Having a tattoo of your employers’ logo is just ‘creepy’

Sacked New York Times editor Jill Abramson will struggle to shift the mark of her former employer

The New York Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr, center, and Jill Abramson, right, who was sacked as editor of the New York Times last week, celebrate the four Pulitzers won by The Times in 2013. File photograph: Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

The New York Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr, center, and Jill Abramson, right, who was sacked as editor of the New York Times last week, celebrate the four Pulitzers won by The Times in 2013. File photograph: Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

 

When you get fired, the most important thing is to put it swiftly behind you. That is going to be quite hard for Jill Abramson, who was sacked as editor of the New York Times last week but who has part of the newspaper’s logo tattooed on her back.

To ink a curly black gothic “T” into your skin is the most tragically misplaced act of loyalty to an employer I’ve ever heard of. It is even less explicable than getting tattooed with the name of a current love. At least then a) there is a chance that the object of your affections will be charmed rather than horrified and b) it is at least possible that the two might stay together forever.

By contrast, to have your employer’s name branded indelibly on to your skin makes no sense at all. Far from being pleased, your boss is more likely to think it creepy and weird. Jobs are not for life any more. All jobs end; often they end badly.

The only other case I can find in which employees have had the company’s logo emblazoned on their bodies is at Rapid Realty, an attention-seeking New York real estate firm.

More than 70 staff have now become what it calls “tattoo brand ambassadors” and have had a pair of Rs inked on arms and heads, while one beefy looking chap has a vast picture of the company’s store front tattooed across one half of his bulging six-pack.

“It’s no big secret. Our agents love where they work . . . and they’re not afraid to show it,” says the company. Nor is it a secret that they were offered a pay rise in return for disfiguring themselves, which might also have shaped their decision.


Outlasts the job
Maybe it seemed a good deal at the time, but one assumes it will seem less so once they realise that a tattoo always outlasts a job in real estate – or in journalism.

Yet just before she was fired, Ms Abramson gave an interview in which she made the idea of getting permanently marked with your employer’s logo sound a little less crazy. “It’s become for me a strange form of personal hieroglyphics,” she explained. “I think they eventually, when I finish doing them, will tell the story of me, of where I lived, and what things have been important to me.” So far, she has four, of which two are for the “institutions that I revere, that have shaped me”. A curly “T” for the Times, and a crimson “H” for Harvard.

Suddenly one sees a whole new use for tattoos. As the NYT’s first female editor, Ms Abramson had always been something of a trendsetter. But this new fashion could be far, far bigger. With the H and the T she has made herself a global leader in wearable CVs.

The idea would be to mark your body with the names you most wanted to associate yourself with. The tattoos would be a more painful and permanent version of the badges that boy scouts have been sewing on to their sleeves for over a hundred years. Whereas the boy’s badges say “insect study” and “archery” and “fire safety”, the grown-up equivalent would say Cambridge, Google and Goldman Sachs.

“To have your employer’s name branded indelibly on to your skin makes no sense at all. Far from being pleased, your boss is more likely to think it creepy and weird.

The only thing Ms Abramson did wrong was to have them on her back, where they could only be seen if she pitched up to work in a backless dress – generally not a great look for working women of a certain age. Instead, she ought to have had her wearable CV tattooed down her arm or hand – or even on her neck or forehead. Then every time she wanted to impress, those institutions that shaped her would be proudly on public view.


Visually disgusting
The idea of the wearable CV strikes me as no more visually disgusting than tattoos of butterflies or skulls or barbed wire – and a lot more useful.

It would have the advantage of freeing people from having to drop into conversations tiresome boasts about what university they went to, as everyone would be able to see that for themselves.

It would also mean that if at a party you spotted someone heavily inked with establishment names you could make a point of talking to them or of avoiding them – according to your preferences.

If Ms Abramson has showed us one excellent use for tattoos in professional life, a loutish Manchester United football fan has recently demonstrated another. While the former editor’s tattoos are a display of achievement, his represent a darker side of office politics.

Back in February, disgusted at his team’s performance, the fan had “Moyes out!” inked across a hairy buttock.

When the luckless David Moyes was fired as manager last month, the fan went back to the parlour and had the words “job complete” added underneath. The lesson: when arse-kissing is not called for, arse-dissing might work instead.
– (Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2014)

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