Rev. Rob Dale looks more like a biker than a preacher.
And compared to conventional religious leaders, Dale is an anomaly.
But send him into the pews at Vanier Community Church, and he blends right in — the church is full of people with tattoos, including other ministers.
Dale’s arms are covered in ink: Among them, a full sleeve eagle and a Mohawk warrior.
“It absolutely does open doors, especially because of the culture of the people that I’m wanting to connect to,” explains Dale, who rides a motorcycle.
“They relate right away, it takes away that stereotype when people find out I’m a minister.”
That doesn’t mean his appearance goes without scrutiny.
“I’ve had those who don’t know me who have kind of looked at it and questioned me as a minister,” said Dale.
“Well, when it comes to people in the church, certainly not to my face has anyone complained or criticized it.”
At home, however, it’s a different story.
Dale’s ink recently cost his daughter, Christina, 14, a friend.
The girl’s parents decided she wasn’t allowed to hang around Christina anymore because Dale and his wife are tattooed up.
“I had to chuckle at that, because knowing what I do for a living, and the environment, it’s certainly a positive environment around here,” said Dale.
With more and more people going under the needle, ink is well received at OC Transpo, where bus driver Mike Labelle dons a full right sleeve with a medley of album covers from Canadian rock band Rush.
“I get lots of compliments on them by my passengers, and the odd dirty look,” said Labelle.
So far, his tattoos haven’t been an issue with management.
“As long as I’m doing my job, it shouldn’t be a problem,” said Labelle.
Christine Drummond, an administrative assistant at a car dealership, often shows off tattoos on her foot and wrist.
Management initially asked staffers to hide their ink when they were on the sales floor, “but so many of us have them now, they have been a little more carefree,” she said.
Angela Myers, an office administrator at the Canadian Tire store in Perth, has tattoos on both legs “and my boss is fine with them,” she said.
Body art, though, has created setbacks for professional cleaner Joshua Boileau, who has a neck tattoo.
“The only time I find myself in a struggle is when applying for mediocre jobs — fast-food, retail, and many more,” he said.
“I’ve had a great experience in working for people who see past the initial assumptions when I walk through the door. People have come to enjoy my company, to get to know me.”
However, some companies are still striving for a clean-cut image.
Brookstreet Hotel staffer Cassandra Caterino wears a wristband to conceal her ink, “and I get more comments from guests about how they think it’s ridiculous I have to cover it,” she said.
Dale knows many politicians, lawyers, and doctors rocking ink.
“They just aren’t at the place yet where they can freely show them,” he said.
“I’ve often joked that I wonder if even our Prime Minister has a tattoo hidden somewhere that he just can’t show off?”
The Prime Minister’s office declined comment.