One In Five Adults In The UK Are Tattooed - Why Are Tattoos So Popular In Todayâ€™s Society? Discuss. INTD 3001 Extended Essay By Thomas Saunders
One In Five Adults In The UK Are Tattooed - Why Are Tattoos So Popular In Today’s Society? Discuss. There has been a clear rise in tattooing around the world in the past ten years, most prominently in the UK and America. It doesn’t take a specialist to notice this rising trend of tattoos as they are emerging from sleeves, collars and cuffs everywhere with hand and face tattoos becoming ever more popular. These tattoos are exhibited on men and women, old and young, varying social classes, wealth and fame. “One fifth of British adults are now 'inked', according to a survey. Even the Prime Minister's wife has one. Just why has the artform of sailors, bikers and assorted deviants become mainstream?” (JON, H. 2010). A study in 2010 conducted by Ask Jeeves, featured in an article published by the Guardian shows that one in five British adults have a tattoo; additional research suggests that this figure has risen in the past 4 years. This essay will explore varying factors and elements that have influenced the growth of tattooing to determine the cause or causes of popularity. This essay aims to form a conclusion answering the Why are tattoos so popular in today’s society? With one in five adults in the UK are tattooed. This will be achieved by studying the psychology behind tattooing and exploring how they have changed over time. The Media will be studied to see how it has contributed and affected the growth of tattooing as well as how the news, magazines and websites portray and influence tattooing. Tattooed celebrities and how they influence tattooing as they are idolised and how they promote tattoos looking at the positive and negative effects they have faced. Finally, how fashion has influenced tattooing, studying branding and advertising, growth of tattooed models and how tattoos are used as a fashion accessory. Tattoos are an ancient art. The origin of the word ‘Tattoo’ relates back to two origins; the first is ‘ta’ a Polynesian word meaning ‘striking’ and the second ‘tatau’ a Tahitian word meaning ‘to mark something’. The process of tattooing consists of inserting coloured materials below the skins surface. In the early years tattoos would have been created by accident with contamination of cuts with soot and ashes from the fire that would heal, leaving a permanent mark under the skin. The oldest proof of tattooing was discovered on a man dating back to 52,000 BC and has been named The Iceman; found on the ItalianAustrian broader in 1991 he had 51 tattoos that would have been hidden under native clothing. Since then it has been discovered that tattoos have been extensively practiced in many cultures BC and AC; having links to Egypt, Greece and Rome, Africa, South America, Japan and Eastern Europe each demonstrating their own interpretations of body decoration. In these cultures tattooing was associated with a desire to become connected spiritually to an animal, magic and totems - “An animal, plant, or natural object serving among certain tribal or traditional peoples as the emblem of a clan or family and sometimes revered as its founder, ancestor, or guardian.” (THE AMERICAN HERITAGE. 2000). As well as tribal relations Arabs, Jews and Christians used tattoos to represent religion in the Middle Ages.
Tattooing has been practiced in Great Britain for over two thousand years and is linked back to some of the earliest inhabitance – the Iron Age Celts. The word ‘Briton’ is a combination of the Greek word ‘prettanoi’ meaning tattooed people, and the Celtic word ‘brit’ meaning light colored. Together the words form the meaning ‘painted in various colors’. This is thought to have been related back to Britons dying their bodies using woad – a yellow flower that when dried produced a blue dye that can be extracted - an early body modification. During the 18th century in England, tattooing was approved by the royal family as a result of Albert Edward, Prince of Wales visiting the Holy Land and having a Jerusalem Cross tattooed on his arm. Upon becoming King Edward VII, he went on to acquire numerous traditional Tattoos such as a dragon tattoo on his forearm tattooed by acclaimed tattoo master Hori Chiyo in Japan. Both King Edwards’s sons Duke of Clarence and Duke of York (later King George) went on to mimic their fathers tattoos, visiting both Hori Chiyo in japan for tattoos on their arms, as well as visiting Jerusalem to be tattooed by the same artist twenty years on from their fathers cross tattoo. “When royalty hangs onto a craze, you may be assured that the rest of the exclusive world of wealth and power soon follow in the same path, and annex the peculiarities of the pleasures of which have given amusement to their heroes born in the purple.” (STEPHEN, R.J. 1898/9). This flourish of tattoos acquired by members of the royal family triggered a demand from wealthy Britons and Naval Officers to obtain tattoos from the best Japanese tattoo masters, forming a view of tattoos being an accessory of the upper social classes and wealth. Thus resulting in the opening of the first professional tattoo studio in Britain, situated in North London in the 1870’s. Figure 1 – King Edward VII
In the 19th century, England became the most popular place for tattooing compared to the rest of Europe. This was as a result of the British Navy forming the tradition of sailor tattoos that began in 1769 at the start of the voyage of Captain Cook. During around the world voyages, sailors would accumulate tattoos as souvenirs from Polynesia, the Americans, India and elsewhere on their travels. This lead sailors to learn the art of tattooing and bringing back tattoo artists, resulting in most British ports having a tattoo artist in residence by the end of the eighteenth century - contributing to the popularity of the nineteenth century. Towards the end of the 19th century, the short-lived craze of upper class tattooing came to an end, as a result of doctors diagnosing connections between tattooing and syphilis. It had been passed between sailors and soldiers, caused as a result of the tattooist spitting on the needles to mix ink. At this time tattoos 2
were on a decline; mostly associated with sailors, the army and even criminals as a form of punishment that started in the sixteenth century. The 20th century for the most part still remained relegated to sailors, the army and criminals and the lower, working classes and culture. However the punk movement was slowly dominating mainstream fashion, music and tattoos in the 70’s allowing tattoos to achieve prominence once again, forming the ‘Tattoo renaissance’. At this time tattoos had started to be viewed as anthological, sociological and ethnographic trends and cultures that supported the changing views of the human body. Today tattoos are most communally a personal statement. The ‘Tattoo type’ such as sailors and punks are getting harder to distinguish with an ever growing number of people getting tattooed with their favourite quotes or symbols. Tattooing has become very popular amongst teenagers and young adults and has become part of pop culture today. James Kisor, tattoo artist and shop owner says, “I think the stigma or the stereotype of why people got tattoos before and the types of people who got tattoos before has definitely changed with the times, with social media and putting it out there.” (HERMANNS, G. 2013). For many different cultures around the world tattooing has been seen as a method of expression, self-esteem and uniqueness. The majority of people with body modifications and art such as tattoos today, will say it is a form of expression, with every tattoo having a meaning - whether it be significant or not. Tattoos on the body can be used to express the individual on the inside and can often be fuelled by the feeling that tattooing is an outlet trough, which they can express their inner self. Tattoos can also represent rituals with some symbolising rites of passage and inclusions of groups or societies or others quite the opposite, labelled as rebellion tattoos. Tattooed symbols were often associated with pirates featuring the skull and cross bones, skeletons spears, swords and hourglass and pirate cantina hats many years ago. Numerous modern versions of these icons are still used as a rebellion against society. However this is only a small majority as seen in the results of the study below. Not only is it the tattooed images but the location of which they are placed can be seen as showing a non-conformist attitude, an attitude that reflects someone whom does not conform to prevailing ideas or practices with their views or behaviour. A study of the tattooed and the non-tattooed population by Marika Tiggemann and Fleure Golder from Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia shows the reasons behind becoming tattooed. The 2006 report that had 100 participants, 50 whom had tattoos and 50 did not, aimed to explore motivations underling the practice of tattooing. The participants were asked to take part in completing measurements of appearance investment, distinctive appearance investment and need for uniqueness. They asked to score reasons for becoming tattooed with nineteen possible answers to choose from; such as ‘to rebel’, ‘to celebrate and occasion/person’ or ‘to be fashionable’ offering a wide variety of choices.
The top answers were ‘because they look good’ with a mean of 3.45 men and 3.40 women, ‘to express myself’ with a mean of 3.30 men and 3.50 women and ‘to be creative’ with a mean of 2.90 men and 2.77 women. These results show personal interests that are positive supporting tattooing as a use of expression, uniqueness and suggest the taste for more life and good feeling. Compared to the top answers selected, the other end of the scale proposes answers like ‘to look tough’, ‘stand out in a crowd’ and ‘to feel mature’ having the Figure 2 - Mean scores for reasons for least votes. These answers are becoming tattooed how other people will view the person and their tattoos, not how the person feels or as a part expression suggesting they require a response from others. Today people have mixed views on tattooing, good and bad. The majority of people have noticed tattooing as an artform and form of self-expression and small minorities are lost in the past, relaying their stereotypical views and preconceptions that came about many years ago. Since then, two world wars have started and finished along with a number of other events both good and bad that have impacted history and shaped cultures; thus creating tattoo sub-cultures. We live in an individualistic time; people use their bodies to reflect their personalities, inner-self, beliefs and political attitudes. People will always have their thoughts and opinions. With freedom of speech they will always be voiced and heard. The tattooed know why they acquired their tattoos and it’s their personal choice turning a blind eye to what’s said. The media is a big influence on the popularity of tattoos, with the growing cultural acceptance being displayed in various forms of media. As a generation consumed by the media, it has grown into today’s way of life becoming a source of reliance that people can understand and trust. The Internet hosts the most tattoo related media with Google revealing 129, 000,000 results when searching the word tattoo into the web option, endless images, 62,900,000 videos, 66,400 news results, 1,810,000 books, 28,600,000 blogs and 19,600,00 discussions results. It is used to share tattoo images whether they are seen as inspiration, funny or shocking with various websites allowing users to post tattoos of their own into a community webpages such as Tumblr. The internet allows for anyone to browse through this endless content, selecting relevant material from tattoo ideas as well as to seek information from 4
forums that ask tattoo related questions such as; does it hurt? Should I get a tattoo? How does it all work? All of this information contributes as an influence to the user aiding their thoughts and decisions. It’s not just the Internet where tattoos are prominent; Tattoos are also in the vertical word of video games. For example the seventh best-selling game of all time Grand Theft Auto V with 29 million copies, sold incorporated tattoos into the storyline and gameplay to create diversity and sense of reality. This game is age rated at 18 for its content. People do not idolise the characters as they are committing crimes and not the type of person anyone aspires to, however the presence of tattooing in the game may lead to the players think about tattooing and its presence subconsciously. There are dozens of reality and documentary television shows on TV across an abundance of channels. Recently channel 4 broadcasted three sixty-minute episodes of a series called ‘My tattoo addiction’. The aims of the documentary were to explore why people go under the needle, how tattoos define people and how they come to signify achievements, experience and regrets. This series has seen the best and worst off tattooing and has opened the eyes of the viewers showing how tattoo decisions are not always straightforward. With the growing popularity of tattoos this documentary has inflicted a think again attitude to the viewer. ‘Think before you ink’ - take more care about choosing what to get tattooed, where to get tattooed and when. Another example of tattooing on the television is Miami Ink, an American reality show broadcasted on British TV that follows the events that take place in a real tattoo shop: Miami Ink, Miami Beach, Florida. This show captures the client’s stories and reasons for getting their tattoo and how a tattoo studio operates on a day-to-day basis, including how the artist’s work together with the client. Similar to the Internet media, this program shows a degree of inspirational content, such as what others have done as well as how a studio operates and what you should expect from a professional tattoo artist. It’s no new fad that tattoos have been featured in adverts. Co-operation’s use tattooing in advertisements to help their brand grain an edge with the younger generation of consumers and often follow trends of pop cultures. Some people have even gone as far as having brands tattooed on them! Everything thing from Apple’s bitten apple logo, McDonalds’ golden arches and motor brand Honda logo have been tattooed on someone, somewhere. The human skin has also been offered by athletes as potential advertising space in some sports; named as ‘The Billboard of Human Flesh’. These types of tattoos often create a talking point about the tattoo, the brand and the tattooed person; which is good as it creates a presence and doesn’t matter if the talking points are good or bad as any press is good press.
Tattoos have even gone as far as featuring on toys. Barbie is one of the most iconic toys for children and now has new look: a new trendy pink bob, heels and tattoos. With these dolls being marketed at children, is it not concerning that they are targeting generations too young? The manufactures Tokidoki have left thousands of parents angry. Aside from the doll, retailing in Toys’R’us is a Barbie Body Tattoo Centre. It creates ‘cool’ temporary body decorations, with reviews calling it ‘realistic’. The toy is advertised in the ‘learning Toys’ section of their website and is recommended for 3 years +. Is this the right age to be presenting a small child with an adult process? Toys aimed at children that are related to tattooing embed the art as an everyday part of life, along with play kitchens and reading. This early interaction with tattoos must pave its way towards tattooing being so popular in today’s society.
Figure 3 - Tokidoki Barbie Doll by Simone Legno
Figure 4 - Barbie Body Tattoo Centre
Another form of media that tattoos feature in, are magazines. It’s irrelevant whether the magazine is tattoo devoted, such as Skin Deep and Total Tattoo magazine or in a copy of pop magazines such as Look, Hello or Closer. Newsagents and news stalls everywhere around the county in train stations, supermarkets and busy streets where these magazines can be purchased from are seen by thousands browsing and reading each day. The celebrity culture encourages young people to copy their idols language, behavior, clothing and even the trend of tattooing. With most musicians, actors, models and sporting icons now becoming tattooed, has their influence on what society finds fashionable supported the popularity of tattoos in today’s society? “Tattoos are like stories-they're symbolic of the important moments in your life.”-Pamela Anderson. (ANONYMOUS, BELLINGHAM, RI. 2013). Some people believe that celebrities, who display tattoos, set a bad example for young people, as they are impressionable and want to aspire to be like their favourite star doing anything to achieve this. Is this really the case? ITV’s This Morning television show asked: do celebrities with tattoos make bad role models? Katie Waissel – former X-factor contestant who has tattoos and Katie 6
Hopkins – a journalist, debated the question along with hosts Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby. This debate was influenced after One Direction posted on twitter for fans to send in pictures of their own tattoos. This request encouraged tattooing, as it allowed the topic of tattooing to be talked about, generating the awareness and portraying it to be everyday life. It was portrayed tattoos as popular and sometimes necessary for young influential One Direction fans, twitter users and the world. Later the tweet was removed from twitted and deemed a mistake. During the airing of the program a survey was conducted asking viewers: “if they thought having tattoos makes a person a bad role model. 18% of people who voted said yes, while 82% of people said no.” (JAMES, A. 2013). The majority of the votes show that 82% of the voters thought that having tattoos does not make you a bad role model. 18% agreed it does make you a bad role model. However 100% of the people see them as a role model for many reasons and are still seen to have tattoos. Therefore good or bad role models have tattoos, does this not give the impression that if they have them, then I can have them therefore if they have tattoos then I will also have tattoos?
Figure 5 – David Beckham
David Beckham “rated 29th most famous person in the world” by IMDb (NAWEENDYAWICK 2013) is the most iconic English footballer around who has played for the best football clubs in the world and represented his county over 100 times. He is hardworking, talented and successful. Beckham is very popular, not just a football player but has become an idol for millions of aspiring children, teenagers and many people around the world. His first tattoo is across his lower back and says ‘Brooklyn’, he had this tattooed in 1999 upon the birth of his first-born son Brooklyn. Since then, he now has 32 tattoos (May 2013) covering his body, most of which cover both arms. He is now regarded as a heavily tattooed celebrity. David uses his tattoos to express how he feels about his family, in particular his wife Victoria Beckham and their sons and states that like the tattoos, he wants to have his family with him always. "I have 32 and I don't regret any of them. They all have a meaning. I think that's what's important about tattoos, if they have a meaning you'll never regret them." (Anna Francis. 2013).
Beckham’s tattoos have caused some controversy for example in March 2012, The Sun published an article “SAINSBURY’S has apologized for sending publicity posters of David Beckham with a provocative tattoo of Posh Spice to 47,000 schools and community groups.” (Wilkinson Matt 2012) The ‘saucy’ tattoo which was tattooed in 2007, was visible on a poster of David, the poster was to
be displayed in 47,000 school cloakrooms to promote ‘active kids 2012’ campaign with Sainsbury’s.
Figure 6 – ‘Saucy’ Tattoo
It’s not just Beckham’s tattoos that have caused a stir - drunken tattoos of misspelled names, the ugly and the strange, have all been tattooed onto bodies of the most influential and big name stars with magazines, blogs and websites flourishing with titles such as “35 worst celebrity Tattoos” – BuzzFeed (Matt Stopera 2009) and “Worst Celebrity Tattoos” PerezHilton (Hilton, P. 2013). Some of the most famous bad celebrity tattoos feature Lil’ Wanye with his ‘ESPN’ tattoo, Amy Winehouse with her lookalike pinup girl and Zach Efron’s ‘YOLO’ tattoo. These spur of the moment and drunken inking’s display a cool, wild and careless mentality from celebrities that can be brushed off onto their fans. As a result, it could lead them to get tattoos with little care. However when considering the permanency of a tattoo, in this modern day it is all about a lot of money, time and high pain thresh hold, to how permanent a tattoo really is, with the invention of tattoo laser removal.
It is not only everyday people that are going under the needle to get celebrity inspired ink, for example Lady Gaga uses her music, fashion and her tattoos as a form of self-expression. On her wrist she has a peace symbol as a tribute to John Lennon – one of her musical idols influence by his 1969 hit ‘Give Peace A Chance’. She says "My peace sign was inspired by John Lennon," she said. "I grew up two blocks from the Imagine memorial. It's actually one block away from where John Lennon was assassinated. I'm a huge Beatles, John Lennon and Yoko Ono fan." (Hello Daily News 2013). Tattoos like this can be idolised by people wanting a tattoo to representing something important to them like Lady Gaga did; a celebrity with these tattoos reinforces the acceptance of tattoos in today’s society, thus resulting in an increase of inking. Fashion is always in change, with the fashion of tattooing being no different seeing many diverse transformations over the years of evolution. Tattoo enthusiasts argue that a tattoo is for passion not fashion but history has seen tattoos come and go through time along with fashion trends. However highly visible tattoos are part of a mainstream trend. The first tattoo inspired brand was created by Don Ed Hardy, an American artist born and raised in Southern California. He became well known for his tattoo work, after being taught by legendry Sailor Jerry Collins as well as being fortunate enough to study in Japan in 1983. Whilst there, he was able to work with classic Japanese tattoo masters such as Horihide - a famous artist who is highly regarded as the pioneer that bought Japanese tattooing to Sailor Jerry, Ed 8
Hardy and the western world after World War Two. Ed Hardy in 1977 took his tattooing skills and diversified into the retail market opening up his first shop ‘Tattoo City’. However after just under a year of successful trading, a big fire burnt down the shop. Hardy opened a simple store to keep the business turning over whilst the original shop was being rebuilt. It was reopened in 1991. In 2004 Christian Audigier – a fashion designer who had designed for many successful brands such as Diesel, Levi’s and Lee, approached Hardy; Audigier saw a great opportunity in Hardy’s work and wanted to base a clothing line on his art and tattoo work. Hardy accepted and so they formed ‘Ed Hardy Clothing’. They produced clothing and accessories with elements of tattoo art like skulls, roses and swords that consist of diamantes and dark contrasting colours like red and black. This was the first of its kind and it became a huge success; celebrities such as Madonna, Paris Hilton, Lady Gaga and Snoop Dogg were often spotted wearing designs.
Figure 7 – Love kills Slow
Today Ed Hardy is still available to buy however its popularity has decreased and is no longer highly fashionable. The designs have been regarded as tacky compared to today’s styling. The diamantes, bright coloured out-dated graphics and slogans such as ‘love kills slowly’ (Figure 7) are no longer fashionable, along with it being seen as overpriced; £35 - £70 for a T-shirt. However the market for tattooed inspired clothing is still rife and is prominent amongst independent brands and major high-street retailers that enthuse the designs with current trends and styles such as Urban Design. This can be seen in ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ collection at H&M. Trish Summerville – the costume designer for the film, designed this collection to be released shortly after the film launch. ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ novels were published in the 2000’s by Stieg Larsson and made him the most successful novelist in the world, as a result of this success, a film was made and released. H&M noticed a niche and created a 30-piece collection that has a dark urban feel that defines the lead character - leather jackets, trousers, jeans and hoodies all feature and use industrial shades of black, grey off-white and dark red. Not only are tattoos a focus in the design, it is now very popular for male and female models with tattoos, to model for anything to do with fashion. Supermodels are now seen with tattoos, some have tattoos that are easily concealed for work and others are hired because of their tattoos - as they are part of their style. High-street retailers such as Topshop, hairdressers Toni and Guy and fragrance brand Jean Paul Gaultier have used tattoos models to advertise their clothing collections, hair artwork and products. 9
People acquire tattoos and body art for various reasons; some do it as a way of fitting in, others do it for a way of standing out and sometimes people do it as an act of rebellion. Has the decision been a personal choice or one of peer pressure or a testimony of influence to form the overall popularity of tattooing today? The aim of this essay is to explore the factors and elements that have influenced the growth of tattooing and to determine the cause of popularity. From the research undertaken it has been seen that the subject of tattooing is very controversial with mixed and varied opinions as to likes and dislikes, reasoning’s and the views on cause of the overall popularity. After looking at the history of tattooing, the tradition and phycology involved with tattooing, various examples of tattoos in the media, celebrities and their influences and tattoos in fashion it is not possible to rule it down to a single one. The most significant explanation as to why tattoos are now so popular is that they are now most commonly a form of self-expression, the term self-expression meaning to “the expression of one's feelings, thoughts, or ideas, especially in writing, art, music, or dance”. (OXFORD DICTIONARIES. n.d) These feelings, thoughts, or ideas can all be influenced subliminally, subconsciously or consciously by life itself. For example things can affect feelings making one happy or sad, like a lottery win or a death. Thoughts can also be affected by things we see, just like a poster for a new film could have viewers thinking whether it will be a good film and enjoyable to watch. Ideas can be created from reading a book or surfing the internet. Feelings, thoughts, or ideas about tattooing can also be influenced in the same way as a result of history as a form of remembrance, marking a period in time. Media influences as inspiration and a form of guidance, celebrities influence as role models and idols as well as fashion influencing the latest trends in today’s society. Have we reached the peak of tattooing?
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Published on May 16, 2014