For all of you who regularly appear on Jeopardy! but keep getting annihilated in the tattoo category by that pimply-faced geek to your right who you just know hasn't ever been inked, we've compiled the following Cool Tattoo Facts 101 survival guide just for you. Read it, then you too will be able to say with confidence, "Tattoos for $1000, Alex."
Origins of the Word "Tattoo"
Depending on where you look or who you ask you will get one of three answers, or maybe all, of where the word tattoo originated as many areas practiced tattooing as part of ancient ritual.
Tattoos from Long Ago
The Iceman - In 1992 in the Alps, the body of a man who lived around 5000 years ago in the Bronze Age was uncovered. He had been perfectly preserved in ice all that time giving archeologists a remarkable specimen to study from that time period. Not only the body, but the clothes and equipment had been virtually untouched by time, earning him the modern day name "The Iceman". One of the remarkable discoveries of "The Iceman" was that he had a total of 58 tattoos of dots and lines on various places of his body. Now that's what we call cool tattoos; actually, make that downright cold tattoos.
Ancient Egyptian mummies have been discovered that were covered in tattoos as well as mummies from other parts of the world. The most heavily tattooed was the body of a Pazyryk chief found in Russia who had tattoos of many different animals and "monsters" resembling griffins. His back was also heavily tattooed with small circles that ran parallel to his spine believed to be for therapeutic reasons.
The tattooing of criminals started with the early Greeks and was later adopted by the Romans where they could be easily identified if they escaped. Mercenary soldiers were also tattooed to identify deserters.
The first record of tattoos in Japan come from clay figures that had images painted on them or engraved in them to represent tattoos.
Tattoo Evolution after the Depression
The Depression changed a lot of things, including how tattoos were perceived. During WWI tattoos were also known as "travel stamps" and tattoo parlors were set up near military bases. The men in uniform would get tattoos to mark the places across the world that they had been to.
After WWII delinquents embraced tattooing as a form of rebellion when pinball and rock and roll failed. The tough guys would get tattooed as a sign of courage. The idea came from the military guys who served in the wars and would come home with tattoos. The soldiers were seen as courageous and they were trying to emulate that symbol.
Who is Getting Tattooed?
There is an estimated 20,000 parlors operating with new shops opening every day. Even in today's economy, tattooing is ranked as the 6th fastest growing retail venture. The people using those shops range from the working class to professional athletes. All one has to do is look at Dennis Rodman for an example of how athletes are embracing ink. He even went as far as to pose nude for a PETA ad showing off his numerous tattoos with the slogan "Think ink, not mink."
Tattooing has become so mainstream and popular that it's spawned the reality TV shows including Miami Ink, LA Ink and London Ink that showcase popular tattoo artists and the people who seek them out to say that they were tattooed by one of the best.
In 2006 the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology found that 24% of Americans between the ages of 18 and 50 are tattooed and that about 36% of Americans age 18 to 29 have at least one tattoo.
Moms getting tattoos are on the rise. According to a 2007 news report from KDKA2 mothers are getting footprints of their newborns stamped on them as a special reminder of their birth.
Ink among college kids is a social experience while the older generation is finding that getting a tattoo is a way to hold onto their youth.
Why are People Getting Tattooed? Why people get tattoos is a hard one to answer. The reasons are as varied as the people getting them. Reasons include a cultural rite of passage, because it's a status symbol or a sign of rank, membership to a group, rebellion, artistic expression, memorial of a loved one, the generation they grew up in, to celebrate the birth of a child, or even devotion to a sports team.
Maureen Mercury, author of Pagan Fleshworks: The Alchemy of Body Modification, believes that some people are getting tattoos to become reconnected with their flesh. The pain from the tattoo sparks the feeling sensation in their skin, which in turn causes them to feel again with their flesh.
Thirty-four percent of people, mostly women, felt sexier after they were inked and 26% felt more attractive. Even more interesting is that only 29% of those who were sporting ink felt more rebellious. As for the non-tattooed crowed, a good majority of them think that people with tattoos are less attractive, less sexy, and less intelligent and that those with tattoos are more rebellious.
Popular Tattoo Designs Among Women
Other popular tattoos among men and women are "Old School" tats of anchors and swallows. Where women are getting this tattoo on their necks or chest guys are getting it on their wrist. Other designs include dragon tattoos from Chinese style to mythical. Wings tend to be more popular with women, but men get them too and they symbolize freedom and aspirations. Koi fish symbolize luck, masculinity, power and courage. Skulls have many designs and they represent protection, strength, overcoming death or a tough time and remembrance. Popular Kanji (Japanese characters) symbols are honesty, truth, wisdom, power, courage, love, loyalty, and faith.