Business Suits and Tattoos

By: Brandon Day      
  In a generation saturated with new media, over consumption, and suburban upbringings, it’s surprising that the rather low tech art of tattooing is so popular. After all, in traditional American culture it was always seen as a sign for rebellion. Bikers, sailors and convicts had tattoos, not college students and doctors. But in this decade, it’s perfectly normal for upstanding citizens to have tattoos.
        It’s interesting to watch pop media, whether that be a football game or pop music videos, and see how many people are tattooed. If we were to look at movie and music stars in the 40’s  it would be hard to find many, if any, people who have these markings. In the beginning, this was a small subculture that reflected the “darker side of town” mentality. Many that were tattooed were adventurers or shady characters. They definitely didn’t represent the common citizen.
        For many in the United States, getting tattooed is a “right of passage” for becoming an adult. Most states require an age of 18 to get ink set into their skin. When kids become that age, some decide that they want to get a permanent reminder of their youth (whether that be a good thing or not). This trend is relatively new in itself. You used to get tattooed in the rougher areas in town, but now you can go to straight-edge neighborhoods and get that dolphin tattoo you’ve always wanted. While I definitely don’t think this is a bad thing by any means, it does signal in a different way of thinking.
        During the prohibition era, many people got their work down in speakeasies. I once heard Portland’s legendary tattoo artist Don Deaton, from Sea Tramp Tattoo, talk about this. He explained that you were a good tattoo artist if you were quick. That’s because if the speakeasy was busted, you wanted to be able to finish to limit the chances of getting caught. The notion of success through a quick hand has practically left the tattoo culture. Now there are lots of artists that do fine work. This work has changed a lot too, and now takes more time.
        Where you once had to go to a seedy part of town to get a quick tattoo, you can now go to the nicer end of town and get a beautiful piece of art done. This change has been slow-coming, but it signals in a new era of what’s acceptable. In fact, even some business people are becoming tattooed. The cause of this has just been the exposure that tattooed people have gotten in the media. More recently, there have been more and more people with tattoos in the spotlight. With this new exposure being in a good light, it has become more socially acceptable. While it still has a ways to go, as far as workplace acceptance, tattooing is more popular now then it ever has been before, and I think that’s fantastic.
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