Would you sit for hours and let someone stab you repeatedly? There are those who crave such treatment. Since its beginnings, civilization has possessed habits that were seen as barbaric and low-rent. Being tattooed has, in the history of the U.S., been seen as something that only the dregs and roughnecks of society would do. Yet in this, the technological, age tattoos have become a more accepted and mainstream part of society.
Some of those who are being tattooed today do so to be trendy. The most popular or–as many would put it–the most cliché, tattoos are tribal or Celtic designs, barbed wire, and skulls for males, and, for females, flowers, fairies, hearts, and butterflies. Still others are tattooed because they see their art as an extension of themselves and wish to be a canvas for their artist.
According to Tattoo Facts and Statistics online (http://www.vanishingtattoo.com), in 1936 Life magazine estimated about 6 percent of the U.S. population had at least one tattoo. The same article states that in April 2000, the National Geographic News reported that approximately 40 million U.S. citizens had been inked.
If you break it down by age groups, a 2003 Harris poll tells us that young adults aged 25-29 possess the highest percentage of tattooed individuals–a stunning 36 percent! Over the past few years, both the age range and the number of those being tattooed have steadily increased.
Tattoos are gotten for many reasons. In biker culture, one might get a tattoo to symbolize their affiliation with their biker crew, just as a gang member would have his gang’s symbols etched into his skin to show his loyalty.
For many, a tattoo is a passing fad, a craze, and is something they will later regret. These are most often the people who go with a group of friends to get tattooed because it’s “cool,” or perhaps some are those who would, in the thralls of a passionate affair, get a lover’s name inked into their flesh. These people are most commonly the ones who will seek out means of tattoo removal later on in life, ashamed of what they consider a momentary lapse of judgment.
And yet for others, a tattoo is a distinct and desired part of life–an expression of their personal beliefs and a work of art. Not long ago, tattoos were unacceptable in high society and were seen as the rude and brutal etchings of roughnecks and those who were of a lower standard. Throughout the 1960s, the rebellious, anti-social mind-set of the day helped to mainstream tattooing as more and more flower children were inked in defiance of what was “proper.” By the 1970s, rock and rollers began to proudly display their tats, and by the 1980s, many celebrities, from rock star to model to sports star to actress, boasted of their ink.
A History Channel program reveals that the earliest sample of tattooed skin which has been discovered dates back to 12th-Dynasty Egypt (1938 B.C.), but that there is evidence to show that, in Pre-Dynastic and Early Dynastic Egypt, tattooing might have been practiced as early as 4500 B.C.
Today’s age has been described as the age of the Renaissance for tattoos. An article by U.S. News and World Report states that ten years ago, tattoo parlors were opening at a rate of one per day in the U.S. Tattoo artists now advertise page after page of “Flash” art on their walls, ready-made tattoos for the customers who want ink, but don’t know what design they want.
In the past decade, newer, stricter regulations have been put into place to protect both the client and the artist. Cleanliness and equipment guidelines have allowed tattooing to become a safer form of rebellion for teens looking to shock their parents or to find a way to express themselves.
But for some, tattoos will always be taboo. In this day and age, there is still discrimination against those people who choose to be inked. Often, one will cover his art for a job interview, fearful that any potential employer will judge the person not by his resume, but by the ink in his skin. It is the same for the females who allow their skin to become a canvas. While those with the understanding see tattoos as unique and beautiful expressions of one’s personality and another’s skill, others see them merely as blemishes or stains on an otherwise unmarred surface. Ultimately, it is an individual’s choice whether or not a tattoo is a beautiful addition to one’s person or a beastly mistake to be erased.