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Tattoos Becoming More Accepted At Work

There was a day when wearing a tattoo or body piercing drew stares and looks of disdain, but these days body art has broken out of the biker bars and headed into the mainstream. It's even showing up in the workplace.

Tattoos and piercings are just not the career killers they once were. Many companies in all industries have no problem with body art. Employees of all walks of life are sporting body art nowadays from doctors' office receptionists to TV news anchors. Even those who are prepping the workforce of the future: college educators. The Army and Navy have also relaxed their tattoo policy on worries over a lack of recruits.

"It's an intellectual and upscale phenomenon," Ina Saltz, who photographed hundreds of tattoos for her book, "Body Type," told CBS News correspondent Susan McGinnis. "People are choosing to get tattooed who are professionals. Every kind of profession you can imagine has a tattoo."

New research finds 23 percent of college students have one to three tattoos, 51 percent are pierced beyond women's ears and 36 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds have tattoos. Tattoo artists say they see all types of customers.

"We go from artists and younger people all the way to doctors, lawyers, architects. So it's pretty cool," said Claire Vuillemot, a tattoo artist at Fun City Tattoo.

Courtney Pecola, a native of New Hampshire, is clearly proud of her roots. She has a tattoo of New Hampshire's lilacs across her chest and her area code, 603, on her wrist. She never thought twice about it and neither did her boss. When she interviewed at ZB Sports in Philadelphia, her boss didn't either. He hired her to be a vice president.

"He's fine with it. I mean, it's never been a problem," she said. "He's always stood by me, even if I get a really stupid tattoo."

"Courtney is one of the brightest women I've ever met. She's fast, she's smart," Pecola's boss, Jim Hoisington, said. "If I passed on her because of her tattoos, I'd be out one phenomenal employee."

That kind of thinking has led to a very colorful workforce at ZB Sports.

"It really wasn't an issue," ZP Sports employee Eric Andrewson said. "He didn't act like it was strange and I didn't act like it was strange."

This small Internet retailer is part of a bigger trend in the American workforce. Dress codes are easing up, and body art is coming out of hiding. Some managers say they have no choice.

"It has to change, otherwise they're going to be out of a workforce," Hoisington said.

But not everyone agrees body art works at work, especially in corporate environments. Still, Hoisington welcomes the trend. He thinks body art is a sign of a special employee.

"Because you don't like it or it offends you or you're conservative in the workplace, I think you'll miss a whole talent pool of people who are very bright well educated, smart and free thinking," he said. "It's a shame. You never want to do that. You have to evolve."