still comes up.

Here are my comments from Bob’s original post:

I have a full sleeve on my left arm that is in process. That is, I have the outline and just need the color (read “money”) to finish. I plan on crafting the right arm with a full sleeve as well. Then I’ll connect everything across my back and chest. I even have a piece chosen for my rib cage.

I like the comment below that:
“architecture = art
tattoos = art
architect with tattoos = perfection”

As a professional practicing intern architect living in Florida, long sleeves are just not possible or healthy 11 months out of the year. So I wear a lot of polos. I’ve had tattoos on my forearms since I was about 24-ish, so I’ve always had tattoos in view. Never once, to my knowledge, has it had an effect on my career. Oh, did I mention both ears are pierced with 12 gauge steel hoops?

On this topic I’ve even gone so far as to ask others, colleagues and peers, if the tattoos and piercings matter or change their opinion of me. The answer most often is “oh, you’re ears are pierced…didn’t even notice”. The tattoos similarly are more cause for conversation about meaning and intent rather than “what biker gang are you in”. Yeah, that comment below kinda got under my skin. This isn’t the 1950s, nor are we in Easy Rider. Though, Peter Fonda was awesome in that movie.

The assertion that perception is reality, while true, is also constantly changing. It not only changes from one generation to the next, but even day to day. If a client decides to fire me because of my tattoos when he/she has already been impressed enough with my work to sign a contract, this is not the kind of client I want to continue working with as this attitude shows much LESS professionalism than I would tolerate.

Lastly, Bob, you make a great point that circumstance has much more to do with it. If I’m covered in tattoos and show up for work wearing ripped jeans, a band t-shirt and spiked hair…yeah, not so professional. But, if I comb my hair and put on slacks and a button down shirt, and even with sleeves rolled up I bet you wouldn’t even notice the tattoos and piercings.



view of most of my left arm. when finished it will have almost all the colors in the rainbow.

As we move further into the 21st Century, I believe my generation and the one coming up after me are less concerned with the outward appearance of others and much more concerned with the content of their character. While this may never be 100% true, I would like to think that the definition of “professional” is much farther reaching than Brooks Brothers. Anyone can be made to look the part. It’s something much different to play the part as well.


Lisa Saldivar