During the early years of tattoo’s rebirth, tattoo shops and parlors were associated with people of an undesirable character—criminals, women of the night, and gang members. Tattoo shops definitely weren’t family-friendly, often prominently displaying a manner of crude or inappropriate images on the walls of the facility. For the average, clean-cut, law-abiding citizen, a tattoo shop was the last place you’d want to be found and you typically didn’t want to approach one alone.
While this stigma still holds true for some locations, tattoo shops have evolved. No longer only filled with disagreeable individuals, tattoo shops now see all manner of clients. Doctors, lawyers, soccer moms—you name it. The professional, upright citizens of the world are flocking to tattoo shops just as much, if not more, than the unfavorable clientele of previous decades.
In today’s modern tattoo industry, high-end tattoo shops are becoming more than just a trend—they’re becoming the norm.
Clean, uncluttered, professional spaces are on the rise. They’re family-friendly facilities with fine art on the walls instead of images of scantily clad women with heavy ink taped up on every surface. Hardwood floors, simple colors, and fancy lighting are taking over from the dark, seedy appearances of the shops prior. High-end shops, of course, are usually filled with high caliber artists who are educated in the techniques of fine art. These shops tend to have high-end clients and higher prices than your usual back alley shop. But, these high-end shops are often only found in urban, high volume areas. Small town, ruralized areas tend to have your more stereotypical shops, with little to no high-end ventures. Is it because the clientele is different? Or is it because the business just isn’t there to support high caliber artists?
The answer is neither.
In today’s day and age, the ability to operate a different take on the small-town tattoo shop is completely possible. The clients are there. They want a clean, family-friendly atmosphere that provides clean, exceptional work. Thanks to the popularization of the media online and on television, even those in the smaller, less populated areas are willing to pay for larger, more detailed pieces from highly talented artists. While the spur of the moment, the minimum tattoo is still ever-present, it has been dwarfed by the demand for exquisite, custom work.
The artists are there, too. Not in every shop, for sure, but the high caliber artist does exist in the small-town industry. Of course, it’s best to do your research. Check portfolios, reviews, and more. Even the most back-alley shops could be hiding the best artist in town.
The fact of the matter is, the tattoo industry is changing. The clientele is morphing, adapting, with the industry. Tattoos no longer carry the stigma they carried in the past. They are commonplace, they are normal. Other industries are changing, too, allowing for tattoos in the everyday workplace. People are more accepting of ink than ever before, thanks to the inclusion of tattooing in the form of mass media—between television shows, musicians, and commercial advertising, tattooing is in the forefront of society as of late.
As society becomes more welcoming and less judgmental of tattooed individuals, the need for larger, more artistic pieces continues to grow. This need has spread from urbanized areas, which have always been more tolerant, into the rural, smaller areas—which has increased the need for higher end shops in every size town. Tattoo artists of every caliber are now welcomed if not demanded, in every form of neighborhood and upper-scale establishments are able to sustain themselves in just about any location thanks to this increased desire for quality work.
Does this mean the original tattoo shop is doomed to fail over time as the industry shifts? No. Certainly not. Tattooing is one of the most resilient industries with one of the most diverse clientele. Tattooing is no longer reserved for certain members or classes of society. It has spread, and with that expansion comes new needs and requirements for the industry. However, these new requirements do not invalidate the originals. This is an industry known for its shape-shifting and evolutionary habits.
There’s room for everyone in the world of tattooing.