Once the domain of rebellious rock stars, lawbreakers and sailors, tattoos are officially everywhere – even inking deals in the corporate boardroom.
Their ubiquity is not new, but a connection to high fashion, style and the corporate world is comparatively recent, due in part to the rise of street style bloggers and Instagram influencers who continue to push a highly curated look where visible ink becomes a feature piece in any outfit.
Jared Acquaro, the founder of the , embodies the synergy between tailored menswear, corporate attire and tattoos.
The former roof tiler and mechanic (below) is now an Instagram face to watch, walking on the cutting edge of men's fashion with regular stints at Florence's legendary Pitti Uomo menswear fair.
I think therefore I ink
When it comes to his online posts, Acquaro will often pair an on-trend suit with less conventional, yet office-ready accessories, and sometimes mixing in more smart-casual elements. His tattooed neck, legs and arms are secondary to his sartorial style, but frequently visible. He's gone from garage mechanic to hustling more than 26,000 online followers, and is enjoying the attention.
"I think the workplace has taken a more relaxed approach to tattoos," says Acquaro, who has worked for Converse and H & M since a car accident took him away from his trade.
"There's less stigma attached to them and people know you can't judge a person by the way they look – it comes down to how well you can do the job."
Acquaro doesn't set out to cover his tattoos and has been photographed in Oscar Hunt suiting and Eton shirts, has collaborated with Henry Bucks and also supports up-and-comers like Melbourne brand Tommy Luca.
"Men look to fashion bloggers for inspiration," he says. "It's a place where I can speak my mind through images. I am in this space to showcase men's fashion, and how to wear it," he says.
Pride or prejudice?
David Abela, founder and director of 3 Degrees Marketing in Melbourne's Richmond, says prejudice against tattoos still exists in very traditional pockets of corporate work life - but times are changing.
"Old-school corporate environments with more traditional people at the helm would worry about how tattooed staff reflect on them," Abela says.
"But I would say that's a reflection of the more insecure boss. If you have a comfortable boss and one that wants to engage with people who are comfortable in their own skin, then they can make the look work in a positive way," he says.
Street style icons such as Nick Wooster in the US and Alessandro Manfredini in Italy perfectly blend the fashion and tailored world. They're all about curated looks that merge tattoos, high-end fashion and a love of clothing that sits comfortably in either corporate and casual spheres.
"Sometimes tattoos add value and can be a natural fit for a brand," says Abela, who handles accounts for Coca-Cola, Fiat, Alfa-Romeo and Gucci.
Wayne Slattery works for Granite Consulting in Melbourne, finding contract work for large organisations such as Australia Post and ANZ – from software developers to IT managers. He is also the bass player with metal band King Parrot, but by day he deals with the corporate world and picks and chooses the appropriate times to reveal his palm and arm tattoos.
"Because I walk into different offices and companies daily, I have an acute awareness of when and where I can be more comfortable with tattoos," Slattery says.
"If I go for a handshake, I turn the tattoo to the less visible side. I find if you're working with small start-up companies you can be a bit more relaxed, but I think corporate Australia is still a bit stuffy. It is changing, though. My tattoos didn't get in the way of my employment."
Classic Italian couture brand Brioni just appointed Australian Justin O'Shea as its creative director. The heavily tattooed Australian and street style star (he has more than 80,000 followers on Instagram) isn't trying to reinvent the suit as much as he is about generating more customers for the Italian clothing empire that began in 1945.
In Australia, fashion house Rhodes & Beckett is also keen to attract more men to its brand, using models with hand and neck tattoos in online video campaigns while squarely aiming at the corporate customer.
The commercial director of parent company Van Laack, Michel Boutin, agrees tattoos are less of a problem in the workplace these days.
"Tattoos are more likely to say something about a person's interests, and they're not threatening," he says.
"They've crossed into pop culture, they're a fashion statement, and workplaces are naturally much more accepting of them," he says.
Rhodes & Beckett's AW video campaign tells the story of its founders Charlie and George – and it's all about stylish suits, tattooed cool and corporate style.
"In the video, the tattoos don't look strange. It's stylish and comfortable," says Boutin. "That's the kind of freedom and individualism we want to encourage."