Why get a tattoo?

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Are you a fan of tattoos? In the United States, about 40% of people have at least one tattoo, and over half among them have more than one tattoo on their body. Although at the same time, the other 40% of people do not even consider it as an option for themselves. It seems that opinions towards tattoos being cool and acceptable or tacky and distasteful splits in half.  

But why is this so? Why are so many people intrigued with the idea of artful designs on the skin? This is quite interesting considering that tattoos are not the product of modern world fad. It’s hard to imagine that tattoos have a very ancient history. So ancient, in fact, it is not quite clear when or how exactly the practice began over thousands and thousands of years ago. Perhaps there is something about getting tattoos that is primitively satisfying for us.

Since its beginning, tattoos have had a simple meaning of identity. People who get tattoos usually had a certain motive to identify oneself as something. For example which country, clan, occupation, family, or even social status you belong in. In recent years this has gradually shifted more towards individually unique traits such as personality and personal beliefs. It is obvious that tattoos are a popular way for people to use as self expression. Clarifying our own identity and/or belonging in the shape of getting tattoos likely has a strong meaning for us as social beings, and in more recent years tattooing has become more and more popular among young and old generations all over the world, so it is very likely that you either are interested in getting one, or already have one.

So where does the negative view towards tattoos that cause the split come from? Expressing your identity doesn’t seem too bad does it? First off, many people can get uncomfortable about making unchangeable body modifications to themselves. About one fourth of people who get tattoos regret getting their tattoos later on, and must resort to surgery. Another big reason could be that tattoos are often not perceived as an official/formal practice. Companies usually prohibit employees from having tattoos on visible areas since it gives people an unprofessional impression.

In Japan for instance, tattoos are a symbol of criminality, and is the farthest thing from social formality. It is almost impossible to enter any public space in Japan with a visible tattoo. When a Japanese person gets a tattoo, it is usually a message of being a rebel. Of course this is a rather extreme case compared to most western cultures, but there is certain level of similar mentality towards tattoos pretty much anywhere in the world.

So what is the truth here? Are tattoos simply an art form that allows us to express ourselves in countless ways? Or is it a sign of rebellious spirit and informality? This most definitely will have split opinions, and surely will be influenced by where you grew up. I personally have the impression that tattoos are kinds of fashion and design. But unlike clothing, it is difficult to change on a daily basis. If you are thinking about getting a tattoo anytime soon, choose wisely. You won’t want to end up being one of the four that regretted what they put on their skin.

Also another important note, if you happen to be considering getting Japanese / Chinese characters as your tattoo, make sure to check what the sentence actually means before you engrave it into yourself, please.


Sean Cooper


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