Can Models Have Tattoos?

  • Melissa Keen

Can models have tattoos? That’s like asking, “Can models have a bald head or uneven teeth?” And your answer is this; models with tattoos will be loved by some brands and turned down by others.

If your arms, legs, hips, neck or hands have been inked permanently, you are limiting your audience and therefore your potential job offers. However, there are some agencies and brands who work specifically with inked models to cater to an alternative audience.

The decisions that affect whether you’re offered work as a tattooed model relies on three main factors.

21 Models with the Best Tattoos

There are many successful top models who have tattoos and piercings. Their rise in popularity has meant tattoos are no longer the sign of rebelliousness they once were. Instead, they are commonly seen as a form of self-expression and creativity.

It has become quite regular for models to be proud of their ink and become known for their distinctive markings.

These famous models all have tattoos:

  1. Jourdan Dunn has a symbol of the Egyptian goddess Isis between her shoulder blades to represent motherhood, spirituality and protection. She also has a large phoenix tattoo up her side. 
  2. Cara Delevingne’s famous lion tattoo on her index finger is not the only ink she has. The self-confessed tattoo addict has a lot of artwork – over 20 in total.
  3. Gisele Bundchen has a tiny star drawn on her wrist and a moon inked onto her ankle.
  4. Kendall Jenner has a discreet tattoo hidden on the inside of the lower lip that reads ‘meow.’
  5. Behati Prinsloo and her husband, Adam Levine, opted for matching tattoos that read, ‘You’re so cool, You’re so cool, You’re so cool.’
  6. Kate Moss has twin sparrows designed by tattoo artist Lucien Freud at the base of her back. She also has an anchor on her forearm.
  7. Bella Hadid chose to pay tribute to her Victoria’s Secret Angel status by asking popular tattoo artist JonBoy for a pair of angel tattoo wings on both her ankles.
  8. Eve Salvail’s shaved head and dragon tattoo is the reason Jean Paul Gaultier spotted her and made her a top model of the 90s.
  9. Carolyn Murphy had a koi fish on her right hip, though she’s recently had this removed.
  10. Freja Beha Erichsen has three tattoos; her most notable is the word ‘float’ written on her neck.
  11. Catherine McNeil has over one hundred works of art on her body.
  12. Daria Werbowy shows her love for the sea with an abstract wave tattoo on her foot.
  13. Isabeli Fontana has ‘Zion’ in gothic-script accompanied by angel wings tattooed on her upper back to pay tribute to her first child. 
  14. Slick Woods has a gun tattooed on the centre of her chest.
  15. Erin Wasson is a big fan of tattoos, with many inked on her arms and back.
  16. Omahyra Mota’s most memorable tattoo is the ‘Dios altisimo’ on her left arm. 
  17. Jamie Bochert has snake bones tattooed all the way up her spine.
  18. Ruby Rose is covered in tattoos, with many inspired by her personal interests.
  19. Natalie Westling has the Van’s logo/motto tattooed to her arm.
  20. Tasha Tilberg designs her own art with her colourful flower shoulder tattoo being her most memorable.
  21. Melodie Monrose has a beautiful feather tattoo on her upper torso.

Remember – there is a difference from being covered head to toe in tattoos (like Catherine McNeil and Freja Beha Erichsen) to the more discreet inkings seen on supermodels Gisele Bundchen and Kendall Jenner. Even the top models have to be careful where they get ink; tattoos decrease a models’ versatility, so think hard before acquiring one.

The size and type of tattoos you get is also important. You must think about what may go out of fashion, or be offensive to others. Models sporting offensive ink will definitely decrease their working opportunities – perhaps completely.


Who Will Be Employing You?

If your aim is to do catalogue work for politically correct organisations or well-respected brands such as Mother Care and Cath Kidston, is it unlikely they are going to hire a model covered in tattoos as that look will not be reflective of their target audience. 

The same can be applied to companies who believe in all things natural. They won’t want people who are covered in tattoos as your skin adornment will conflict with their business ethos.

However, if you dream of modelling for quirky and conceptual companies that have a strong-minded, free-willed ethos, your tattoos will probably do your modelling career a favour. 

Check out brands like All Saints and Urban Outfitters. Both are more than happy to use tattooed models to showcase their clothes. It’s all about understanding your target employer’s needs.

For high-end brands, again think carefully about the type of clientele they will be targeting. Estee Lauder’s target audience was affluent, mature, professional women; when they wanted to target a younger audience, they hired Kendall Jenner (who has tattoos, though none were on show in her campaign images) to represent them.

What Will You Be Modelling?

If you’re trying to gain work modelling girly and ladylike products, you likely won’t be chosen if your skin has a coating of ink. If you’re at a casting for a slick business suit brand to caters to professional businessmen and you’ve got tattoos but the man next to you hasn’t, they’re more than likely going to choose your competition. 

If you’re unsure whether a brand will hire you, think of the following; can you imagine a brand’s stereotypical customer having tattoos? If the answer is yes, the brand in question may hire you. If your answer is no, your tattoos will probably lose you the job.

Things to Think About

How big is your tattoo?

How many tattoos do you have?

Where are your tattoos positioned?

With the power of Photoshop, many brands are able to remove tattoos post-production with relative ease. However, time costs money and if it is a choice between you and you small tattoo, and a tattoo-free model, they may choose the tattoo-free model because they will save time and money in post-production editing.

If your tattoo is smaller than a 50p piece, it shouldn’t really put agencies off. Some models choose to hide their tattoos with make-up or a skin-coloured plaster so they don’t distract during interviews and castings.

If your tattoo is hidden, such as on your ribcage or on your foot, and you’re being employed to model standard apparel, the chances of an employer (and their audience) noticing it are small, so the tattoo will likely not jeopardise your chances.

If your tattoo is large or you have multiple tattoos, you should consider approaching quirky brands only. Mainstream catalogues will be unlikely to employ you.

It’s also important to think about the type of artwork you have. If the subject of your tattoo is polarising, that will lose you work. If your artwork is darkly themed, you will likely only get work with similar dark/gothic brands.

How Can UK Models Help?

If you’re keen on entering the modelling industry and you have tattoos, get in touch with UK Models. We’ll be able to advise you on a tailor-made progression route that’s specific to your look.

Although we do not promise to find you work (we are a support service, not an agency), we do have the knowledge and skills to assist you. We can establish whether modelling is right for you.

Come down to our London based studios and take part in one of our portfolio photo shoot sessions. We can determine if your tattoos and overall look are right for the industry.

With our fourteen years of industry experience, we’re in a great position to support you.

Before getting a tattoo, models need to consider:

  • Who will be employing you?
  • What will you be modelling?
  • The size, position, quantity and quality of the tattoos
  • The amount of work you would like to secure

To avoid losing modelling roles, discreet tattoos are the way forward. Models who cover their entire body with ink will only be hired by selective designers whose vision fits in with their artwork.

The fashion industry does not discriminate against tattoos, but it’s important to remember that only brands that have a cool, edgy vibe will be interested in a heavily tattooed model. More conservative, wholesome labels will steer away from inked individuals and favour a more traditional image.

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Posted by Melissa Keen

Melissa's experience in the beauty and fashion world as a writer and blogger spans over five years. Her other interests include reading, yoga and music.