Why would anyone want to be tattooed? The answer actually depends upon what time period and what culture you are talking about.
Tattooing is an ancient practice. Archaeologists have dug up 2500 year old mummies that had elaborate tattoos on their bodies. (see Siberian Mummy Has Detailed Tattoos.) Throughout time, different cultures have had different reasons for decorating themselves with tattoos. For some cultures tattoos had religious significance, while for others they were used to indicate a person’s rank and/or accomplishments. Yet others used them as part of an initiation ritual into adulthood – a sign for all to see that a boy could now be viewed as a man and was eligible to take a wife, or that a girl could now be viewed as a woman who could marry. Some believed tattoos had magical qualities that would give them strength and others believed they had healing powers (they would tattoo over the injured or sick area of their body). Some cultures used tattooing to punish convicted criminals who had their crime tattooed on their face for all to see. On the other hand, some religions such as Judaism, Islam, Zoroastrians and some Christian groups forbade tattooing, viewing it as a self-inflicted disfigurement. (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tattoo#History)
In Western culture the word tattoo was first introduced by Captain James Cook, the Englishman who is commonly credited with the discovery of Australia. The word “tattoo” itself comes from the Tahitian word tatau. Cook wrote in the Endeavour’s Log: “Both sexes paint their Bodys, Tattow, as it is called in their Language. This is done by inlaying the Colour of Black under their skins, in such a manner as to be indelible.” Sir Joseph Banks, who was with Cook (and who was the one responsible for declaring Australia Terra Nullius), returned to England with a Tahitian tattoo. Many of Cook’s men also had themselves tattooed. The fashion caught on and tattoos gradually became common among sailors, military groups and working men. Few women had tattoos during this period. After World War 2 tattooing lost popularity, possibly because people began to associated it with the Nazis who tattooed Jewish prisoners during the Holocaust. Following the Vietnam war tattoos became common among bikie gang members and prison inmates, reflecting a spirit of rebellion against the authorities and norms of that time period.
According to Margo DeMello’s book, Bodies of Inscription: A Cultural History of the Modern Tattoo Community the current tattoo culture began in the 1970s with the tattoo designs being shaped by the dramatic social changes then occuring including gay and lesbian rights, the civil rights movement, the Black Power movement and women’s liberation. Peace signs, yin/yangs, dolphins, mushrooms, marijuana leaves and flowers began appearing on the bodies of people with middle-class values; something unheard of up until this time.
In the 1980s tattooing began to be viewed as art by some and self-taught tattooists began to make way for educated art graduates who became professional art design tattooists. During the 1990s, and particularly during the last 10 years, in Western culture tattoos began to be commonly seen among sporting, music and movie celebrities and have now become widely popular among the general public. (See History of tattooing)
This brings us to our time. Who is most likely to be get themselves tattooed today? Across all age groups 14% of people have at least one tattoo according to an Australian study undertaken by Deakin University, Who gets tattoos?. Their findings showed that the group most likely to get a tattoo in 2012 is young women in their 20s (over 29% have one). Overall results showed that men and women ages 20-39 were most likely to have a tattoo.
Now here is the thing I don’t get. While some people get a tattoo for a special reason such as to remember a loved one who is no longer with them or some such personal reason, it seems to me that most people today get their tattoo/s as a body decoration. As I see it then, this makes their reason for getting a tattoo the same as the reason why we choose our hair style, select the jewellery and makeup we wear and choose our cloth style. It is this I just do not get, because if the basic reason we are getting a tattoo is because we think it looks good on us, then really the reason we are getting a tattoo is fashion. The problem with fashion is that it does not last. What is fashionable today is out of fashion tomorrow. Of course this doesn’t matter with our hair, clothes, jewellery or makeup because we can just change these to fit the next fashion trend. Not so with a tattoo. No doubt this is why it is illegal in Victoria to get a tattoo if you are under 18 years of age. You really do need to be sure of what you are doing.
I mean, how would you feel if you had a hairdo like one of these but it was permanent – you COULD NOT CHANGE IT? Aarrrrgghhhhhhhh!
Source Chris Dlugosz
Perhaps this is why almost 20% of people who get a tattoo are prepared to go through the expensive and painful process of having it removed? So there it is. I just don’t get why a person in 2012 would get a tattoo to decorate themselves? WHY? Would someone please enlighten me?