Tattoos in fashion – has the industry finally accepted them?


Tattoos are becoming more and more popular within the fashion and beauty industry. There’s already a very niche market of modelling for tattooed models but we are seeing this slowly infiltrate the fashion and beauty industry without any repercussions. So, is the industry more accepting?

Tattoos were once a representation of a person’s class, the only people to get tattooed were soldiers, sailors and criminals. If tattoos were outside of your profession, they were widely unaccepted, especially if you were a woman, but we have come a long way since then. Tattoos have become something that represents a person, a display of creativity or artwork that is permanently inked onto them.

Regardless of how far we’ve come, in some professions, people are rejected from jobs because of their tattoos, and some are required to keep theirs covered at work to remain professional. Research by ScienceDaily in 2013 found that people with tattoos are less likely to be employed, depending on where their tattoos are, and employers worry that workers with visible tattoos may appear: “untidy” to customers. While the fashion and beauty industries, which are all about aesthetics, are accepting of tattoos, the research found that those who manage at hotels, banks, councils, prisons and universities are less accepting of them.

There is a different market for heavily tattooed models, while they are not limited to one area within modelling it can be harder for them to find work in big beauty or fashion campaigns. However, for tattooed girls like Lisa Jane Ralph, 24, a model, dancer and actress, the beauty industry is a place that: “enables models like myself to become chameleons” because of tattoo covering cosmetics.

While tattoos are a permanent body modification, there are tattoo-covering products like Dermablend’s concealer that was used in an advertising campaign with fully tattooed Rick Genest (aka Zombie Boy) who featured in Lady Gaga’s Born This Way music video.

Tattoo artist Kat Von D has also released a cosmetic line, including a concealer that claims to cover tattoos. The two can go hand in hand to further a models career as the products allow tattooed models to become a blank canvas with some precise application, Lisa says this is the: “best of both worlds.”

Kat Von D

If anything, this helps tattooed models like Lisa be more employable for a wider range of jobs as she can “be modified to fit individual job specifications.” Lisa goes on to explain how fashion, as an industry, has grown so much that it doesn’t just end at high fashion and couture: “tattoos are very much accepted within certain markets, you just have to be aware of your market.”

While designer Marc Jacobs is heavily tattooed, that doesn’t mean all designers and brands are. Tattoos divide opinions within fashion and beauty marketing, some steer away from them within their campaigns but Lisa believes if a designer doesn’t want to use tattoos in a campaign, “they are well within their rights to not like tattoos and to not hire models that have tattoos just as much as it is well within the models rights to get tattooed.”

It really is a debate based on opinion, especially one set within an industry that is all about aesthetics and where becoming well known is all about having a unique brand and an image that defines you. Lisa sees this as an opportunity to separate herself from the competition: “You just need to know what you want and as a model, you are your product so if you permanently modify your image, do it with conviction.” Lisa sees her tattoos as a reason to push herself further within the many areas of modelling that accept more diversity in the models they use.

Emy Claire Thomas, 25, was the winner of Miss Tattoo 2013 and is heavily tattooed, she is signed to Spirit Models and models part time. She says, “it’s a shame more designers don’t use tattooed models, a tattoo is something personal and that person should not miss out on opportunities or discriminated on having these.” Emy believes this is less of an issue now as the world is a more accepting place today and we can see this because of the increase in use of tattooed models in magazines and at catwalk shows.

The influence of celebrities becoming inked could be a large contributor towards tattoos becoming socially accepted. Celebrities like David Beckham, Rihanna and Miley Cyrus have several tattoos each and show no signs of stopping soon, whether this is a great influence on people to get tattoos is unknown. Emy believes: “celebrities who have got tattooed have sparked the tattoo industry and opened its doors to millions of more eyes.” However it can have a negative affect if people get a tattoo with the sole reason that their idol has the same one.


The modelling industry has become more accepting, and has no qualms using models with tattoos like Cara Delevingne and Lily Donaldson in their shows, but celebrities have been getting tattoos and piercings for years, only now they can share it with the world on social media.

Today, tattoos are more common, whether it be because of the rise of fashionable tattoos or a genuine love for ink. Lisa says society’s outlook on tattoos has changed, and it really has, we have grown to accept that individuals have the right to modify their appearances as they see fit.

Opinions are often split over more controversial and offensive tattoos and Lisa says that it is understandable for employers to want offensive words covered: “if it could be something that is perceived as offensive within a particular audience then cover it up. It’s not going anywhere; the art will still be there.”

Emy believes that if “tattoos do not affect your work or the image of your business” then there is no reason for them to be covered, adding that employers need to change with the times as approximately 20 million people in the UK have tattoos. When tattooed models are showing at catwalks, it can add something else to the outfit. Whether that be more personality or individuality, either way it often helps brands to get more coverage of their collection.

Fashion and beauty industries seem to have begun accepting the diversity of models today, they want them to be recognisable and unique on their catwalks, whether that is because of their talents or their appearance.

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