Foot Tattoos and Interviews

How to Cover Your Tattoos for Interviews | CorporetteShould You Cover Your Tattoos for Interviews? | CorporetteShould you cover a tattoo for an interview?  What if it’s in a place that’s hard to cover — should you go the extra mile just for the interview?  Reader A wonders about her foot tattoo:

I am a 2L at a Midwestern law school and going through the interview process for next summer. I would like to build my professional wardrobe, but shoes always stump me. I have a tattoo across the top of my foot; a quote in black ink. I would like to cover it up for interviews and other conservative, professional events, but still look feminine, professional, and seasonal.

The compromise I have come up with is either wearing a pant suit with black leather booties or a skirt suit with black pantyhose and pumps. Either option is too hot for the summer and prevents me from wearing other colors.

Any advice for cute, professional shoes that would cover my ink and allow me to lighten up my wardrobe?

Great question, reader A!  I was just talking with a reporter about looking professional with tattoos, and I’m surprised we haven’t covered them since our interviewing with tattoo sleeves post a few years ago.  In general, I agree with my old advice, which is that you should a) avoid getting visible tattoos in the first place, and b) keep your tattoos covered for interviews, big/first meetings, court appearances, and more.

Here’s the thing, though: a foot tattoo is kind of hard to cover up easily.  Something to keep in mind when interviewing is that a very conservative job may require you to keep a tattoo covered almost all the time — so consider beginning as you mean to go on.  By this I mean: If you’re ok with taking the steps below on all but casual days (after you’ve gotten to know your office, of course), then great.  But if this all sounds like a lot of work and you plan to wear regular pumps or ballet flats 90% of the time, you may want to consider just leaving the tattoo exposed during part of the interview process (such as the second round of interviews), since this will weed out a lot of fit problems with your future office early on.

That said — here are some solutions for covering tattoos that may work for you if you want to wear the most conservative, safest outfit choice for an interview — a skirt suit, nude-for-you pantyhose, and comfortable pumps or flats:

  • OXFORDS. I actually wrote this entire post (and hit publish, yay!) and then remembered, DUH, oxfords.  I think a heeled oxford looks great with skirts (particularly A-line skirts), with tights or by itself, and they have the bonus of usually being pretty comfortable.  You can even get nude-for-you oxfords (either from a design-your-own-shoes shop such as Shoes of Prey or UpperStreet shoes (a UK site that just acquired Milk & Honey)), or often at the regular spots like Zappos).  These are probably the best compromise because a) they can be worn during summer months pretty easily, b) they still “read” conservative (whereas wearing a bootie with a skirt, while more acceptable today than a few years ago, still looks a bit au courant for most conservative places), and c) don’t require a huge, regular investment in time or energy.  I only played around with the design tool at Shoes of Prey for about 5 minutes, but this all-leather style would be $199 (with a 365-day return/change policy).  I think an all-black leather version would be just as wearable — almost a vintage, 40s vibe, particularly with a lower/thicker heel.

Custom Shoes to Cover Foot Tattoos | Corporette

  • Band-aids.  Depending on the size and placement of the tattoo, a band-aid is another good option.  Yes, you look like you have a band-aid on your foot, but hey, people get injured — there’s nothing unprofessional or questionable about a band-aid.  Bonus: a band-aid is easy to apply, and while they do move around sometimes, a new band-aid stuck to your skin (particularly beneath pantyhose, which you should definitely be wearing for interviews) is kind of foolproof.
  • Makeup.  There are a ton of options for makeup, including this Kat von D product or this Dermablend product.  This YouTube video describes how to cover tattoos, including tips such as how long to let each layer of foundation set, how to blend it with the rest of your skin, and some shortcuts (such as using a lip pencil at the beginning to cancel out the darkness of the tattoo, and using a blow dryer with cold shots to help the products “set” between layers).  It’s an 8-minute video depicting what sounds like a 20- to 40-minute process, so I don’t know how doable that is going to be on a regular basis, but… there you go.
  • Tattoo removal.  Tattoos say a lot about your personality (that you have one, what you got, where you got it, etc.) , and, as mentioned above, I hope you’re proud of your tattoo and whatever it symbolizes.  If you have tattoo regret, however, you can obviously look into tattoo removal or “tattoo reduction,” which apparently makes it lighter so it’s easier to cover up.  I’m hoping the readers can chime in here with experience about what to expect with tattoo removal in terms of the physical experience, price, or results.
  • Mary-jane pumps or T-strap pumps (or flats). Depending on the size and placement of your tattoo, these may or may not be an option — and note that they may make any other attempts to cover up the tattoo (makeup, bandaid) move around, causing the tattoo to become uncovered. Again, a custom shop (like the ones mentioned above) may be able to help you make the strap wide enough and placed just where you need it.  I’d suggest trying to create something with a thick strap (such as thisthis, or this) and/or a lot of detail on the front of the foot (like this).

Your idea of a pants suit and boots is ok, but know that a) that’s going to read as less conservative than a skirt suit and pumps or flats, b) it may not be an option for fall interviews if it’s too hot, and c) it’s probably not going to be an option that first day of work in the summer (or for other big events in the summer where you would want to cover your tattoo) — so one of the above solutions may be needed at least some of the time.

Readers with foot tattoos (and other visible, hard-to-cover tattoos) — how do you cover them?  Readers who’ve had tattoos removed — share your stories!  As always, readers, please chime in — what would your advice be to someone with a visible foot tattoo for appropriate interview attire?

(Pictured: feather!, originally uploaded to Flickr by brynnycole31.)


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Foot Tattoos and Interviews


  1. Wildkitten :

    KT tape in nude under tights/hose.

    Next question?

    • If a co-worker wore oxfords 100% of the time she wore skirts and dresses, I’d pretty much guess there was a tattoo there.

      • That wasn’t meant to be a reply to your sensible comment.

      • Anonymous :

        Really? I don’t think I’d ever notice. I’d assume she just prefers oxfords, perhaps for orthopedic reasons if they’re usually oxford flats.

    • This. It totally works. I skinned my shin at a tough mudder and used this trick for the several months it took to heal.

  2. Based on a conversation I just had with coworkers at lunch, there are definitely people still people who will not hire you or judge you harshly based on your tattoo. We’re all lawyers in a large Southern city and they’re in their 40s and 50s.

    For coverup methods, I would try using makeup. Since it’s on your foot, it doesn’t have to be perfect (nobody is getting that close!) but I would test it out to make sure that it lasts and doesn’t transfer.

  3. Anne Shirley :

    Pants, pumps, trouser socks.

    • chilledcoyote :

      Yes – dark trouser socks is what I was coming over here to say.

  4. Sundae Funday :

    This isn’t something I would likely notice as an interviewer. That being said you want to feel as confident as possible on interview day, so try to cover it up with makeup or tape, etc. if that helps you feel more comfortable. I would try to cover it and stick with hose and pumps.

  5. Diana Barry :

    I wore almost all pantsuits to my interviews 12 (gahhhhhh) years ago. But I feel like we talk about how pantsuits aren’t as conservative etc. every year here – is that still as true as it used to be?

    I think the KT tape is a brilliant idea – stickier than bandaids and it won’t move around.

    • Um yeah I was about to respond… what’s wrong with pant suits??? I just think it’s garbage to consider them less professional than a skirt suit. Sexist even. Booties wouldn’t be that hot to me, especially with summer air conditioning, but I’m always cold. They would look out of place in the summer though.

    • Yeah, as Cat says you might not be wanting the job if they wouldn’t hire you with a tattoo- I feel the same about pant suits. If you won’t hire me because I’m wearing a pant suit, I don’t want to work for you.

    • I’m sure it’s industry specific, but it’s the norm for women to wear pantsuits for interviews on the engineering/construction side. This also carries into normal office wear. I rarely wear dresses or skirts and don’t own a skirt suit.

  6. I’ve got a foot tattoo, also a black ink quote. I rotated through a couple options during OCI and work. The first is black opaque tights; I didn’t have anyone comment on them, and noticed other associates would wear black tights throughout the summer as well. My go-to excuse if anyone asks is I’m really sensitive to A/C and it’s more comfortable for me. To switch it up some days I will quickly slap on concealer on my foot to mostly cover it up, then wear patterned black tights. I’ve never gotten make-up to work well enough on its own to conceal it, but I haven’t tried any of the more complex methods. When I wear pants, I either wear black or navy trouser socks or thick nude ones (I get mine in packs of 3 at Target).

    Sure it gets hot outside, but I’m perfectly comfortable when in the office all day. People may suspect I’m covering something up, but I figure I’m dressing conservatively and shouldn’t be faulted for something I never show in the office, when all it means is I have to make different wardrobe choices than most. It gets annoying at times (especially when picking outfits for casual summer associate outings!) but that’s the price I pay for being able to express myself the way I’ve chosen outside the office. And the bonus? I never have to shave my legs before work!

  7. Medic Maggie :

    I have a tattoo in a coverable area, but am considering a second in a more visible area. I haven’t decided on location, in part because of its visibility. I don’t work in a particularly conservative environment, but I do have a lot of public interface, and present frequently at public hearings. I have been considering a tattoo on the inside of my wrist, knowing that it could be easily covered in winter with sleeves, but in the summer, it could be covered with a cardi, or with a watch–maybe not entirely covered, but at least hidden/obscured. But, like I said, I also don’t think that anyone would really bat an eyelash if they saw my wrist tattoo at a public hearing, provided the rest of me is put together.

  8. I have a fully tattooed back, and keep all my tattoos within a skirt suit. I think if you get tattoos you should take into consideration all the awful judgmental employers. It sucks and I’d love arm tattoos but that’s too big a career risk

    • This. I began getting tattoos at 18 and always kept them to my back so they could easily be covered up in a professional setting without getting in the way of what I want to wear or being in danger of looking unprofessional. I would love love love to get sleeves, but I would hate to be unable to wear cap sleeve dresses or even anything with 3/4 length sleeves.

  9. I have a tattoo on the second toe of my left foot. My “go to” is the blister bandage line from J&J. I work part time so I put one on and being water proof it lasts the entire work week. There are some athletic training tapes in nude that are stronger and more adhesive than KT.

  10. Sarah Says :

    Trouser socks! Target sells them, they are flesh colored (caucasian) but enough so that you can’t see through them. You could also get other colors. Seen here:

  11. Tattoo removal is only an option if you have a LOT of time. I have been getting one removed and have gone through 10 painful sessions over the past year and a half (the treatments must be spaced out 6-10 weeks). Only now am I beginning to see some fading, and I probably have at least 6 months to go.

    We interviewed someone with a visible foot tattoo last week. Afterward, one of the partners said to me, “Well, she clearly has a personality–she didn’t make any effort to cover up that tattoo.” (She was wearing a pantsuit with pumps and no socks.) However, we’re in a pretty laidback office (as far as law firms go), so it wasn’t held against her, just definitely noticed.

  12. Midwest Mom :

    Very timely topic. I teach professional skills to business college students and I am doing workshops throughout September on professional appearance. I tell the students with foot tattoos to cover them with a bandaid. Sounds like there are other options out there. THANKS.

    BTW I tell the women to stay away from button up shirts for interviews…. too many gaping issues out there. I also spend a ton of time on shoes. Had a student once comment as she was leaving a presentation carrying her shoes… I usually only wear these when I’m wasted. If your tall heels are only comfortable if you are wasted those are not interview shoes. Lastly… I tell them if they look at themselves in the mirror and they think, “man, I look sexy today”… then go change the whole outfit.

  13. I too have a foot tattoo that I absolutely love. My first year of having it, I had some anxiety about what potential employers may think during the interview process. I now work in the philanthropy sector, so the culture is not as straight laced as say, a law office.

    I try to cover it up for initial interviews – typical outfit may be a skirt, blouse, blazer, pantyhose and oxford shoes/pumps that cover the tattoo. I have also worn pants with black knee highs (which you can wear with any shoes). You can also go lighter on knee highs and make sure your pant leg covers enough. I generally feel that it’s good to keep it very professional at first, I hope that you will be as lucky as me and find employers that love you for your work quality and enthusiasm – and not care about a tattoo. I love that I can wear dresses in the summer and not worry about covering it up around the office – but I do try to keep it under wraps for a bit in the beginning of a new job, until I get a true feel for office culture.

    Other than simply covering it up, I also urge any professionals with a visible tattoo to really think about how much you love it. I have no regrets with mine – and as I recently told a friend, I wouldn’t want to work for an employer that had a problem with my foot tattoo anyway. Understand that if you have a tattoo, some people will judge – it’s just a reality. The important thing is that YOU love your tattoo and embrace the fact that you decided to put it in a place where people can see it. In 20 years, there will be TONS of CEOs and other executives with tattoos…it’s a generational thing that I can only hope will be come more normative with time.

  14. Estee Lauder Double Wear Maximum Cover (for face and body)

  15. Anonymous :

    Several years before I even considered going to law school, I got a large black tattoo that crawled up & around my ankle. When I finally decided to pursue a career in law, I was a different person from the person who got that tattoo. The legal field is very conservative, especially in the small southern area where I live, so when I started working as an attorney I only wore pant suits to hide the tattoo. Then being a different person & wanting to wear skirts, I decided to have the tattoo removed. The first place I went was a popular “med spa” who sold laser tattoo removal packages for about $700 for 6 sessions. The first session was at least double the pain of the tattoo application & that was with numbing cream. It also resulted in a severe infection. After the infection cleared, the tattoo was lighter, but I wasn’t returning to that place. I then went to a medical clinic where a dermatologist did the removal with numbing injections. There was a $300 consultation fee & $150 for each laser session & I would go to as many sessions as necessary. I’ve had 3 sessions with the dermatologist & the tattoo is significantly lighter & there was no pain beyond the numbing injections. Given the tattoo’s location – on the bony area of my ankle, with little fat & scarring from the previous infection – the dermatologist told me that the tattoo is as light as it’s going to get without cutting it out. So, I’m finished with the laser sessions since I don’t want to cut it out. I think it now looks like a skin discoloration rather than a tattoo & I’m ok with it.

    I was told that black ink can be lasered more successfully than color ink, so keep that in mind. My advice to anyone seeking to have laser tattoo removal is to go to a dermatologist, not a med spa. Also, definitely get numbing injections because numbing cream is useless & the pain of the laser is exponentially greater than what is was getting the tattoo – at least that was my experience.

  16. I can’t help but feel annoyed by this. My tattoos are literally part of my body. I can’t change that now. We wouldn’t tell someone to cover up their nose if we didn’t like how it looked, why should my tattoos be any different?

    • I think because you weren’t born with your tattoos?

      As a somewhat-analogy, my hair is naturally curly. Very curly. It takes 1-1.5 hours of intense brush/dryer/flatiron action to make it not-curly, which has only happened a few times in my life.

      I would think it would be highly inappropriate if an employer suggested, or made a policy, that my natural curly hair was somehow unprofessional and that I needed to change it. But if their policy is that my hair can’t be blue or purple, I’m okay with that, since literally no one’s hair grows that way.

    • Because tattoos are evidence of your judgment skills in a way your face isn’t? An ugly or strange tattoo is a much bigger clue to someone’s personality than an ugly or strange nose.

  17. I’m a lawyer and work in Los Angeles, which is fairly laid back, and I still think that heeled oxfords with dresses or skirts are not professional at all in a law firm environment–they look trendy and like something you’d wear out on Friday night, not like something you could wear to court to be taken seriously. I think a pant suit, dark trouser hose or socks, and heels would be the much better route for OP.

    I think of tattoos like cleavage–they are part of your body and some people have to deal with covering them up more than others to work in a professional environment. It’s not fair, but that’s the way it is.

    • This. I was surprised to see heeled oxfords suggested as a better alternative to the bootie. I am in a pretty casual west coast market as well, and neither heeled oxfords nor booties would pass for interview attire here. If the tattoo cannot be covered with a bandaid/makeup or some other effective means, go with pants and do whatever you need to do to cover any part of the tattoo that still shows when you walk/sit down. For less formal occasions (mixers, a regular day at the office for a job you have had for more than 5 minutes), I think you can worry less about covering up the little bit that might peak out, but a skirt sans opaque tights or some legit cover-up work is just not in the cards.

      Re: interview attire: If your interviewer is so old fashioned that s/he considers a skirt suit to be the only acceptable option, then I’m sorry to say you are just SOL, as the person who sneers at a pantsuit is also likely to frown upon non-traditional footwear.

      • Completely agree. Stop trying to make oxfords or booties happen. They aren’t going to happen (in a conservative law environment, even West Coast).

  18. Anonymous :

    What a timely posting – I just went in today to begin the process of having a visible tattoo removed. While it’s often covered up in office wear, I really can’t wear anything sleeveless when meeting with a new client or anyone outside of my office. I really like the tattoo, and a big part of me will miss it, but the placement was a poor choice for me long-term.

    If you choose to remove, I highly recommend the new Picosure laser. I found the process only minimally painful, although the tattoo is in a “tougher” area (my shoulder). The actual treatment took about 60 seconds. Only about 4 hours after the first treatment, it’s already fading … the treatments are spaced 4-6 weeks apart, and it will probably take about 6 treatments to have the tattoo totally removed, just about in time for summer next year. The Picosure is more expensive than the older Q-switched lasers, but for me it’s worth it for the quicker and more complete removal.

  19. Not a fans of ankle tattoos, and yeah, I’d judge you for having one. I’d feel like a jerk about it but I would judge you and the people more senior than me would judge you even more harshly.

  20. old capitol :

    I think Reader A should certainly go through interviews with the tattoo covered by makeup or tape underneath sheer hose, dressed as conservatively as possible otherwise, so she will end up being evaluated on her qualifications. Oxfords might be cute for everyday office wear, but any sign of quirk could be an issue at the interview stage. My guess is that once Reader A has been working happily at a legal position for a while, no one will think to notice her feet unless they are meeting her for the first time or she is in the public eye.

    For perspective, I’m fairly heavily tattooed (full back up to tops of shoulders, 3/4 sleeve on one arm, thighs, stomach, hips) and I work as a litigator for a relatively conservative government legal office. I keep my tattoos covered at work but I don’t lie about having them. As long as I cover up for work and I keep on top of my cases, no one really cares. My general sense of this is that you have to choose to make it a non-issue by getting good at covering visible ink and moving comfortably and confidently so that no attention will be drawn to the concealed area. Practice is everything.

    • I second this.

      If I see your ink by accident or on purpose at work (and I’ve seen a lot of questionable lower back tattoos when someone is not wearing an adequately not transparent shirt or not wearing well fitting clothing) it may be all of what I think of you for a while.

  21. Senior Counsel :

    I have a foot tattoo (under my pinky and fourth toe) and honestly didn’t even think about covering it up for my in house position for a Fortune 50 Company. Sure enough, the GC saw my tattoo and asked me about it directly. I ultimately got hired despite working in a conservative environment in the South. So long as the tattoo is tasteful, non-offensive and you can clearly articulate your reasons for getting it, I think you’re okay.

  22. Foot/ankle tattoos really squick me out. Thinking of a fashion blogger whose lower leg tattoo ruins EVERY skirt outfit.

  23. Honestly, just wear some fancy, polished booties if you are going the skirt/dress route. Or as I said before, pants with black or nude knee-highs. I work in a fairly laid back office, but when I attend any corporate or fancy events, I try to keep my foot tattoo on the DL.

    The comments about whether or not it is professional (or cute) to have a foot tattoo are moot. Reader A already has one, so comments about how unprofessional it is to have one in the first place are not helpful.

  24. Anonymous tattoo judger :

    Yeah, I’m posting anonymously.

    I am a trial lawyer. My firm is a firm of trial lawyers. You cannot have a visible tattoo in front of a judge or jury, in my opinion. You’re not the show, here. You can’t distract with your cleavage, your clothing choices, your strange personal habits, or your tattoos and piercings. My clients don’t want to take that risk.

    I also don’t think tattoos are professional. When my newly-hired paralegal showed up for our first casual Friday showing arm tattoos, I instructed her that she needed to cover them during business hours. If we’re working on a case together that’s in trial on a weekend and the clients aren’t coming in? Wear what you want. But otherwise, cover them up.

    I’m surprised at the “do what you want,” “it’s my body” comments *to the exclusion* of this viewpoint. I simply do not think tattoos are appropriate to show at work.

    • old capitol :

      I agree wholeheartedly that the *exclusion* of the viewpoint that tattoos in front of a judge or jury or clients are a huge risk is surprising. Maybe life is different for lawyers whose clients don’t rely on how the lawyers’ appearances are perceived. For my clients, it is essential that I don’t botch the case by seeming overly goofy.

    • When I started at my current job, I had a nightmare that my arms were exposed and someone said “who let you in here?” It was the scariest dream I’d had in awhile. They are not appropriate for work, and arguments to the contrary by the tramp-stamped are annoying.

  25. I have two full sleeves and my entire chest done and I work in GC at one of the most conservative insurance companies in the US. My role is not client facing and there are no explicit prohibitions against tattoos, but I wear long sleeves and a crew neckline every single day. I want people to remember and respect my work, not my tattoos, so I suck it up and cover up. It’s something most of the tattooed with a brain understand when we get them.

    Having to answer questions about them is THE WORST and I’d rather not talk about them at work. Why do you want to know what this means? Why do you care where I got them done.? No, I don’t care what your sister/brother/son/daughter have tattooed on them. Yes, it hurt. I also like the knowledge that I’m a completely different person than my colleagues think I am. Tattoos, death metal, powerlifting, and BJJ are my little secrets. They may judge people with tattoos, but it’s not as if I’d hang out with them in my spare time anyway.

  26. I have about 75% of the tops of both feet tattooed. I tend to wear dress socks with flats that match my pants, boots, or oxfords. I never wear heals (or shocker pantyhose as I have an alergic reaction to them) I do occasionally test the waters especially in business casual environments. I also wear cardigans year round to cover my arms (I have various weights for seasons) which honestly isn’t bad considering how cold a lot of buildings are kept. Sometimes you have to suffer as much for being an artists canvas as the artist does for their art.

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