The Indelible Art of Tattoos – Then and Now

A tattoo is a mark with indelible designs by inserting different pigments into punctures in the skin.

Tattoos used to be signs of rebellion where people would get them just so they could look cool or so they could look tough. During the early years when people would get tattoos, they would get criticized for having ink on their skin. Outsiders would either view them as ignorant and defiant individuals, or they were thought to be in the military.  When people went to interviews or looked at places to get jobs, they were often held to the expectation of not having any tattoos. Employers would be quick to tell you that you didn’t get the job because you had a visible tattoo. People also feared tattoos because of the many ways that getting a tattoo could go wrong.

CHC Upper School counselor Monica Smith got her first tattoo when she graduated college and she claims, “I wanted it to be seen, but I didn’t want it to be obvious.” She also added that people who got tattoos then were viewed in a very stereotypical way. “If you had one, you were either a man, a male or female motorcycle biker, or you were affiliated with the military in some way.” She had to go all the way out to Smithfield or Isle of Wight County because there were no tattoo parlors allowed in the Hampton Roads area. “We literally had to drive an hour and a half just to get a tattoo,” Smith adds.

Mrs. Smith also shares that there was a fear of the sterilization process. A generation ago, people, in general, were scared of getting tattoos because AIDS and hepatitis were becoming a big issue around the 80’s and the 90’s. People thought that if they got injected with a needle, they were going to get a disease and die because the sterilization was not trusted. At the time, they didn’t know much about the tattoo issues that could come from not changing and cleaning the needles the right way.  That knowledge wasn’t well known until the late 90’s and the early 2000’s.

In the 21st century, tattoos are mostly seen as body art with personal meanings and reasoning behind them. It seems like everyone has them and they are more accepted now than they were in the early years.

CHC Head of Upper School, Mr. Horgan, also tells about tattoos – then versus now. When he saw people with them 20 years ago, he believed it was more of a wanting-to-be-cool kind of thing, and most people didn’t have them because they were, “hard to find.” He continues, “Nowadays when I walk on the boardwalk, I see nearly everyone with tattoos.” No longer do people feel as if they have to hide their tattoos; in fact, many wear them as badges of honor.  Celebrities, fashion trends, and modern culture have all made tattoos something out in the open, and as a result, many teens and adults plan (and even design) their own tattoos as gifts to themselves.

Although there are still situations where too many tattoos can hinder people from getting certain jobs and can have people looking at you negatively, they are much more accepted now than they were before.

Why is this?  Likely, it is because most teens and adults have at least thought about getting a tattoo, and close to 40% of the adult population has at least one tattoo. Tattoo artists take great pride in their work and are more educated on the safety issues due to considerable research and public awareness.  Nowadays, people (males and females alike) choose to ink their skin despite the pain and the permanence.