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Visual Culture: Tattoos Are Mainstream

June 2, 2011

I can’t say when the shift happened, but I can affirm that there was one: tattoos are mainstream now.  No longer the province of punkers, rockers, gangstas, ball players, goths, bikers and jailbirds; anyone can -and will- sport some ink these days.  Kindergarten teachers and office workers have joined the ranks of the rebellious in the formerly edgy act of getting tattoos.

I was at the beach last summer, and I couldn’t help but notice that the only people without tattoos or body piercings were: 1) children, and 2) myself.  Maybe that’s just life in the Big City.  

With the proliferation of tattoos, anything goes these days.  Obscure pop culture references, mainstream pop culture references, nerdcore to Star Wars, 8-bit graphics, internet memes and the just plain bizarre abound.  I won’t go into detail, but there’s plenty of sexual references, both veiled and unveiled.  People are branching out as much as they can with design concepts to try and have an original piece; others are getting ink similar something they have seen because that reinforces their idea for a particular tattoo.  I have been wondering if the rise in Per Capita Ink [PCI] is leading to more ink.  The rule of the day is nothing is too oddball or trivial to commemorate on your flesh.

Popular meme UgliestTattoos.com collects together some of the strangest tattoo specimens, along with home-made and poorly drawn versions.  The author / blogger keeps a snarky running commentary paired with the images her readers send in.  I like this meme and find it very funny.  I don’t have anything against tattoos but there are quite a few on UgTats.com that have made me ask “WTF were you thinking?!“  A tattoo artist once told me that every tattoo has a story behind it.  I told him that some tattoos have stories behind them, but some are an X-file.

Silence of the Kitty?

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