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When I was growing up, the only “person” I knew with a tattoo was Popeye the Sailor Man. Now, I can’t go anywhere without seeing one or more tattoos on one or more people.
It won’t be long until at least half of the population has a tattoo. The Pew Research Center reports that 36 percent of people age 18 to 25, and 40 percent of those age 26 to 40 have at least one tattoo. Like in many trends, rock and rap musicians led the way with tattoos.
Soon the public won’t see tattoos as shocking and cutting edge, but as mundane. My father, an aviation engineer, said that when engineers start doing something “wild,” then it’s just about to go out of style. So let an engineer with a tattoo be your barometer for the end of the tattoo trend. Clear skin will then be the rage for rebels. (Well, maybe not.)
Tattoo trends themselves go in and out of fashion. Neck and hand tattoos are more popular, but the “tramp stamp,” the tattoo on a woman’s lower back, is becoming passe, the local newspaper recently reported.
At my hair salon a while ago, a manicurist asked me about my daughter’s first solo trip to visit friends in California. I told her: “She had a great time. Best of all, no piercings and no tattoos.”
I hadn’t gotten the word that this woman was now the proud new bearer of a “tramp stamp.” I just assumed she’d agree that “no tattoos” was a good thing. I also didn’t know that my daughter had, in fact, gotten not just one but two tattoos in California. Two tiny stars on one foot, one matching a star on her best friend’s ankle. Not only am I not on the cutting edge, I’m also out of the loop.
I don’t care. No tattoos for me, thanks. I don’t like my freckles. Why would I want more marks? And once it’s inked, it’s permanent! (Although tattoo removal is a growing industry!) That first girlfriend you’d love to the end of time? Now, you have to ink over her name with a giant dragon. Did you and your BFF get matching roses on your shoulders? Now, you find out she’s a skunk. About those Japanese characters that were supposed to say “Love and Peace”? They actually say “I’m a stupid tourist.” That dolphin on your belly? Now it’s a whale.
In our society, we may see tattoos as marks of rebellion or outsider status, but there was a surge of tattoos in the Victorian Era, led by two English princes, including George, who later became King George V. Read about it in the Victorian Era. Tattoos hold different meanings in different societies. In some, tattoos are signs of status or membership in a group, club, clan or criminal syndicate. Some tattoos are meant to frighten or even to attract.
“Hey, gorgeous, I’m crazy about those blue lines on your chin.”
Tattoos could be useful, too. Tattooed sailors could be identified when they washed ashore. Tattoos also had more sinister uses when they marked prisoners.
Tattoo is a Polynesian word, and some of the most elaborate tattoos were created in New Zealand and Borneo. In the early 19th century, a Maori named Hongi was introduced to King George IV, who admired his tattoos.
Whatever else you might think about tattoos, you might agree that many tattoos are incredibly beautiful as art.