Art of Tattoo

By L. Raven
Written 23.05.21

In the Beginning

Tattoos are everywhere these days, but they've been around for ages - so how did they become so popular?

Dating back to the Neolithic period and indigenous tribes, tattooing was originally practiced for many reasons, including during religious ceremonies and markings of social standing. We have no exact date for the first tattoos, although the oldest mummified tattooed human remains tells us that tattooing has been around for atleast 5000 years.

Tattoos have been used as markings of ones achievements and social standings especially among indigenous tribes, although the adoptation of this among sailors have created the trademark sailor traditional style. Among the indigenous peoples tattoos signified all of your acomplishments, what tribe and where you came from, playing a huge role in the societies. This was one of the reasons tattoos became illegal when white settlers came, as one way of taking over the land.

The portrayal of "tattooed criminals" aswell as the dominating force of the Protestant Ethic's ideas about "purity of the body" helped influenced the overarching attitude of stigma towards tattoos in newer times. This social stigma comes from a long history of tattoos being used as intentional markings of criminals and other "outsiders" to be easily recognized by society, such as criminals during Japan's Edo Period, the Zhou's (Chinese authorities) use of facial tattoos for crimes. The Roman Empire also tattooed their slaves and gladiators, and the more recent times; the Nazi's use of tattoing of the Jews for "bureaucratic record-keeping". Despite there being a long history of 'elites' getting tattooed, one such famous person being Winston Churchill. There are also various Armies around the world whom traditionally uses tattooing as their marking of bonds in companies.

Changing Times

Given the rich history, its not surprising that tattoos have become popular again. In part, this is because they are being worn by public figures such as celebrities, athletes and people within the fashion industry. But another important aspect is the activism and awareness-building done by the community of tattoo artists such as Cliff Raven and Ed Hardy, whom were largely responsible for revamping the public imagery of tattooing in the 60's and 70's. This period saw many celebrities visibly tattoed, such as Cher, Peter Fonda and Janis Joplin. Various athletes within basketball, baseball and soccer started getting their arms tattooed aswell.

Tattoos Today

Today, people choose to be tattooed for artistic, cosmetic, memorial, religious and symbolic reasons. Tattoos now are being recognized more as self-expression and design styles are now a huge variety from traditional indigenous to realistic life-like pieces of art.

Along with the rising popularity and acceptance, the health and safety regulations of today are very strict to ensure that the clients who go to licenced tattooists are well protected from infections and virus transmissions.

In our modern days, the social acceptance of tattoos have helped the tattooing industry grow larger and an multitude of styles from talented tattooers all around the world, the sky is the limit for people who want their bodies to be a canvas.

Learn more on Wikipedia