Tattooing has been around for thousands of years and is one of the oldest forms of art. Tattoos immortalize memories, mantras, loved ones and perhaps drunken, bad decisions. As the popularity of tattoos continues to soar, the art form continues to be looked down upon in today’s society.
Throughout history, tattoos were used for various purposes and represented different meanings. Individuals have used tattoos to affiliate with certain groups or to even exclude from society. According to Tattoo Historian, tattoos date back to the Old Testament and writings from Constantine the Great in 313 AD.
In the past, branding was also considered a form of tattoo art. In Europe, slaves and convicted criminals were burned with a red-hot iron, and this marking led to isolation from the rest of civilized society.
It was James Cook, an explorer and Royal Naval captain, who introduced the word “tattoo” to English speakers. During his voyage around the world from 1768-1771, Cook was introduced to the Polynesian word “tattau”, which means, “to mark.”
Today, tattoos are regarded as forms of individuality and creativity. However, a social stigma remains for those individuals with tattoos.
A recent study by College Journal Today found that nearly four out of 10 college-aged individuals have one or more tattoos. About 70 percent of those who have tattoos have them in places not visible to the public.
In the same study, individuals with four or more tattoos were found to participate in more deviant behavior. Tattoos were associated with risky behaviors such as drug use, and older businessmen and women had more negative views towards tattoos than today’s younger generation.
“Society’s view on tattoos is definitely changing, but I still think people with tattoos are kind of looked down on, especially with (certain) people. If people want to cover their bodies with tattoos, let them. But there is a fine line with that, sort of. I mean, people with face tattoos are going to have a hard time getting a job,” said Roilin Slater, a student at Colorado State University-Pueblo.
Despite society’s continued disapproval of tattoos, it hasn’t stopped individuals from getting inked.
“Just because people are going to look at me and judge me for having tattoos, doesn’t mean I’m going to not get them. I don’t have the time to worry about people and their issues. I go to school. I raise my kids. And having a tattoo doesn’t make me a bad person,” Slater said.
Robert Salazar, a tattoo artist at Tortured Souls, has seen an influx of new and repeat customers getting inked.
“In the last decade, the popularity of tattoos has definitely increased. It’s good business for me, but tattooing is my art. I take it seriously. Professional business people have come in to get tattooed. It reflects a shift away from the negativity,” Salazar said.
It’s clear that society’s attitudes toward tattoos are shifting away from the stigma that currently exists. Like all issues, there are opposing sides with their own ideologies, but a movement toward acceptance, sparked by the younger generation, is in full effect.