This article appeared in the first 2016/2017 issue of the Look magazine

The world of fashion would have us believe that the days of not being able to become a model because you have tattoos are over. However, in a world where models are viewed as blank canvases to display clothes on, there is still a long way to go when it comes to the acceptance of body ink.

In the early 00’s, tattoo artist, Don Ed Hardy incorporated tattoos into fashion through his clothing brand but surprisingly the models he used on the runway weren’t heavily tattooed. Fashion designer, Marc Jacobs, is an example of someone involved in high-end fashion who doesn’t mind using models with tattoos as he himself is covered in them.

When NY magazine asked about his opinion of tattoos on models, he said that tattoos are really just like another piece of clothing or accessory. Freja Beha Erichsen is a model who has been the face of Hugo, Gucci, Prada and H&M and she has over a dozen small tattoos and according to her, it hasn’t affected her work, and because they’re easily coverable so she still gets the job she goes for.

It seems however that the fashion industry is only lenient to models with tattoos that already have made a name for themselves. For new models looking to break into the industry, it’s not as easy. Many new models are conscious of not being able to book shoots as not every designer can be as accepting of tattoos as Marc Jacobs. Magazine models usually have their tattoos airbrushed out of the pictures and runway models have them covered up with heavy coverage makeup. This solution works for models who only have small tattoos in visible areas, but what about models who are tattooed from head to toe?

In recent years there’s been a growth in modelling agency specifically created for models with body art. Agencies like, ‘Ink Models’ & ‘Vanity Vague’ look for alternative looking models for niche shoots. The emergence of these type of models has made tattoos popular and as desirable as a Louis Vuitton handbag. This allows for the eradication of the stigma that tattoos are only for thugs and gangs. Undoubtedly, tattoos are a physical form of self-expression and it wouldn’t be surprising to see a total acceptance of tattoos in the fashion industry within the next ten years.

By Zainab Boladale