Rethink the ink


From an infinity symbol to Harry Potter Deathly Hallows, tattoos can reveal a person’s interests, history and personality. Tattoos are especially prevalent among Millennials (47%) compared to 36% of Gen Xers and 13% of Baby Boomers.1 With an increasing number of adults with tattoos permanent body art is becoming more accepted. Yet 31% of employers still rank “having a visible tattoo” as the top reason that would dissuade them from promoting an employee.2 But that may not matter to Millennials. In fact, the question is why do tattoos appeal to Millennials so much more than previous generations?

Express yourself

Millennials expect authenticity, and tattoos are a constant reminder of who they are; and with this generation, what you see is what you get. For this nostalgic generation tattoos are a way to create an identity. In a funny way, their bodies become a permanent way to represent oneself that can’t be simply deleted in the same way as an Instagram post.


The concept of community isn’t new, but Millennials – the generation known for their collegial nature – have used tattoos to represent their affiliation with specific subcultures. For instance, #Projectsemicolon is a movement dedicated to helping those who are struggling with mental illness. Those who participated – or just found solace in the movement – got small semicolon tattoos. Why? To quote the project: “A semicolon is used when an author could’ve ended a sentence but chose not to.” It is a reminder of one’s struggle with – and survival of – mental illness. #Projectsemicolon created a virtual community of support, understanding and shared experiences, and the members were linked by a tattoo.

Placement is key

In the workplace, tattoos are still somewhat taboo. In fact, 86% of students said they thought visible ink would make it tougher to find a job after graduation, and 89% considered the impact a tattoo’s placement would have on their career options.3 Clearly, Millennials are concerned, because 70% with tattoos say their ink is hidden beneath their clothing.4 But with many Gen Xers and older Millennials moving into leadership positions, tattoos could become the norm.

It’s clear that for Millennials, tattoos have taken on a different meaning. For them, tattoos are a source of individuality and, paradoxically, inclusion for a generation looking to be both unique and part of a peer community. As natural disruptors, Millennials have transformed tattoos — along with piercings, colorful hair and other appearance modifiers — from forbidden to fashionable.

1 Shannon-Missal, L. (2016, February 10). Tattoo takeover: Three in ten Americans have tattoos, and most don’t stop at just one.

2 CareerBuilder. (2011, June 29). Bad break, heavy cologne, and wrinkled clothes among factors that can make you less likely to get promoted, CareerBuilder study finds.

3 Foltz, K. (2014, December). The Millennial’s Perception of Tattoos: Self Expression or Business Faux Pas? College Student Journal, 48(4).

4 Pew Research Center. (2010, February 24). Millennials: Confident. Connected. Open to Change.

This information is prepared by an unrelated independent third party, BridgeWorks, and is provided for informational purposes only. Ivy Distributors, Inc., believes the information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but does not guarantee the accuracy of the information provided.

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