By Nicole Cormier
For Huskie Tools
When you work a job that requires a combination of strength and courage, spending a few hours getting ink permanently put into your skin probably seems like no big deal.
Turns out, linemen love their tattoos.
We surfed the Internet for cool lineman-related tattoos and chatted with a few experienced power linemen about their jobs and ink.
Steve has been a lineman for 12 years and has just as many tattoos.
Eric has been a journeyman lineman for four years, has a full sleeve and eight additional tattoos.
We also threw in an outlier: Jeffery has been a lineman for over two decades and has no tattoos.
“No reason why, I just never have. I’ve thought about many times but have never pulled the trigger,” he said.
Why Do Linemen Get Tattooed?
It’s no secret that being a power lineworker is an extremely challenging and sometimes dangerous profession. It takes years of training, top-notch physical strength, lineman tool knowledge and trust in your colleagues to make it through each workday. It’s not a job that just anyone can do, which inspires both pride and camaraderie.
“My favorite part [of the job] is a tie between- the bond (brotherhood)- we have with each other and helping others in their time of need.” Jeffery said. “This isn’t one of those jobs that just anyone can sign up and handle. I’d say maybe 50 percent of the new hires will make it and not all of them will ever make journeyman. I consider myself to be part of an elite group and I take great pride in that.”
Being a lineworker in not just physically challenging, it also doesn’t align with the typical work hours of a regular gig – which can be just as difficult.
“The hardest part is the time away from family and friends. Most of the hours I work are outside of the normal 9-5, Monday through Friday that most people have,” Eric said.“I’m very lucky to have an amazing wife that does everything she can to support me while I’m working.”
As tough as it can be, at the end of the day it’s important and rewarding work.
“I like that my job makes a difference in people’s lives. I also enjoy the hard work that the job requires,” Eric said.
“I couldn’t imagine how many people’s power I have turned on and back on over the years.” Jeffrey said. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had complete strangers come out to greet and thank us for working in adverse conditions 18-20 hours per day hundreds of miles away from our own homes. That’s why I do it.”
Maybe it’s this combination of difficulty, solidarity and passion that leads to getting tattoo work.
“I think most linemen are less averse to risk and are slightly counterculture, so the personality of the job also fits into having ink,” Steve suggested.
What Kind of Artwork Do Linemen Get?
Like any unique individuals, linemen get a wide range of tattoos, usually acknowledging something or someone important to them.
All of Steve’s tattoos are focused on his family.
“I have a Zodiac for each of my kids.”
Rather than paying tribute, Eric wears daily reminders on his sleeve.
“It is a man’s ‘ruin sleeve,’” Eric says of the depiction of various vice., “I got it to show all the things that can take an otherwise good life and destroy it if care and moderation aren’t taken into account.”
For some linemen, it’s the job itself that inspires them to get ink. That’s when we see the literal homages of intricate power lines and men working on the pole. Of course, these kinds of depictions don’t appeal to all lineworkers. A few people (on Reddit) call these tributes cheesy, but when you’re putting your life on the line at your job every day, there’s no shame in wanting to share that with the world.
Is There A Correlation Between the Work and the Ink?
None of the linemen we talked to had art that was literally inspired by their jobs, but one of Jeffery’s noble acts did inspire someone else to get tattoo work.
“I’ve seen many of my coworkers get lineman inspired tattoos over the years. I’m even tattooed on one of my ex-coworkers,” he said. “I saved another lineman from another state – that I had never met- during Hurricane Francis in 2004.”
As can be expected, there are some traces of superstition when you’re working a job that mixes heights and electricity. One of Eric’s tattoos prompted some choice words from a coworker.
“I did have someone from work yell at me when they saw I got a 13 tattoo. They wanted to know why I would tempt fate with a bad luck tattoo while working in a dangerous career,” he said.
Superstitious or not, getting tattoo work as a team can be a bonding experience – forget the escape room.
“We had a few months where a few linemen would spend their free time hanging out at a tattoo shop.” Eric remembered. “Lots of tattoos came from that time. Some weren’t always the best ideas.”
Ultimately, working as a lineman is a tough career, making getting ink seem like child’s play in comparison. Is there a connection between linework and tattoo work?
Eric thinks there may be.
“I think there is a certain pride in knowing that you do a job that the majority of people wouldn’t be able to do and would have no motivation to do if they could.”