Life&Style’s Hannah Shortis discusses whether having multiple facial piercings makes people less employable and changes society’s perception of them
When conducting research and considering my initial thoughts on this topic I felt the first person to ask would be my Mum, who is the Human Resources Director for a large company. I know she deals with issues on things like professional presentation and uniform on a regular basis. Quite simply, her answer to this question is exactly what most of us would think it would be: facial piercings aren’t viewed as acceptable in the workplace and therefore will make you less employable.
Many large employers, particularly where staff are dealing with the customers and required to wear uniforms, make it clear that facial piercings are not allowed. I feel that this opinion is outdated in our modern society, where difference is accepted and celebrated, so I aimed to understand how these opinions developed in the first place and on what basis these judgements were made.
A study was carried out in 2015 by a magazine company called ‘Real Men Real Style’ testing how participants rated images of women and men with facial piercings on attractiveness and intelligence. They found that some piercings were viewed as more attractive than others and this is supported by some companies listing that certain piercings are allowed, and others are not. A woman on a discussion board working for Boots said that her nose piercing was allowed, while eyebrow and lip piercings were described by her boss as being ‘unprofessional.’
Many people argue that piercings are unprofessional as they have negative connotations. If you are representing the face of a company and your appearance and facial piercings have negative connotations, this would lead to a negative perception of the company. One man on a discussion site argued that people typically link facial piercings with fast food restaurant workers and antisocial teenagers. However, I would completely disagree with this type of judgement as I believe this is old fashioned and narcissistic based on the ideas and values of previous generations.
As a society, we are surely past the point of seeing difference as unprofessional. In the 1930s it was viewed as unprofessional for women to be in the workplace, now over 70% of women in the UK between the ages of 16-64 are employed. Surely we can now agree that a small facial piercing does not imply something negative about the wearer, and by doing so we will further the acceptance of difference and equality in the workplace which we have worked so hard for.
Facial piercings are often viewed as showing a lack of care for personal appearance and a disregard for social rules and therefore social responsibilities. I would argue this links to the punk period in popular culture which was synonymous with facial piercings, tattoos and body modifications which were used to highlight difference and shock audiences. This may be why some businesses argue they do not allow facial piercings due to them ‘scaring customers.’ This is particularly prevalent in the retail side of the job market as companies feel it presents a brash and unsensitive image to buyers of their products or services.
Except this feels a very harsh, cruel conclusion for those with facial piercings. It almost says ‘hey, that metal on your face makes me think of crazy teens who were viewed as reckless drug addicts and associated with unwarranted violence so now I am just going to assume you are all those things too.’ Do we not have the ability as a society to challenge these preconceived norms which associate one thing with another?
It seems to me that the whole concept of facial piercings in the workplace has become a matter of preference of the employer, which does not create a fair and equal workplace. I personally believe that in 2018 we shouldn’t be judging employability based on the amount of metal someone has in their face but instead their ability to do the job they are employed for. We need to keep challenging these naïve and old-fashioned attitudes to a positive contemporary trend of individuality and self-expression.