Can Architects Have Tattoos?

It takes a long time to qualify as an architect, so it’s good to make sure that body art won’t impact your career. After spending 7 years qualifying to be an architect, it would be annoying if your tattoos stopped you from getting a job.

In general, having tattoos as an architect is not an issue. Some cultures, such as Asia and the Middle East, have a more conservative attitude towards body art – but in the West, tattoos are widely accepted in the architecture community.

There are several reasons why people might have a problem with tattoos, but there is no reason why body art should hold you back in your career. The following article discusses why some people think negatively about tattoos and where having a tattoo might be a problem. We will also explore what you can do if you’ve got tattoos or if you’re thinking about getting one.

The Research

Tattoos Don’t Affect Job Prospects

A 2018 study published in Human Relations asked over 2,000 people across the US about their tattoos, earnings, wages, employment, and a range of other factors about their lifestyle. The results showed that having a tattoo was unlikely to negatively affect a person’s job prospects for any profession. On top of this, the researchers stated that the number of tattoos and their location also didn’t matter. 

Tattoos Are Increasing In Popularity

Tattoos are increasing in popularity year by year, especially among younger generations. According to a 2015 Harris Poll, 27% of the general population and 47% of millennials in the US have at least one tattoo. This was an increase of 21% over 4 years, and it is a trend set to continue.

This trend is reflected across Europe, with 30% of 25-39 year-olds in the UK having at least one tattoo. These trends show us that what used to be a subculture is now very much in the mainstream. With body art lovers, including high-profile celebrities and sports stars, tattoos are no longer shocking to the general public and, therefore, very unlikely to affect your job prospects!

Why Do Some People Think Negatively About Tattoos?

It’s much more likely that your parents will have a problem with your ink than any future employers.

People’s opinions of body art are continually improving. However, for the older generations, it is still sometimes viewed as unusual or unprofessional.

Until relatively recently, tattooing was an underground subculture. 30 years ago, body art was most commonly associated with motorcycle gangs, prisoners, and fishermen. In the 1980’s it was unusual for office workers to have tattoos. As a result, the people who grew up during this time are more likely to have outdated views about tattoos.

Tattoos and Creativity

Some people might not like tattoos, but in this situation, the only opinion that matters is the person interviewing you for the job. Architecture is a creative industry, and a person’s tattoos are an expression of their creativity.

An architect isn’t like a lawyer – they may work in an office, but that’s where the similarities end. I don’t know a single architect that wears a suit to work, and in most of the offices I have worked in, casual clothes are the norm.

Architecture is a job that requires professionalism, but how you look has very little to do with this. Being a good architect is about how you act – having tattoos has nothing to do with this.

Location of the Tattoo

If you are still nervous that getting a tattoo could affect your job prospects, you could consider getting it in a more discreet location.

Unless your ink is on your hands, neck, or face – there is no way your prospective employer would even know – and they certainly don’t have the right to ask you!

If Your Tattoos Are a Problem, They Don’t Deserve You

If, in the future, you got turned down for a job because of your tattoos, I would say that you dodged a bullet. If an employer can’t accept you for who you are, what other problems will they have?

As a general rule, the more creative the architecture office is, the more accepting of your tattoos they will be. The places that might have a problem with your ink are more likely to be very corporate (and, in my opinion, very dull).

Having a tattoo doesn’t affect how good you are at your job and how hard you will work. Those decisions should be based on your experience, your qualifications, and you as a person – not based on how you look. If they don’t like your tattoos – screw them!

I have heard that an employer is much more likely to turn an applicant down if they have a spelling mistake on their CV or a messy portfolio.

What Countries Are Tattoos Not Okay?

Some countries are less accepting of people having tattoos, most notably in Asia and the Middle East. In Japan, for example, tattoos are associated with organized crime, and people with body art will be refused entry from some places such as bathhouses.

These rules are becoming more relaxed over time, and places are often more lenient towards Westerners. The situation is similar in Vietnam, Korea, and China.

The state of affairs is slightly more severe in Iran, where government officials have openly stated that they are opposed to tattooing. Turkey’s situation is similar, where a top religious body within the country has requested all Muslims to have their tattoos surgically removed.

If you plan to work in either of these countries, getting a tattoo is something you should think very carefully about. It could easily affect your day to day life, not just your job.

Are Tattoos A Fad?

There is no doubt that tattoos are more popular now than they have ever been. But is this a trend that will go out of fashion? A quick look at the history of tattooing shows that body art is likely to be here for a long time to come.

Tattooing is a big part of the Polynesian way of life and has been a part of this culture for thousands of years. The word tattoo is even thought to be derived from Polynesian and Tahitian languages.

In 1991, mummified remains were found of a human who was over 5000 years old – on his body, 57 tattoos were covering him from head to toe.

This isn’t a mullet haircut or flared trousers; tattoos have been part of human culture for thousands of years and will continue to be for years to come!

Don’t Worry About It

The research suggests that getting a tattoo will almost certainly have no effect on your chances of getting a job in architecture, especially in the West. As time moves on, tattoos are becoming more common, and people’s views towards them are becoming more accepting across the world.

Suppose you are moving to a new and unfamiliar country. In that case, it’s always a good idea to do your research beforehand to check how your body art may be perceived.

If you don’t get the job because of your tattoos, I think that it’s a good thing because I can guarantee they would be horrible to work for!

Don’t forget – architecture is a creative profession, and tattoos are an expression of your creativity. If you’ve got a great portfolio, you’ve got nothing to worry about.


Matt created Low Key Architecture as a place to share everything he learnt at architecture school and in the workplace. He has a master's degree in architecture and has worked around the world.

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