Generational Trends in Tattooing

Time passes, and with it the fads and trends that accompany each decade revolve in and out of the background. However, they say that everything old becomes new again, and that often becomes obvious as our kids start showing up in our old, thrift store cast offs thinking they are the next big thing. The same is true of body art. Just like blue jeans, tattoo styles have changed through the years, but they are still a classic staple. Let’s explore the generational trends in tattooing.

There’s nothing good about war, though it’s a necessary evil. World War II was fairly popular, as wars go and there was no shortage of men lining up to enlist. The Lady Luck tattoo was widespread among the military men. She was beautiful, and appeared in all stages of dress, surrounded by lucky talismans like four leaf clovers, eight balls and rabbit’s feet. She was believed to bring luck to the wearer, and who needs luck if not a soldier on his way to war? The Lady Luck was not particular to any one branch of the military.

Generally speaking, service tattoos mark an entire generation, whether it’s bluebirds on the chest of a sailor, an anchor on his forearm, or Simper Fi on the shoulder of a marine, they’re a proud symbol of his service. Today’s armed forces still participate in the rich tradition of military tattooing, but due to the chronological gaps between wars that the current generation has been blessed with, the military no longer makes up as significant a part of the population as it has in times past.

Previous generations held tattoos at a distance and perpetuated the stigma associated with them. Body art (it probably wasn’t widely considered art back then) was somewhat taboo for mainstream society. Tattoos were only for certain groups of people, like bikers, tramps and convicts. So, it’s probable that more risqué designs, like nude or topless women were done more often, because the people getting them were already outcast, and didn’t have to conform to social politeness because no one really expected it of them anyhow.

While nude tattoos definitely still happen, more and more people are opting for more modest and less visible body art. This trend is probably supported by the fact that tattooing isn’t confined to such specific segments of the population. Today, there’s a host of doctors, lawyers, accountants and other professionals who want to get their ink done, but don’t want to risk hindering their employment options, or need to comply with a dress code or a particular image.

In the 1990s and early 2000s, tribal tattoos reached the height of their popularity. Contrary to popular belief, theirs really nothing ethnically significant about such designs, other than they are loosely inspired by the elaborate tattooing practiced by the people of the Polynesian islands. Tribal tattoos are characterized by heavy, bold black lines in patterns that often feature prominent jagged points.

There was a time when women didn’t ever get tattooed, especially nice, respectable ones. My, how times have changed. Not only do ladies get inked, but all kinds of ladies get inked. The lower-back tattoo has been an overly popular choice for ladies in the last few years. Girls chose designs ranging from the ultra feminine butterfly, or a dainty little flower, all the way to heavy Celtic knots and
more. Every tattoo makes a statement; the lower-back tat says “I’m still following the crowd, just the alternative one.”

There are a lot of things that cause a rift between the younger generation and the older one. Often the one doesn’t understand where the other is coming from. The clothes are different, the music has changed, but tattoos are a cultural phenomenon that bridges the gap.

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