In the year 2016, many frustrated millennials are questioning whether they stand a chance in the quagmire of the current job market; sighing, with fists clenched, remembering a time their parents flipped when they came home with their ears pierced. They may be asking themselves: am I, and all my pierced and tattooed friends, cursed to a life of poverty and misery? With a ready heart, I set out to answer this pressing question: Will people really not hire you because of body modification?

body modifications piercing
Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Potential Employers

While interviewing for new positions, does body modification affect the final decision? I met with different professionals, with hiring power, from varying sectors of industry, hoping to discover where opportunity lay.

Joe from Sales: “To be honest I probably would not even notice, unless it is way out of the boundaries of ‘normal.’ Ultimately that is going to affect our company. The way clients see us. I might also wonder about their personal situation: Do they have a complex? Will this hinder their ability to function under pressure? I take all of these points into consideration when I’m hiring.”

Hospitality Melanie: “If you’re going to be working in one of my hotels or restaurants, your look is going to impact the customer experience. We want our guests to feel comfortable. For some, heavy modifications are still frightening. In my establishments, we have a very strict dress codes and we do hire based on that. We may hire you for the kitchen staff. We most likely will not hire for any positions requiring customer interaction, until mainstream attitudes change completely.”

body modification
Stock Image from Pexel.

Media Frank: “I could welcome a heavily modified artist as a really expressive person! I would be quite keen to take them on board! To me, talent and work ethic is what matters. Of course, in other media fields, like news anchoring or journalism, looks can matter. Sometimes, you just have to be cookie cutter and ‘presentable.’ Behind the scenes though, I see no reason why body modification should make any difference.”

Computer Technology Mark: “It is the policy of our company that we do not discriminate based on lifestyle. How you choose to express yourself does not concern us, so long as you do a good job. This goes for upper level positions as well. You will see people working in our company from all walks of life. Anyone with the right qualifications, talent, and work ethic is welcome to work with us. As it should be.”

Department Store Marie: “We do have a dress code employees are meant to abide by, but we aren’t very strict with it. Mainly because no one wants to work in retail anymore and with so many modified people, you just can’t avoid it. Admittedly, those with extreme body modifications or face/neck tattoos would probably be hired in a ‘back of house’ position like on the dock, security, or in the cash office counting money and balancing the safe.”

All industry has a place for those into body modification; that’s the good news. The bad news is that obvious modification choices may hinder your ability to rise to corporate levels. It’s not impossible, but depending on the company you are applying to, you may have to put in the extra effort to even be considered for more senior positions.

However, when asked if any of the interviewed employing professionals felt body modifications were any grounds for termination, they unanimously said no. So long as rules have been made clear from the beginning. They may certainly request any removal of piercings, or that you cover tattoos. However, it would be completely unethical to fire a good worker on the basis of body modification, with the exception of the health and safety risks in the workplace.

star barista body modification
Credit: Dennis Tang.

Still, it happens. Jennifer, a barista in a chain of popular coffee shops, recounts her experience:

“I told them when they hired me that body modification was part of my lifestyle, and they agreed with it. However, after a sudden change in management, I was suddenly faced with an ultimatum: remove your septum and labret piercings, or face termination. I stood my ground: my lifestyle, my choice. They let me go, but I don’t regret a thing. I have had no trouble finding work since and it was worth it to me to stand up for my integrity and identity.”

The Professional

Integrity and identity are key to those who adopt the body modification lifestyle. For that reason, many out there are not too keen on hiding their true nature to suit a corporation. Hell, some of us just want to live a life free for total self-expression.

 Russ Foxx body modification
Pictured: artist Russ Foxx image (c) Jason Tam

I met with Canadian Russ Foxx to ask what he felt was the case for the modified job seekers of the world:

“The way I see it, voluntary body modifications don’t keep one from getting work. Sure, it can be safely expected that looking different may draw attention from potential employers in unwanted ways, but a well-executed interview backed with solid skills will speak volumes. Respectfully, there’s still the other side of the coin: If your piercings, tattoos or modifications are going to hinder that specific business from achieving its goals/making money, or if your modifications pose a health risk to you or those around you that business has every right to deny you employment. In certain cases you may be able to negotiate covering tattoos or mods or temporarily removing piercings while on the clock.

And of the challenges he faced, Foxx admits it has always been a challenge to stick to one gig: “I started body piercing in ’01, but have worked many trades and customer service jobs over the years as well as climbing the corporate ladder. I love learning and evolving, so I don’t tend to sit still much!”

Now, Foxx stands as the director of The RISE Suspension Crew in Vancouver, BC, as well as achieving fame in his career of next level body art & modification.

Russ Foxx image body modification
Russ Foxx image (c) Dan Henderson

Becoming a Professional Body Modifier

Foxx works as a professional body modifier, a decent and common career choice for many who have chosen a modified lifestyle. However, one point should be made clear is that the world of body modification must not be entered to emulate someone else’s craft. To be a body modification artist, like any serious trade, takes incredible sacrifice, hard work, and an understanding that the lifestyle could put you (or your clients) on the fringes of society. It is a commitment that requires rigorous training and apprenticeship, and you will be making decisions that are not to be taken lightly.

Anyone adopting body modification should be employing skilled professionals, who understand not just the ramifications of their work, but also the proper and hygienic ways to execute them, is crucial.

Ethics of Body Modification

Russ Foxx image body modification
Russ Foxx image (c) Wolfgang Wilmhoff

One of the common employment realms for the heavily modified is tattoo artistry.  I ask Ben Bramzell of Legacy Tattoos on the ethics of his trade:

“If someone walks in for the first time and asks for anything above the collar or below the cuff, I won’t agree,” states Ben. “In my opinion, tattoo collection is something gathered over time, as part of your journey. If you ask me to tattoo your face first, I will argue that you are not ready for that yet. However, if you’ve noticeably already embarked on your journey as a serious tattoo collector, I will respect that choice.”

Nevertheless, Ben urges all artists and collectors to respect the personal style and cultural tradition of various tattoos: “In Japanese tattoo tradition, the work should be done by the same artist, each time. Therefore, Japanese style tattoo ethics would dictate you should stick to the same artist for that sleeve or half-sleeve, for example.”

body modification Ben Bramzell Tattoos
Tiger Tattoo by Ben Bramzell Tattoos

Ultimately, there is little need to worry. There are plenty of options for today’s modified job seekers. Happy to impart this news to the world, I let out a sigh of relief. Where I feared a dismal conclusion, I found a rejuvenating belief in my fellow man. Amazed by their ability to forge through personal demons and reincarnate as powerful beings, pushing their physical forms to new limits; or simply the ability to see the humanity in all its potential forms. All you need is professionalism and drive in your heart, and nothing can stand in your way.

Header image courtesy of Talentosa Productions.

Danielle Gargour

Danielle Gargour

Anthropologist, writer, mother, filmmaker, musician, skater, polyglot, third-culture-kid. She's a renaissance woman and has seen some shit, man. Follow her on Instagram or on Facebook.
Danielle Gargour