Tattoos and Candy Coloured Hair: Sending a Message to Young People

Published December 22, 2011 by Fat Heffalump

Some few weeks ago you might have seen some furore around the traps about a tattooed Barbie Doll with pink hair being sold.  This Barbie doll (pictured below) is a collectable collaboration between fashion/accessory label Tokidoki and Mattel, makers of Barbie.  There was a lot of furore about this doll corrupting children somehow despite being a very expensive collectable few children (if any) will ever own.  Tokidoki Barbie (originally $50US) sold out very quickly and I have since seen them showing up on eBay for around $500.

Now of course, I have some issues with Barbie in general, mostly around her unattainable standard of beauty and body shape, and the lack of diversity of race available in Barbie, a doll that is marketed all over the world – that all needs a post of it’s own.  But what I noticed was the repeated message that went with this collectable tattooed, pink haired Barbie is that tattoos and candy coloured hair are trashy, low class, unintelligent and even mark a woman as promiscuous.

As a tattooed woman who usually has pink hair myself, I take some exception to this message.  Just reading around a few articles on this doll, I found the following quotes:

“I think it is horrible and sends the wrong message to young people”

“In no way should a tattoo be honored.”

“Encouraging children that tattoos are cool is wrong, wrong, wrong. Mattel why not put a cigarette and a beer bottle in her hand while you’re at it!”
and my favourite:
“Forget being a doctor, this Barbie sports a pale pink bob and is covered with tattoos on her neck and shoulders.”
So someone with tattoos and coloured hair can’t be a doctor hmm?

Well, being a tattooed, pink haired librarian myself, I put the word out on Twitter and Tumblr and asked for candy-haired, tattooed women to come forward and share their stories, just to see what kind of women have brightly coloured hair and tattoos.

Bri of Fat Lot of Good (above) is a counsellor, social worker and social justice activist, as well as being a Mum to two kids.  She got her first tattoo when her son was about 6 months old, and now has 7 tattoos.  She has also had pink, purple or red streaks in her naturally black hair.  Bri has never had anyone say anything negative to her face about her tattoos, though she has sensed disapproval but chooses to ignore it.  She feels that she gets more disapproval for her fatness than she does her tattoos.  She finds that generally her family and friends are very accepting of her tattoos, though her Dad has made it clear that he hates tattoos and has voiced “at least they can be covered up”.  She has also found that in her work life, people are interested in hearing the stories behind her tattoos, and in some cases have been helpful in engaging with her clients.  She does admit that  her tattoos are mostly covered though, and are fairly discreet designs.

Rachel of Very Busy and Important (above) is the Director of Location Services for a television network based in Chicago, IL.  She is a liaison  between station viewers and partners and it’s various departments at headquarters, developing both operational and marketing-based support programs for each.   She got her first tattoo at 22 and first ventured into candy coloured hair at 27.   She says she was surprisingly conservative as a teenager, and says she rebelled against her Mom, who owned a body piercing studio and hair salon by being aggressively square.  Rachel says that surprisingly, she has never experienced her hair or tattoos being the focus of negative attention in her job, but has got more flack on the streets than at work.  Her boss loves her hair and her CEO has asked for tattoo artist recommendations for his teenage son.  However she does find it intrusive and bothersome to explain the meaning of (or lack thereof) her tattoos repeatedly.  She also says:

As I’ve gotten older, not that 27 is particularly “older,” I’ve realized that the only way for me to maintain mental health is to stop compartmentalizing my personality between work and home. I am the same silly, opinionated, compassionate, and intelligent woman with my friends that I am with my colleagues. Not only do my colleagues deserve to interact with an actual person, instead of a robotic facade, I deserve to be free to be myself. Why spend all of that energy maintaining the illusion that I am a, you know, mild mannered person without opinions who isn’t covered in various swirls of (semi)permanent colors when I could be putting that energy into actually doing my job?

Kara (no photo supplied) from Vicious Sioux works in retail and is an activist who supports her family.  She has been colouring her hair since she was 16 and her first tattoo at 18.  She finds both her family and her workplace are ok with her hair and tattoos, though her conservative grandmother really objected to them, though she’s sure her current employers would not appreciate her returning her hair to hot pink, yet her colleagues and peers love it.

Amanda of (above) runs Love Your Body Detroit, a non-profit activism organisation that fights fat phobia and weight bias, and is a full time college student who works both on campus and as a nanny on weekends.  She got her first tattoo at 22, and started colouring her hair at 16, to have every colour under the sun, including her favourite, bright red with purple tips.  She has had to cover her tattoos when working in hospitality, but says people rarely react negatively to them.  She has only had one particularly bad response, in which she says “I was waiting on her a few years ago and she refused to look at me or even talk to me. Every time I would drop things off at the table she would stare at my tattoo.  She has found that her family is mostly ok with her tattoos, but some aunts have mentioned that they wish she would hide her forearm tattoo, which is a Gandhi quote.  Her father got his first tattoo at 65, just before she got her first.  She finds that most employers want her to cover her tattoos, but don’t mind her coloured hair, so long as it looks good.  At her current workplace her appearance is not an issue so long as she can perform her job, and says “At this point in my life if a place has an issue with what I look like, then they have an issue with me as a person. I’m more happy to not work there then have to hide my body.”

Lori St.Leone of The Story of Lori ran a successful piercing studio (and was a piercer herself for 16 years), is currently studying midwifery and has two children.  She started colouring her hair candy colours at 15 (she is now 36) and got her first tattoo just before her 18th birthday.  These days she dyes her naturally blonde hair more natural hues, at the moment it is coppery red.  Lori has had complete strangers comment on what a bad mother she must be for having tattoos, piercings and coloured hair.  She doesn’t feel that she should educate them or be polite to them, when they police her body and appearance.  She hasn’t had many problems at work but has used retainers for her piercings and covered her tattoos.  However she has faced some judgement at her oldest child’s pre-school, mostly from the staff!  Lori’s mom thinks her tattoos are beautiful and proudly shows off photographs of her and her family.  Lori’s partner did not have any body modifications when they first started dating (except for an earlobe piercing) and had not dated anyone with serious body modifications before.  Lori has not had much negative response in the workplace to her tattoos and piercings, but she is interested to see how future pregnant clients will react to a tattooed, pierced midwife.  However she says from her own experience, most women in labour don’t have time or attention to care what their midwife looks like, so long as that midwife is caring and supportive and doing their job well!

Alicia Maud, aka @rightingteacher is a high school English Teacher and co-director for Capital District Writing Project.  She is also a dancer and writer for a local magazine on health issues.  Alicia Maud has coloured her hair since the 7th grade, everything from Sun-In to reds, pinks and mahogany, and then on to candy apple red.  She was a junior in college when she got her first tattoo – she and her mom went together for her mom’s birthday!  She hasn’t had any negative reaction towards her tattoos and hair, but has received plenty of attention.  Her parents are big supporters and her mom sees hair as an opportunity for play and loves her tattoos.  Alicia Maud has also received positive attention in the workplace with regards to her hair and tattoos, but feels her supervisor is OK with Alicia Maud having candy hair and tattoos, but would never do it herself.  She hasn’t had any concerns brought to her by the parents of the kids she teaches either.

Abi of Adipose Rex is a stay at home mom of three boys and part time student, who has been experimenting with coloured highlights in her hair for years, but six months ago went the whole kit and caboodle and dyed her hair a candy colour all over.  While she moves in fairly conservative circles, she does get some sideways looks, but mostly people have treated her normally, much to her surprise.  Abi’s parents aren’t entirely thrilled about her hair colour, but she says that’s nothing new!  Her kids love it, and her husband, while he prefers her hair to be a bit less vivid, has the good sense to know that it is HER hair and is happy that she is happy with it.

Bek of Colourful Curves is a stay at home mum, a Christian and a single parent.  She has two boys, aged 4 and 6, cares for other children in her home and has a degree in Early Childhood teaching.  She started colouring her hair when she was 18 on her first trip away on her own.  Her parents weren’t keen on the idea of her dyeing her hair, but without them there, she dyed her hair dark red and has been colouring her hair ever since – she associates it with freedom, friendship and independence.  Bek says she hasn’t really had any negative attention from her hair, but working within the home gives her an advantage over those in other environments.  She finds her church circle are accepting of it as well.  Bek’s children love when “Mummy gets her hair painted” and want their own hair painted too.  Her mum has grown accepting of her hair colours.  Bek relates a story when a small girl of about 10 stopped her and said “I love your hair!  My aunty would love to dye her hair that colour, but she’s too scared to.”  Bek was very encouraging of the girl’s aunt’s wish!  She mentions that even her family GP has a purple streak in her hair (see, Barbie could have pink hair AND be a doctor!)

Ealasaid (no photo available) is a technical writer, bookbinder and movie reviewer who was first tattooed in January 2009, adding two more to the collection since then.  She has waist length hair and doesn’t feel confident in colouring it, so leaves it natural.  Ealasaid’s parents don’t comment on her tattoos, but she knows her mom doesn’t approve, but hasn’t given her too much of a hard time about it.  She covers her tattoos for work, but her colleagues that have seen them have had positive reactions – but she thinks it might help that she works in the San Francisco Bay area!

Kate aka Craftastrophies is an editor and project manager – she describes it as “a regular office job”.  She has been colouring her hair bright red for about 5 years, after a run-in with an inattentive hairdresser and some bleach.  She went bright reddish purple that time, but it wasn’t until Easter 2010 that she went for the blue.  Kate says she has only ever had positive feedback about her hair, or people simply ignore it.  She says “I have gotten a few glares on the street, but mostly people have better things to think about.”  She says that her hair is a big hit with kids too.  She says “About three months ago we were at a family dinner and an uncle, who has seen me at least six times since I dyed it, stared for a few minutes and then said ‘your… hair is… green!’ He was swiftly corrected by my grandmother. ‘It’s BLUE.’ Obviously.”  Kate finds that most people she works with seem to think it’s none of their business, and has only had one positive comment on it.  She dyed it blue between leaving one job and taking another, and asked at the interview if they minded, which they did not.

So as you can see by these amazing women above, women with candy coloured hair and tattoos are diverse,  professional, caring, intelligent, witty, giving and overall awesome.  How is this not something for girls and young women to aspire to?  What I see above are 10 inspirational women who rock their body art in their rich, full lives.

Why shouldn’t candy haired, tattooed women be honoured in doll form?  It’s an honour for me to share them with you here.

29 comments on “Tattoos and Candy Coloured Hair: Sending a Message to Young People

  • Heavily tattooed licensed tax accountant here (and recently, CFO of a video game company.)

    Unfortunately, no colored hair due to severe damage. 😦 I’m giving my head a chance to heal before I go blue again! But I *will* be going Atomic Turquoise again once I grow enough of it back. 😉

    No less, FUCK all those judgmental idiots. Those dolls are freakin gorgeous too, and far more refreshing to see than typical Barbie offerings.

      • Manic Panic’s ready-made purples are pretty weak, but one day I mixed some Cotton Candy Pink with Atomic Turquoise. It didn’t last very long on my head, but the result was a stunning neon purple. Their “Virgin Snow” toner also helps get rid of the orangey hues post-bleaching to really make blues and purples shine!

        I don’t know if this brand is still around– Raw hair dye from Hot Topic? I used it back in 2001-ish, I think the color was “Purple Passion” or “Purple Velvet” or something, and ZOMG it was amazing, I had a rich gorgeous true violet shade that lasted *weeks* and even faded to a nice lavender hue.

        Am now yelling at my hair to hurry up and grow/get stronger so I can delightfully reach for the bleach!

  • In Germany, there is a fashion for middle aged women to put a stripe of pink, fire engine red, purple or other bright colour somewhere in their hair. You’ll often see blonde women with a fringe that’s half hot pink. What does it signify? Absolutely no idea. But these are solid citizens doing this, who would be puzzled to be told they are corrupting the young. The comment I usually hear is that women in their late 40s and 50s are a bit disappointed at how conservative their children are.

  • Well since candy colored hair is a temp thing at best, and I decided to go with a more standard colored and longer lasting “natural” red, right now that’s what my hair color is. But I’ve had every hair color in the book, I have five tattoos, and I’m going to school to be a lawyer. But even if it were true, why is it okay for these snots to pick on “low class” people anyway? So what if a woman is poor or even “gasp” enjoys drinking a beer once in a while? We all have to be Donna Reed?

  • Funny, I have tattoos, blue streaks in my hair, I work in environmental education with underprivileged children, do a great deal of community service, am trying to finish up my bachelors degree, run a life coaching business from home, and homeschool 3 wonderful children.
    Guess I’m a terrible example huh?
    I’d complain more about the commercialism involved in a $500 doll, and her body image, but like you said that’s a whole other issue.
    But tats and unorthodox hair colors? I know many many brilliant successful women who all share some aspect of this look.

  • I have a good friend who is a heavily tattooed social worker, and another who is a respectable married lady of sixty who wears streaks of forest green in her (dyed) dark red hair. My sister-in-law who teaches corporations how to use software programs has a large celtic bird tattooed on her calf. All of these women are smart, hard-working, and generous souls. Why wouldn’t I want a child to take them as role models?

    Just because I choose to leave my hair the color nature happened to make it and have no intention of ever having a needle stuck in me that isn’t an absolute medical necessity doesn’t make their choices wrong. It just makes them different.

    I’m not a fan of Barbie, and I still wouldn’t buy this one if I had the cash and access, but at least it reflects one form of beauty that’s relevant in the world today.

    Tattoos aren’t underground anymore. I fail to see how dyeing one’s hair cotton candy pink is very much different from dyeing it blonde. It’s a personal choice in personal decoration, not a crime.

  • 35 year old health care worker/currently stay at home mom for 2 here. i have 3 tatoos, and am going to get a 4th. i ALWAYS dye my hair red, and i like to go bright colors over the summer.

  • Tattoos will have to wait until I get lots of $$$, but my hair has been a multicolored mop of various shades of purple, pink, yellow, and brown since 1995. Pretty much every time I’m out and about I get compliments, and I also think it makes people feel free to approach me for conversation in general.

  • I’m a 30 year old fat tattooed and pierced small business owner with a navy blue and black chelseahawk. My husband and I run a gaming store. Our clientele really doesn’t give a rat’s ass what anyone looks like for the most part, and those that do are definitely pro-uniqueness. Even in the various corporate environments I’ve worked in, I’ve had my hair all colors of the rainbow. I usually dye it a color found in nature for the interview, then check the handbook once I’m hired, and revert to colorfulness after training. It’s never interfered with my ability to do my job–or to advance. Like others have said, I think my very visible appearance does make people more comfortable with approaching me. Definitely a good thing when you’re out and about and have a business to promote. 😉

  • So just to clarify…it’s okay to tell little girls that they should have a triple E cup (or whatever) and an eleven inch waist (because that would be totes sexy) but not that they can express THEIR OWN creativity on THEIR OWN bodies the way they want.

    Do people think before they talk/ type?

  • I personally don’t have a tattoo but as I am in health care and give people injections in the deltoid (upper arm) on a regular basis, I have seen my share of them. The owners of these tats have sad stories, funny stories, love stories, epiphany stories and regret stories and many other types of stories about their tattoos. Anything that elicits so many wonderful stories or marks such profound life experiences is okay in my book. As mentioned in other posts, those sporting the tattoos were from all walks of life and the only common thread was that the tattoo had a story attached.(Some were hilarious and very few have been to regret the tattoo)
    As for the hair, mine is natural which is grey and I get probably more flak about that then I ever did when it was burgundy or mahogany or whatever other color I used to change it to. Please people stop labelling. As usual Kath a wonderful post, highlighting some wonderful people and their stories.

  • I’m sitting here with a bit of a sore upper back after having just come back from having my very first tattoo done today at age 42! I kid you not. Hair colouring happening in the new year 🙂 I cannot say how liberating it is to finally do something I have avoided doing because of ‘what people would think’.

    Fantastic article as usual, and getting to read about so many totally awesome women was incredibly empowering.

    Have a fabulous Christmas and I look forward to reading your brilliant posts in 2012 🙂

  • I remember years ago reading an article in one of ‘those’ womens’ mags (I know, I know) about women getting tattoos. Gee, it would have to be about 15 years ago now. Anyhoo, the woman writing the article relayed the comment “the difference between people with tattoos and people without is that people with tattoos don’t care that you don’t have any”.

    I think one day people with tattoos will become a very significant minority of the population, even perhaps a majority. I have never had an issue with tattoos as my mother had prison tattoos and I grew up with them, considering them normal. When I walk through shopping centres I see lots of tattoos now – is that called observation bias?

    I have always wanted to get orange hair, but my natural hair is very delicate, and I prefer to keep the length which means serious babying. Could always spring for a wig I suppose when I have a spare $$$, plus some more $$$.

    Have a wonderful Xmas Madam Heffalump and all the other heffalumpies 🙂

  • I’m a visibly tattooed, facially pierced, hair streaked with fire-engine red college professor. I’ve looked like this since I was 14 and I graduated college summa cum laude, got my master’s degree and have been teaching full-time for the last 11 years.

    I’ve never had an employer complain about my adornments and out of my many job interviews, have only been not offered the position twice.

    I’m also death-fat.

  • I’m over 40, have a bunch of tattoos (including ones that are often visible at the office), and usually have blue or purple hair. I do database management and quality assurance for a radio news archive. Once the (then) CEO stopped me in the lobby to ask what color my hair was. “Blue Mayhem,” I replied, and he went on his way with a big smile.

  • As someone who’s an IT pro with mad hair and tattoos, I am ❤ all over this article. I am generally surrounded by such awesome people it is easy to forget that the rest of thew world clings to a lot of antiquated ideas :/

  • Me? I’m tattooed, septum pierced lady with a edgy sort of style. I work as a Victim Advocate and Rape Crisis Counselor at my local Victim Services and Rape Crisis Center. My tattoos are (mostly) covered in work and court but when I wear skirts and dresses (often) my large leg tattoo shows. I find that my clients are all very interested, they tell me about their tattoos and life stories. When I accidentally forget to shove my piercing up my nose they are caught of guard but then I find they let their guard down. They will say things like, I didn’t know you were in to all of that. I can express to them that I enjoy these modifications, I like loud music and shows and it has no impact on my strength of character, my job, my professionalism. I can see the gears start to work in their heads as their view is challenged.

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