DUNCAN BARKES Body art does give employers the needle

Youth unemployment remains a major cause for concern in this country as teenagers leave education and search for jobs that simply do not exist.

Last week I interviewed a 16-year-old lad who is job hunting. A well-spoken, personable bloke, his efforts are wasted once a potential employer spots the tattoos on his hand.

It is not just chaps who sport tattoos. An increasing number of women sport various designs about their person, some discreet but others proudly displayed.

Joanna Southgate was one such woman. She attended Royal Ascot recently and made the national headlines. Ascot has tightened up its dress code this could year, and so some commentators were outraged that a blonde from Brixton managed to attend with several tattoos on display, revealed by her sleeveless red dress.

In response to those who found the artwork on her arms alarming, she said: “I can see why some people might think I’m just a tart from a council estate but my tattoos are incredibly personal and remind me of so many different parts of my childhood. I had my first tattoo at the age of 18 and I just became addicted.”

These comments are fascinating as they throw up many unanswered questions: Does she believe that a woman sporting tattoos is viewed as a tart? Once you have felt the prick of the tattooist’s needle, do you really become addicted? And are such markings deeply personal, or just an excuse given by those who feel they have to justify their body art?

Over the last few days I have been asking friends and colleagues for their thoughts on tattoos. Their responses have been interesting.

Some told me they thought they looked aggressive on a man and suggested a lower form of intelligence. However, a lady of my acquaintance told me she finds them quite a turn-on as she feels they are the markings of a ‘bad boy’.

Others I spoke to told me they thought tattoos represented ‘a certain kind of person’, while two of my colleagues confided they were toying with the idea of visiting a tattoo parlour but were worried about what others might say.

Further probing revealed that they wanted to do something rebellious.

A northern mate of mine told me that in the NW of England a tattoo on the lower back of a woman was commonly referred to as a ‘tramp stamp’ or in the extreme a ‘slag tag’.

Tattoos are clearly divisive and judging from those I spoke to it seems that many of us do indeed judge a book by its cover.

This may be considered shallow or unfair, but it is a reality. The 16-year-old job hunter I mentioned only has three small stars on his left hand, running from his wrist up to his thumb. He has been turned down for six jobs, all of which involved dealing face-to-face with customers in shops or restaurants.

His potential employers said customers would not like his tattoos. He thinks this is unfair. I think his scenario is something to consider before making a trip to a tattoo parlour.