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Tattoos and Mainstream Culture
Many people have been getting tattoos lately. People of all ages have been getting them and from all different backgrounds. On a nice day in just about any public place one can spot a tattoo about every five minutes, from the business man who had a portrait of his daughter put on him to a young girl with a butterfly on her ankle and even people with extensive tattoo coverage. What is even more interesting is the rise in the number of people who are heavily tattooed and that they come from all different backgrounds. Not too long ago tattooing did not experience the popularity in mainstream culture that it does now. The question that must be asked in order to understand this fascination that popular culture has had with tattoos is why people get tattoos.
There still is a lot of intolerance towards people who have tattoos especially towards people who have a lot of them but these days a tattoo here and there is not looked down as it once was. There was a time when only "low lives," were thought of as having tattoos and people who had them were dirty criminals and should not be associated with. Due to the mainstream of the world not accepting the practicing of tattoos many tattooists and their clients went into an underground state. It was not always easy for people to even find a tattoo artist even if they were brave enough to be labeled a "low life" by the majority of culture. A lot of places even banned tattooing due to the fact that they thought tattooing was morally wrong and a health risk. Tattooing was still illegal in New York City until 1993. The mystery that surrounds the art of tattooing has always created ignorant ideas from people who are misinformed.
Looking back at how people perceived tattoos then and how many "normal" people have them today shows a lot about how the world has changed, specifically in mainstream society. These days one can thrown a rock and hit a tattoo shop, but why the change of heart? Why are tattoos so popular now? Holly Tuesday, a writer for "Skin & Ink" tattoo magazine and heavily tattooed person said "We all, myself included, like to think that we stand out from the crowd.
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Dustin Horan, a tattoo artist said " I see all kinds of people coming to get tattoos, mothers and daughters going to get their first tattoos together, many different people are getting tattoos." It is obviously clear that tattoos have broken through their mysterious outlaw image in a sense. To many people it is a sign of rebellion that they wear proudly on the outside to show how they feel on the inside. But it goes even deeper than rebellion. Our culture has come a long way in what is seen as conservative and have exasperated many other ways of rebellion and more importantly ways of expressing themselves.
People have already seen it all and it was only a matter of time before they moved on and found something else. To a lot of people that would be tattoos. There is no greater commitment to something then to wear it permanently for everyone to see. The public has become fascinated with this concept of permanence and the beauty of a well executed tattoo. Somewhere down the line culture decided to turn their ignorance and fear into fascination. The fascination of being able to take control of one's body with permanent markings is becoming more apparent among people.
Tattoos have become therapy, they have become solutions to making people feel better about themselves. Chris Pfouts, the editor of "International Tattoo" magazine said "Many, many people get tattooed at low points in their lives, and the work is therapeutic that way. They feel boxed in, jammed up, unable to force a change anywhere in their lives- so they change the one thing they can for certain, their skin. This is one of the few times when tattooing flips its usual role. In other cases, people are taking what's inside of them, their pain or happiness, and putting it on the outside. Getting tattooed as a last resort method of change takes what is outside- resistance, barriers - and possibly brings it inside, cuts it down to a size where it can be handled and overcome (4)." People have found this in tattooing and because of this it is becoming more and more accepted as more and more people are getting tattooed.
Taking control of one's body is a major draw to the art of tattooing. When everything else was already used up, tattooing became the answer and thus entered popular culture. In a world of chaos and turmoil does it not make sense that one would want to take control in a way that is possible for them and reliable? The tattoo will never go away which fascinates some people and scares many, it will not change unlike the world. If a person can choose to wear something on them that will not go away and not change then they feel a sense of power, the power to control oneself in a healthy yet rebellious way.
I, myself am very tattooed and in places that are quite visible most of the time. There has always been a magical feeling every time I have received a tattoo. I am not unlike these other people who get tattoos, we all get tattoos for similar reasons and many times it has brought me closer to people who are fascinated with tattoos. Wearing tattoos everyday has effected me immensely.
It seems acceptable for a person now to mark their body with something that means something. With all conventional means of remembering something expended, the tattoo has came and taken its place. People get tattoos when they are on vacation with loved ones to remember the moment forever or to mark a moment in their life when something monumental has happened to them. In a world of artificial amusement and products, many people are looking for a genuine experience, one that can change the way they think about themselves but in a controlled manner.
What was considered to be delinquent behavior is now considered a genuine experience by popular culture. It is also considered to be an acceptable means of expression and commitment. Society has changed and quite rapidly. There is still a lingering sense of tradition that people hold on to, that tattoos are bad. As a whole popular culture has embraced the art of tattooing and with that their has grown acceptance. Tattoos will never go away and they will always be part of our culture due to the desire of mankind to control and express oneself.
Pfouts, Chris. "Dead Man Tattooing." International Tattoo Jan. 2001: 4.
Tuesday, Holly. "Diggin' the Dirt with Holly." Skin and Ink Sept. 2000 : 22.