There was a time in America when only drunken sailors, scruffy bikers, and women whom our grandparents called "floozies" wore tattoos. When we talked about people with decorations, we meant those who had won medals. Now we mean people who are walking works of art.

According to a prominent Chicago employment firm, 1/3 of new college graduates who are out looking for work today sport what's called "body art" -- tattoos, earrings in creative places, and other forms of self-expression involving penetrations of the epidermis. One third. According to the Washington Times newspaper, which did the math, that's 1.3 million applicants with tattoos of eagles and devils and the names of ex-lovers, strolling into employment offices.

In the olden days of dress codes, someone with a fire-breathing butterfly tattooed on his cheekbone would have counted himself lucky to get a job crushing boxes behind the building. But nowadays, body art is cool, and employers seeking new talent and fresh ideas must smile sweetly and ignore the bicep gargoyles, tie tacks through the eyelids, and 17-earring arrays if they want the brightest young applicants to work at their place.

Even corporations that still find such displays heathenish hesitate to tell pierced and tattooed job-seekers to take themselves and their nose rings elsewhere, for fear of a discrimination lawsuit. Diversity laws do not apply just to race and gender any longer.

Most hiring managers interviewed in the Washington Times said they would not even blink at an applicant with a small shoulder tattoo or a tasteful little spear through the eyebrow. As for people who look like a human roadmap, lanced by metal objects, well, their brains will get them hired, and their body art an office in the basement.