Tattooing has been a human practice for more than five thousand years.
For centuries, people have been using tattoos as an outward expression of their innermost selves. The symbolism behind tattoos has changed over time and varies depending on the wearer’s individual beliefs and the external perceptions of observers.
Thus, tattooing is a ritual that has taken on a profoundly personal meaning across multiple cultures.
I researched and read quite a bit to write my book 21 Tattoos. This is some of the information that helped me to develop a small but complex understanding of why people decide to tattoo their bodies.
In the Western world before the 1970s, tattoos were typically connected with groups outside of the mainstream- like service members, imprisoned criminals, gangs that belonged to the counterculture, and socially excluded communities.
This recent history is not entirely forgotten, and its foundation is still rooted in the counterculture today.
While tattoos were once associated with rebellion and deviation from societal norms, in our modern Western culture, they have now entered the mainstream, particularly among younger adults.
The average Gen Z received their first mobile phone around the age of ten years. Many grew up playing with their parents’ mobile phones or tablets. They have grown up in a hyper-connected world, and the smartphone is their preferred method of communication. On average, they spend 3 hours a day on their mobile device.
Yet ironically, the younger generations, in most cultures, have not been exposed to the adverse history of the embellishment of tattoos on their bodies. The exception is the Asian and Arab communities, who, for the most part, do not accept the tattooing of their bodies for cultural and religious reasons. This is a whole other subject to explore.
Until recently, tattoos were perceived as a sign of deviance in modern Western societies, often associated with those on the fringes like sailors, service members, criminals, gang members, sex workers, and other individuals belonging to marginalized or countercultural groups.
A sad part of the subculture of tattooing is that some adolescents obtain tattoos as a method of self-protection because of having a history of violent victimization.
I understand that people obtain tattoos for various reasons but often seek them as an avenue to express themselves and offer insight into their inner being.
However, in the last two decades, tattoos have become increasingly popular and widely accepted, reducing any negative perceptions associated with them. The stigma attached to them has decreased significantly.
I have found that most of the younger people that I have spoken to who have received tattoos have not researched to the extent they should in preparation to make a decision that could be life-altering.
I believe that for most, there is still an underlying current of discomfort when they finally decide not to conform to society’s norm and step out to show individualism with a splash of rebelliousness shown through the prism of a tattoo.
This is a crucial and life-altering decision. It should not be taken lightly. All aspects of the decision-making process should be considered. How will you get one, what it will mean, and will you ever want to get rid of it?
Reading a good book may help you decide. This is part of a compilation of research I conducted while writing 21 Tattoos.