Posted by Gabrielle Kirk, ATLANTA, GA -- In this city it seems like the majority of men and women in their 20s and even younger than that have one or two tattoos. Most ‘tatted up’ folks I know in this demographic think of their few tattoos as simple body adornments – not that different from wearing some kind of jewelry. I know there has been a subgroup of young people getting tattoos going at least back to the late 1980s and early 1990s, but I think there has been a generational shift since then in that the basic life-long expression of a tattoo has been normalized. In other words, I don’t think of it as a subculture anymore because it’s so common. Sure, having your entire body ‘tatted up’ will raise eyebrows across most age groups, but one or two seem commonplace now. Even a few of my professors have one.
I believe that this new found appreciation for body art is a reflection of American culture becoming more and more self-expressive. A tattoo allows one to display something important to them for everyone to see – in other words it’s a from of self-expression. This is different from the past where tattoos were seen as rites of passage or something sailors, puck rockers, grungers, or heavy metalers did.
Of course there are limits. Most people with a few tattoos have them in places where they can cover them up with clothes. This is because if you work in corporate American you better be able to hide them. Free expression in this working environment is left for the weekend. Who knows what the future will bring but for now getting a few tattoos while you’re in college is a new normal.
Gabrielle Kirk is Sociology major at Georgia State University. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.