o-professionalism

Recently, I heard of a rumor that my hometown public high school’s new principal wanted to add a rule enforcing only natural hair colors. No “crazy” blues, pinks or greens.

This rumor troubled me. I thought, why? I would understand if it were a strict Catholic high school, but this is a public school. The only answer I could come up with was that the new principal sees any sort of body modification as unnecessary and a distraction.

This restriction of body modification not only happens in schools, but in the workplace as well. Employers who do not allow employees to have “unnatural” hair color or visible tattoos and piercings most likely believe it to be a distraction as well, but this simply isn’t true. Prohibiting fun hair color, tattoos and piercings in the classroom or in the workforce is out-dated and wrong. 

Starbucks has a semi-loose dress code for employees. They do allow unnatural hair color, but have tightened scrutiny on facial jewelry. The only jewelry allowed is a small nose stud, no more than two earrings per ear and small earlobe gauges. Visible neck and face tattoos are not allowed. 

According to a study by the University of Texas-Arlington about how patients perceive nurses, piercings, tattoos and jewelry are distracting. Patients deemed nurses with tattoos and piercings to be less skilled and knowledgeable. Because of this, they encourage nurses to present themselves in a way that will appeal to patients who judge employers based on how they look. 

What needs to change is the predetermined perception that people have toward employees with body modifications, not the dress codes for employees. 

Not once have I heard of or known somebody who's been distracted during class because of someone’s hair color, piercings, tattoos, etc. Not once have I been distracted in class or at work because of some body modification someone has. I have also never once thought less of a service worker or decided they would not do well at their job because they have a fun hair color or tattoos. 

At first glance, my eyes may be drawn to a cotton-candy blue head, a bold full sleeve or a sparkling septum piercing. My admiration lasts for a few seconds, sometimes even alongside a compliment. But when it’s time to clock-in or begin class, my attention shifts and my eyes are glued to my work. 

It’s ridiculous to think that I won’t be paying attention to the lecture or notes or whatever it may be because someone has pink hair. Perhaps the older generation just isn’t used to people expressing themselves as much as we are, and they take it as a distraction when it’s a norm for us. 

Like I mentioned earlier, body and hair modifications are a way for people to express themselves. 

I have tattoos and piercings in places that aren’t visible to others, and I have them solely for the fact that I like them. Dying my hair black, getting tattoos and piercings that I like are ways that I express myself. It’s no different than when someone dyes their hair bright pink or has a septum piercing. Body modifications such as these are ways that people express their aesthetic, how they feel and how they want to present themselves. 

It’s 2021. Why are we still restricting job opportunities to perfectly professional and capable applicants because they have some metal in their face or ink in their arm? Why are we still telling middle schoolers and high schoolers how they can and can’t present themselves, in the most prevalent time when they are just figuring themselves out? 

A person’s outward appearance does not reflect their work ethic, competence, intelligence or whatever it may be. Let’s judge a little less and allow people to find happiness and respect from simply expressing who they are. 

Emerson McClure is a sophomore journalism and advertising & public relations major. Reach her at emersonmcclure@dailynebraskan.com.