The Evolution of the Tattoo

Tattoos have been around for so long that there’s no real consensus on or when, why, or where the practice started. But, based on historical and archaeological evidence gathered thus far, the art of tattooing has been practiced for millennia.

It was just a couple decades ago, a group hiking in the Alps discovered remains that would prove that man has had tattoos for over five thousand years. This particular specimen was literally covered in markings, from his ankles to his neck.

Still, it’s only in recent years that we’ve seen a surge in this ancient art. In fact, based on information from the Pew Research Center, approximately 40% of millennials have at least one tattoo.


Tattooing Throughout the Ages

Nowadays, tattoos are used as a form of self-expression but, back in the day, things were a lot different. For instance, in some cultures, they were used to let everyone know that the wearer had committed a crime.

When the first emperor of China was in power, he wanted to prevent the passing on of knowledge. To accomplish his goal, he deemed books illegal and began burning all he (and his loyal followers) could find. Anyone that was found with the offending item (like a scholar or an intellectual) were tatted on their foreheads to let everyone know about their crime.

Things weren’t much different in Japan except that one didn’t receive tattoos for having books in their possession. Instead, first offenders got a line mark on the forehead, second offenders got an arc added to the line, and those who got caught a third time would get another line. When placed together, the markings formed the Japanese hieroglyph for a dog.

In the Pacific Ocean, however, tattoos were considered to be an art form. These drawings were used to tell stories or depict family lineage. In these places, having a tattoo was something to be proud of and both women and men were expected to get at least one in their lifetime.

When Europeans came to these islands, the travelers were amazed to see people covered in markings. They developed a fascination with them and pretty soon sailors were sporting them as well. Unfortunately, due to their rough nature, tattoos became associated with shady characters – a stigma that remained in place until about 50 years ago.

Tattoos in the Workplace

One of the biggest fears associated with getting tattoos revolved around employment. Tattoos were not considered to be professional… at all. Many employees thought that, similar to purple hair, tattoos would prove to be a distraction in the workplace.

There are some employers who still feel the same, they haven’t gotten past the rebellious stigma that was once associated with these works of art. But, the changing perception of tattoos is making these antiquated thoughts a thing of the past.

Based on a Pew Research Study done in 2013, almost $2 billion are spent every year on tattoos. Furthermore, about 14% of all Americans have tattoos and the percentage is significantly higher in those between the ages of 18 and 25. This is a huge portion of the population.
Thus, if employers use tattoos as a way to dismiss potential employees, their pool of applicants will dwindle quite a bit. As a result, employers are coming to terms with the fact that tattoos are a growing phenomenon and something they will have to accept.

Tattoos are no longer for just members of the military, rebellious teens, or criminals. Now, you will find that middle class working women and men, parents, celebrities, doctors,- you name it – are now sporting tattoos.

Tattoo Culture Now

Tattoos have now taken over pop culture and can readily be seen in TV shows, online, and more. Because of popular tattoo shows, like Miami Ink, the average man was given the chance to see the inside of tattoo studios and the amazing work being done at these places.

As a result, people are becoming more open-minded about covering their bodies with artistic representations of their personalities. In fact, you would be hard-pressed to walk down the street without seeing at least one person sporting a tat. Thus, it’s no surprise that the tattoo industry is one of the fastest growing retail businesses in the country.

What’s Next for The Tattoo Industry

Because of the internet and popular tattoo-focused TV shows, the tattoo industry is expected to evolve in ever-innovative ways. We’ve already seen a rise in styles that are unique and diverse. And, this trend will continue to grow, especially as the younger artists start making a name for themselves.

In today’s chaotic and fast-paced world, tattoos offer us a sense of permanence and identity. Tattoos show other people who we are in a way that can’t be deleted like an Instagram or Facebook post. But, we mustn’t forget that it wasn’t always like this. In this way, learning about the evolution of tattoos helps us gain a deeper appreciation for the art form.