History behind tattoos
By Samantha Paine
For the past few decades, tattoos have gained a steady, yet drastic popularity in American culture. What once was a strong taboo has quickly become a recreational art form and means of personal expression.
Tattoos have a long history dating back to early tribal societies and cultures. In these times, they were utilized to symbolize a specific trait of the person they were printed on, such as status or rank, or to differentiate what tribe they belonged to.
Now, permanently inking a part of the body is much more interpretive and holds a different meaning to every individual who chooses to make a statement through the medium of tattoos.
Author Lorrie Blair, in her article, “Tattooed Teenagers: An Art Educators Response,” reflected on this popularity. She said, “Traditionally, body markings symbolically located and anchored an individual to a social group or community. A tattooed body, as a site of representation, acted as a surface to display one’s identity to others.”
For some, these tattoos are an opportunity to show off who they are proud to be, whether it’s an affiliation with a religion, culture or part of the world. Blair also expresses the idea that people of the younger generations form their outward identity based on self-perceptions, meaning tattoos can become a form of personal identity for some.
Another common reason for why many elect to ink their skin is for the commemoration or honor for a specific person or group of people.
Many firefighters and family members of those killed in the 9/11 attacks showed off their tattoos in honor of the lives lost in an exhibition in 2003 by the Staten Island Historical Society. However, these tattoos aren’t always based on a death. They can simply be to honor a loved one and show respect or veneration.
Sometimes, tattoos aren’t meant to be seen or understood by others, and instead are solely for the people who wear them. They are often meant as a reminder or symbol, and are often done in a more cryptic or vague form so the meaning behind them is not as evident to others.
People with the intent of getting a personal tattoo may choose such things as words or phrases facing their line of vision, small designs signifying a specific event or emotional time period and even something written in a code.
However, some people struggle to see the appeal in such a practice, whether it is because of religious reasons, personal bias or cultural disapproval.
In some cases it is seen as permanently damaging and marking the vessel of the soul, ruining the sanctity of the body. Others just see it as “trashy,” or that they are only affiliated with a certain type of person. But more often than not, the argument that the younger generations hear most is that they won’t be able to get a good job with them.
Thanks to societal changes shifting to accept many types of body modifications like tattooing and piercings, this is becoming less of an issue. Also, those hoping to go into a stricter business career will most likely choose to place their tattoos in conveniently hide-able areas so it does not interfere with their futures.
Tattoos are in and negativity is out. As the years pass, tattooing will become even more mainstream, and people will continue to make excuses to get inked.