Tattoos are everywhere: arms, chest, feet, and neck and on everyone: girls, guys and grandparents. They are now seen as part of mainstream culture, adorning everyone from pop stars to grandmas.
But just a few years ago tattoos were taboo. If you had one, you were more than likely a biker, criminal or gang member. However, people are now using tattoos as a way of connecting with themselves and others. Tattoo culture has taken on a life of its own, with more websites, magazines and TV shows dedicated to the art than ever before.
Celebrities have certainly helped tattoos gain mainstream popularity; think David Beckham and the members of One Direction. Far from being seen as rough and tough, they have virtuous images.
Apart from emulating an idol’s ink, reasons for getting tattoos now include honouring a lost love, religious/cultural beliefs, the love of the art and medical reasons. And not just showing your gang colours or conviction history.
According to Tattoos in Australia: Perceptions, Trends and Regrets researched by McCrindle earlier this year, 12 per cent of individuals have a tattoo, with eight per cent having more than five.
Jess, founder of the blog Tattoo Mummy, has a few more than five, she says, “I think I have 27.” She has done four of them herself, as well as some for others having previously worked in the industry. She says, “Everyone’s art is different and I love to collect as much art as I can.”
The reason for so many tattoos, simple, she loves them. However, she doesn’t believe the taboos have completely lifted. “I can accept that I am judged by my tattoos. When I was younger and working in an adult store, which was very upper class and catered to couples, they asked me to cover up the anatomical heart tattoo on my chest because it was too graphic. It’s not only the people you’d expect to be a bit put off by them.”
When discussing the recent changes in tattoo trends, Jess points out that a lot of 18 year olds are getting sleeve tattoos. “It’s a big thing now and it bothers me. I don’t feel they fully consider the impacts on their future careers.”
Tattoo artist, Sean Griffith, reiterates this trend, he says, “Sleeves are becoming more popular due to footballers having them.” Griffith says, “Young people see the celebrities with their ink and want to be like them. I also get asked to change a celebrity’s design a bit to make it their own.”
Face and neck tattoos are also a growing trend, Zak from LDF Tattoo says, “We get asked for more neck tattoos than face. We try to talk people out of getting face tattoos. We don’t do them unless they already have one or are heavily tattooed.” He adds that the heavily tattooed want them because they have run out of space and young people think they are cool.
Even though tattoos are growing in popularity, not everyone is enamoured. Greg Murphy, born with the congenital disfigurement of a cleft lip and palate that lead to many complications and painful surgeries, has never wanted a tattoo.
“I can’t see the reason for disfiguring your body. I suffered a great deal with my own disfigurement. I told my kids I didn’t want them to get tattoos.”
Murphy doesn’t know why anyone would want to permanently mark themselves and not be able to remove it without a lot of pain. He says, “It is so tragic to see people with so many tattoos covering their bodies.”
Some tattoos are certainly not without regrets. One third of Australians with tattoos say they regret getting them.
Debbie Bautista, now 32-years-old, was 16 when she got her first tattoo. She considers tattoos art, however admits that during her teenage years, “It was mostly through influence and rebellion that I got tattoos. I was hanging out with the wrong crowd and they all had tattoos so it was considered normal to ink.”
Bautista has since had five removed, she says. The removal process has also left terrible scars. Now she believes it would have been better to have left them. “I have lost count the amount of removal sessions. It was done with laser or painful burning of the skin. It wasn’t good and it was expensive.”