Tattoos, from Life in the USA: The Complete Guide for Immigrants and Americans

Life in the USA is a complete guide to American life for immigrants and Americans. All materials on this site Copyright © Elliot Essman 2014. All rights reserved.    Home    Back    Next

Life in the USA
The American People
Lifestyle Distinctions

Tattoos and Tattooing
This material courtesy of James McDaniel

While tattoos are growing in popularity among young Americans, tattooing is still a controversial subject in America today.

According to Wikipedia, “A tattoo is a mark made by inserting pigment into the skin; in technical terms, tattooing is dermal pigmentation.” Tattoos are a permanent form of body modification which involve pain and require care and special attention. Tattoo removal is possible but much more expensive and painful than getting a tattoo in the first place. As a person ages, their skin loses its elasticity which can change the original tattoo into one that is less defined and less attractive. However, with the invention of new inks made from vegetable oil, tattoos done today last much longer than they did twenty years ago. Also, many new laws on the sanitation of tattoo shops have minimized the risk of infection.

The first major groups of people to implement tattoos into their culture in America were members of the military, prisoners, and bikers shortly after World War II. In the seventies, tattoos became popular among hippies as a way to promote their ideals of peace. As tattoos grew in popularity, the tattoo machine became more readily available, making tattoos more accessible to the average American. Recent surveys have indicated that 36% of Americans between the ages 18 and 25 and 40% of Americans between the ages 25 and 40 have at least one tattoo.

As far as the artwork goes, the possibilities for tattoos are virtually endless. Some of the most popular tattoo styles today include:

Tribal: This style is based on the ancient tattooing style of the South Pacific Islands. It consists of solid black or blue shapes which are usually abstract.

Celtic: This style comes from the Celtic art found in Ireland and Scotland. It involves a lot of detail. Some common Celtic tattoos include Celtic knotwork, the Celtic cross, and mythological creatures.

Japanese: In the 18th Century in Japan, tattoos were forbidden for the working class. As a form of underground rebellion, they got tattoos which were covered by their clothes. The artwork is based on watercolor paintings and woodcarvings and is very rich in color. Some examples include Samurai warriors, koi fish, and swirling wave patterns.

Portraits: These tattoos look just like paintings or even real pictures of people or animals. This is a common way to remember a relative who has passed away, a family pet, or even a famous celebrity.

Flash: “Flash” refers to the first style that became popular in the US. It is often very colorful and simple. Flash is a very broad category but some examples of flash include spiderwebs, a heart with a knife through it, cartoon-like doves, anchors, and skulls.

Custom: These are tattoos which are thought up or drawn by the person who wants the tattoo. They are one-of-a-kind tattoos.

Popular placement of tattoos for men includes the upper arms, calves, chest, and upper back. For women it is the lower back, ankles, and the upper back just below the neck. Despite their rising popularity, tattoos are frowned upon by many employers if the tattoo cannot be easily covered. Recent surveys also suggest that many healthcare providers treat people with tattoos more poorly than the rest of their patients.

As the times change, public opinion becomes more and more accepting than before. In the future, tattoos will continue to become a bigger part of American culture.


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