Tattoos: Taboo or Trending?

No matter how you view them you always see them, and whether it be in public, at home or on your screens, no one can deny that tattoos are rising in popularity once more. How you view tattooing could be based upon belief, parenting or personal preference. In my experience, it’s a mixture of everything.

My thought process towards writing this was to try and convince some people who are strictly against tattoos that they are worth the sacrifice to “virgin skin”. Maybe you’re reading this as someone who’s just had your first tattoo or as a parent whose child has just come home with one. I’ll explain later how, as a parent, you can deal with this situation. I am writing this whilst my arm is healing from my latest tattoo appointment. It may be uncomfortable but it’s had enough “wow” reactions to the point I am extremely proud to be the owner of it. 

Tattoos can be the subject of many conversations, some in favour, others not. They are taboo subjects but for many they can bear a lot of pride to the owner of the ink. In some cultures, it is considered an honour and a privilege to have tattoos. For instance, Polynesian tattoo culture (or “tatau” as the word is believed to have originated from) is well known for its tribal style tattoos. Historically, there was no writing in the Polynesian culture so tattoo art was a way to signify identity and personality. Often associated with these tattoos would be a person’s wealth and association with society (basically, their place in the hierarchy). Even in later history with 19th century Europe, some upper class families had discreet tattoos of their aristocratic emblems and crests.

On the other hand, there are countries like Japan where stigma arises and most are heavily against tattoos as they are associated with dishonour. This stems from criminals historically covering the ink they received as a punishment with decorative style tattoos. Even today, those visiting the country with tattoos could be subject to confrontation as it is seen as an embarrassment to their society. Some are even barred from gyms, pools and beaches. 

Obviously, a lot of these traditions aren’t so apparent in modern western culture. However, it doesn’t deter from the importance some ink can hold to people. Whether it be a date in memoriam of a relative, a portrait of a pet or even a butterfly to signify your values and hobbies, most tattoos hold some form of meaning.

Often, the general stigma around tattoos is that those who get them are of a lower social status or seen as more likely to be a criminal. If you get the chance or courage to talk to the people who cover their entire body with ink, you’ll learn that in most cases, that’s just another ridiculous social construct. I recently attended a tattoo convention, of which you can see my summary here but, for the most part, I explain that the stigma is farfetched. 

There is the argument that in recent years, tattoos have been less about meaning and more so about fashion fuelled somewhat by celebrities in the last ten or so years. And while I can’t wholeheartedly disagree with that statement, I still believe that those tattoos make people feel better about themselves or even make them feel more like, well, them. It’s a gorgeous construct to me: “tattoos are a way of putting part of what is inside, on the outside”.

For as long as I can remember I’ve been told that any tattoos that are on display, whether it be hands, arms and legs or in extreme cases on the face and neck, could impact your future employment. I still somewhat believe that to be the case in the most extreme circumstances, however even today most employers couldn’t care less about the tattoos you show. Even from personal experience, I have a hand tattoo and quite clearly wouldn’t be writing this article for my current employers were this to have mattered that much to them.

Following that, I should explain my credentials that give me the right to be writing this article. I currently have ten tattoos, some of which are shown in the header image for this post. I love them. Every single one of them means a little something to me, from the rose signifying my lost loved ones to the snake in homage to my corn snake, Odin. Every one of them has a right to be on my body for the rest of my life. Albeit the most painful additions to my body thus far, I don’t see myself slowing down any time soon.

For those that don’t know, basic modern tattooing is a process done with a motorised tattoo machine (often referred to as a tattoo gun), ink, needle and skin. The machine will push the needle into the skin at extremely fast speeds and, as it pierces, it leaves behind the ink it carries. As for the pain – well, I can only really compare to a scratch or a pinch except constant and in some cases for hours at a time. This is the most common form of tattooing; however, another form – “stick and poke” – has recently become widely popular again. This involves a similar process to the motorised tattoo machine but without the motor, or the machine. A needle that holds the ink is just pressed into the skin. The result can often at first be slightly “dotty” but the ink will bleed over time and form a smoother image. 

So parents, of course, you have every right to ask your child “is this truly what you want?” or “you know that’s permanent, right?” If the answer to those questions from your not-so-child is still “yes” every time, the best thing you can do is support their decisions. They must be at least 18 to get a tattoo, therefore it’s their body and their choice. If they come to regret it later in life, that is on them but the worst anyone, not just a parent, can do is shame them, or disregard them as who they are based on their choice to get a tattoo. For your child, it could be them finally getting the chance to express themselves non-verbally for who they truly are. Let them be themselves. 

No doubt I’ve been extremely lucky in my life, as my mother has always supported my choice to get tattoos. She even attended my first tattoo appointment and yes, held my hand when needed. We’re planning on getting matching tattoos soon, which I’m more than excited for. There are of course parents getting their first tattoos which is heartwarming to me as it shows growth and development on what some see as a prejudiced idea. To those of you out there experiencing that, be proud of yourself. 

I hope this has helped you see tattoos in a new light and appreciate how they can affect lives. Perhaps I even persuaded you to get your first tattoo. Either way, I would love to hear your thoughts and opinions, or even personal experiences with tattoos, you can email me at liam@pennypost.org.uk


I was recently asked about how I concluded my tattoo ideas and how I got my first, here was my response and advice:

I decided on my designs through a few methods, a couple of my tattoos I drew myself which I understand is an entirely different topic but, a lot of tattoo artists will have a book or sheets of designs called “flash” which are pre-drawn tattoo designs that are ready to go. This is a great method if you find something which you like because you can get an idea for what it will look like on your skin before you get it.

For the most part however, a lot of tattoo artists, if not all of them, are happy to draw or reference an image that you have/find and use that as long as it is not another persons tattoo. I have a dragon tattoo all across my back and I just did a quick google search of “dragon illustrations” in order to find the right kind – I then sent a couple of images over to an artist who made his own rendition of the design. So, depending on what you’re after, you could find an image through your photographs or a drawing online.

Here’s a page on asking for tattoos with an artist:

https://www.tattoodo.com/guides/how-to-talk-art-with-your-tattoo-artist

If you know exactly what you’d like, it should be really easy for the artist to get that across into a drawing for you.

The one thing to bear in mind is that a lot of artists specialise in different styles of tattoos; in the past I have just done a quick google search i.e. “fine line tattoo artist near me” or “tattoo near me” and it will give you multiple options – from that point it is a case of checking a few of the parlours websites and looking at their work. If you like it, great – anyone you talk to will be more than happy to talk to you about your first (or any other) tattoo.

As always, I recommend bringing someone with you for your first tattoo (best to ask if that is okay first), from experience it’s great to be able to squeeze someone’s hand if need be. You can always take painkillers, no aspirin though, ask for numbing cream or take a break every so often. Remember, the quicker it is done, the quicker it’s all over.

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