Do you think 'modified business' (Hard Rock Hotel, tattoo/body art oriented restaurants, etc) would be embraced in a main stream society if given the chance? Would you ever consider being a part?  
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webmaster of UK.People.Bodyart, co-founder of the newsgroup uk.people.bodyart, and maintainer of the group's IRC channel, #bodyart-uk, on efnet.

IAM Page: smeg

I'm going to break this down into two questions, and answer them separately.

1) Do you think 'modified business' (Hard Rock Hotel, tattoo/body art oriented restaurants, etc) would be embraced in a main stream society if given the chance?

Given the chance by who? Us (The modified)? Or Them (the normals)? For me, this falls into the category of "What's the point?". Maybe I'm misunderstanding ... would this hotel/pub/restaurant be *for* the modified, or *themed* on modification?

I can imagine something themed on modification would be a novelty for about 10 minutes. But I think that the question is more pointed towards a business geared towards attracting the modified...

In which case I think it would be a bad idea.

Let's face it, the modified as a people aren't "normal" members of society. We have stretched ear lobes, or arm tattoos. We have eyebrow piercings and labrets. Society thinks up different reasons why we have to remove them, sometimes with legitimate safety concerns, sometimes simply out of not understanding the desire and want for the modification, and sometimes purely out of some misplaced or misguided fear.

So why should the modification community make an effort to further segregate and separate themselves from normal society?

There are countless stories out there of people with piercings missing out on jobs and promotions. Kids being kicked out of school for their bodyart. People making nasty comments about tattoos or piercings. Parents, friends and workmates treating their modified friends differently when they found out. So what are we going to do about it? Head off to our local modified friendly pub and bitch about it, or work within mainstream society to prove that there is nothing different about us, other than some metal and ink?

2) Would you ever consider being a part?

If I needed a job and there was such a place needing staff, then hell yes. It's a job, and jobs bring in money which pays bills. Piercings and tattoos don't pay bills.

The community we have is based on common interests. We have an interest in shoving sharp bits of metal through interesting bits of our anatomy, drawing pictures under our skin and various related activities. That's pretty much where it ends. We don't have any special needs. We don't need looking after. Why would we want to voluntarily segregate ourselves or our activities from people who may not understand? If they never experience it, or are never exposed to it, or get negative responses when they do show interest, how can we ever expect them to understand, and treat us like real people?

Mainstream society can only understand what it sees amongst itself. Are we really prepared to segregate ourselves away from them, preventing them from understanding us and our motives, out of some misplaced sense of community?


Piercer and manager of The Edge Tattoo in Rhode Island, in the process of organizing a Boston based suspension group.

IAM Page: goddam

I think we very much live in a custom fit society. Gay bars, Leather bars, Big and tall stores, S and M shops, Swingers Clubs, TV net works for men, women, fans of Urban culture, Pride network, Different Subculture e-zines popping up all over the internet, Gay Schools, schools for pregnant and young mothers, and so on. Hotels, restaurants, bars and the like that are subculture friendly are probably just around the corner realistically they already exist to a degree, While I don't think they'd ever be fully patronized by 100% their target audience (what establishment/store etc is?) I'd personally love to walk into a hotel that supports and embraces different subcultures, at least this way I wouldn't worry about the poor terrified maid finding blood on sheets after an out of town suspension event or BBQ.

I also think that this would be a great idea for a lot of kids that otherwise find themselves hurting for jobs, especially that sometimes soul crushing first job. A lot of young modified kids are finding it harder and harder to find jobs in such a tight economy these days and with many businesses implementing dress codes with zero tolerance for visible piercings and tattoos, and decent paying jobs that are more lenient with dress codes expecting references and experience. Young teenagers are being forced to conform and taught that the only way to get ahead... put a roof over your head and food in your stomach is to conform, sacrifice your sense of identity and for what? For long hours and minimum wage. I think that these types of business that would cater to less mainstream customers would be great for theses kids. I also think it would be great for the customers primarily "us" So many people that are visibly modified complain about crappy service, stares, not being served at all or generally being made to feel uncomfortable or like second class citizens when they enter some establishments as a result of their visible tattoos, piercings, dress etc. While it's definitely a lot easier than it was 10 years ago, or even 5 for that matter. But for the most part there are still issues here and there. I know many people say that they enjoy BME events, RAB events, Tattoo conventions and so on because they feel at home, surrounded by people of like interests and to a degree life styles. Questions for the most part you'll be asked are informed and friendly ones.

In terms of personally participating in these types of businesses, I'm a body piercer, so unless I found a different calling so to speak that put me into a different service industry I'd remain piercing, I'm not about to leave my job to wait on the tables of the pierced and tattooed, but if it came to working at the Hilton for example and a "hard rock hotel" I'd definitely choose the hard rock hotel. In terms of patronage, I would love to support a business that supported the same values I have. I personally have a difficult time spending money in bars and restaurants that give me shitty service or look at me like I have a second head. And I'd love to go to a hotel, restaurant, bar etc where there'd be less chances of being asked the same inane question by every second Abercrombie loving customer or guest.

Whether opening a business that caters to a subculture is a smart idea, well ill leave that to someone possibly a little more business minded than myself. But my guess would be it likely wouldn't be a multi million making venture, after all, they don't call them SUB cultures for nothing. I don't know if the general public could get "into" the whole idea. But I do think that there would be interest if for nothing else than the novelty of it all. After all, it isn't JUST die-hard fans of these different specialty stores, TV networks, restaurants, and bars etc that find themselves customers. And in the long run, it might be good for people to get a little more acquainted with different subcultures, a little enlightenment never hurt anyone.


former staff member of BME's QOD.

IAM Page: saram

While many companies prohibit visible body modifications and encourage a very conservative, traditional image, there is a growing handful of business that thrive on a very different approach. With chain restaurants that are meant to appeal to a young, hip clientele, and stores like Hot Topic where employees are hired for their "freakiness," this trend is getting hotter. There is a growing niche for businesses which appeal to the "alterna-crowd." Many urban and suburban areas also have local businesses with this image -- DC has a bar called The Big Hunt and stores like Smash and Commander Salamander where practically all of the employees have visible mods.

These businesses are meant to appeal to two groups: the alterna-crowd that might find it a place to hang out or shop without being shunned by the closed minded, and the more traditional crowd that has a "freakshow" interest in the things that "those crazy kids" are doing. Many people will walk into a place like Hot Topic just to see what it's all about, to tell their friends about it and laugh about what those "freaks" are doing or wearing. They may or may not be actually tolerant of the appearance or lifestyle of the modified and other people who deviate from societal norms. Thus, these crowds may not mix well in a restaurant, shop, or hotel.

Businesses using alternative appearance as a gimmick will always have a place in society, but I don't think they'll be totally "mainstream." But the "mainstream" shifts with time, so who knows!

I probably wouldn't be particularly involved or interested in such businesses. I wouldn't go out of my way to frequent them or avoid them. A lot of my feelings would depend on what type of business it was and what image they were promoting (both corporate and consumer). I dislike Hot Topic because it hires people based more on appearance than customer service, and their products are overpriced, cliched, and cheaply made. I think they take advantage of modified people to sell their image and their products. On the other hand, I love bars like The Big Hunt. Their overall appeal has nothing to do with tattoos, but I like being there (being downstairs from my favorite piercing studio helps) and it's a comfortable atmosphere.

We're at a pivotal place right now where people are desperately trying to draw the line between what is acceptable and what is too far. Should high school students have eyebrow piercings? Should a McDonalds cashier be able to have a visible tattoo? Should tongue splitting be illegal? This is moving into the business world, for better or for worse.


mod enthusiast.

IAM Page: CT

From how I'm interpreting the question, it seems to imply that a "main stream society" is what the world tends to consider "normal" and thus "not modified". That, in and of itself, is a pretty important point to note. Why? Because off the bat we're stating that in the context of this question that bod mod is not the norm. Given that it's not the norm, and that main stream society, as a whole, is largely unwilling to embrace the modified that fall outside their small degree of acceptance, the question almost answers itself in that "modified businesses" would not be accepted. But ignoring that for a moment let me explain a bit about why I agree with what the question seems to imply to me.

First, these "modified businesses" currently exist to fill niche markets. They survive because there's nobody else doing this and it's novel to most. While a visibly tattooed or pierced waiter/waitress at the Hard Rock is accepted because the Hard Rock is all about "Rock and Roll" and we all know that Rock and Roll is all about tattoos, the same thing would not be accepted at most other restaurants even in considerably less extreme situations. A nostril or eyebrow piercing can easily get a waiter or waitress fired from their job.

Think of it as a fetish. While there are plenty of people that do not consider body modification "abnormal" or "extreme" in the least, the vast majority of people consider it "exotic" or simply "different". Many go as far as to consider it "taboo" or "deviant". Given that, many people will go out for a night and take in the scenery, but with the full intention of not seeing this in their day-to-day lives. They're voyeurs and they're damn happy being able to control the amount of piercings and tattoos that they see daily.

As to the second part of the question - "Would you consider being a part?" - I don't know. It'd largely depend on the circumstance that surrounded the offer. Why? Because I think that right now the part that I play in a corporate environment showing people on a daily basis that "that guy with tattoos and piercings knows his shit and is a good worker and good at his job" is a very important one. Luckily, my current and former jobs have been very accepting environments and I haven't run into any real prejudiced due to my modifications.

Overall, I don't think that modified businesses will be much more than a gimmick for quite some time. Too many people are still of the opinion that a "certain type of person" gets modified and until that changes, it will always be a novelty. Once more people understand that anyone from any walk of life has every right and reason to be modified and that it doesn't make them a deviant, I don't think that society can see it as any different by definition.


mod enthusiast.

IAM Page: WhiteTrash

I think a 'modified business' stands just as much chance of being embraced by main stream society as any other new, 'normal', business venture if undertaken properly. The majority of the public does not patronize an establishment solely because of their "gimmick", but rather what the said establishment can offer them in return. Depending on the type of business this return could come in many forms: entertainment, affordability, convenience, satisfaction, etc. I know when I make a run to Burger King at midnight it's not because I can "have it my way", it's because they're close and they're cheap. For the sake of argument I'll stop being so vague and focus on one proposed venture, a restaurant. If a body art oriented restaurant were to open its doors tomorrow with a nice atmosphere, courteous and professional staff, and most importantly...good food, I see no reason why it would not succeed. If there's a restaurant in town where you can hang out with some friends, drink some beer, get a mouth watering steak (or burger, or salad, or tofu, or whatever...), and not pay a ridiculous amount of money for it, then people will go there. It doesn't matter if they're sitting in booths shaped like curved barbells, eating off plates with tattoo flash on them, or their server has a forked tongue and 47 facial piercings, the majority of people will go because of the service, not the gimmick. Well, almost....

I suppose location would be a pretty significant factor in determining the success of the proposed business. While people in a city such as New York may appreciate the fact they can sit down and eat while watching a suspension demonstration or a side show act, people in downtown Salt Lake City may not share the same sentiment.

As far as being a part of such a business, I wouldn't undertake the task of trying to start one from the ground up. However, given my loathing for my current job, as well as the chance to work in an open minded atmosphere where you don't have to remove any piercings or hide any tattoos on a daily basis, I would jump on the chance.


the mind behind BME.

IAM Page: glider

I think they already are -- many companies use body modifications as a part of their marketing and image. As long as it's "not too far" the average person thinks this stuff is "cool", so if you're trying to make your business appear hip it's good strategy.

Unfortunately, it always comes with the "not too far" clause, but more importantly, it means that modified people are being used as tools -- it's no different than a bar that hires nothing but big breasted women to work the low-end jobs, never allowing them to progress past that...most of the time it's good old-fashioned exploitation.

I'll gladly support a business where modified people take a controlling roll, but I'm not comfortable supporting businesses that attempt to exploit the fashionable aspects of this community in order to sell product (versus actually supporting this community).


former staff member of BME's QOD and current BME columnist, moderator of the BME mailing list, piercer at Cottage 13 in Hamilton. Interviewed on Modified Mind.

IAM Page: aesthete

I'm not much of a business man, and I hate to admit that I don't have that particular 'vision' of things to come, but I think that other than in a novelty sense, such an idea wouldn't take off. I just don't see the need, to be quite honest.

Though we may consider body modification to appeal to a large majority of the populace through such acts as earlobe piercing and others which most of us consider 'mundane,' outsiders to our scene simply don't. They don't feel any connection to us because let's face it, we're seen as kind of freaky and certainly on the edge of society. And while it's trendy to be risqué to a certain degree, I'm not sure I see the appeal of a "modified business." I patron certain businesses for many different reasons (quality, service, cost) but feeling a kinship to those who work for a certain company because of a mutual interest isn't one of them.

I apologize for the brevity of this response, but this is not something I'd ever considered, though it may turn out to be a good idea if it is implemented in an interesting and non-gimmicky way. Thank you.