The Social Impression of Tattoos

기사승인 2021.08.11  15:02:46   조회수 649


Tattoos are a form of art; it is a body modification through the insertion of ink, pigment, or dyes into the dermis layer of the human skin. It can express philosophy, religious or spiritual devotion, artistic freedom, or even thoughts and feelings. The art of tattoos has existed since ancient times for a variety of purposes. However, in the current society, tattoos can give a variety of impressions to people. 

There are various genres of tattoos. Examples of tattoo genres include Black & Gray, Linework, Irezumi, Chicano, Old-School, Lettering, and more. Tattoos are differentiated based on the following aspects: the concentration of the ink; the color of the ink; drawings, objects, or ideas associated with the tattoo; meaning behind the tattoo, etc. For instance, Black & Gray tattoos utilize different shades of black ink to give off a realistic feeling, and Chicano tattoos are drawings of skulls, gangs, clowns, and guns. Mexican human rights activists or politicians often use Chicano tattoos to convey their identity. 

[A photo of a couple that got matching cross tattoos, photo credits: Wikimedia Commons]

The idea of getting a tattoo popped up in my head quite recently. Many upperclassmen at my school have tattoos. I had always had a neutral stance on the subject of tattoos –– I never hated or loved it––but I found myself recently leaning towards getting one. To many, including myself, tattoos seem to be a good way of expressing individuality and creativity. It adds a bit of spice. 

However, many people around the world deem tattoos undesirable. To be specific, tattoos are associated with delinquency, even criminality. In Korea, even people who find small or aesthetically pleasing tattoos acceptable mainly consider Irezumi tattoos (Japanese traditional full-body tattoos that were historically related to the yakuza) offensive, or even frightening. (I find Irezumi tattoos a bit too much as well). Moreover, many members of criminal groups or drug cartels use tattoos. This has led to the perception that equates tattoos with drug addiction in the U.S. since the 1960s. Besides, some people have prejudiced opinions about tattoos in general. When I asked for my friends’ opinion about my getting a tattoo, some said a small one would be chic, while others straight out hated the idea, claiming people should conserve their bare skin the way they are. 

[An Irezumi tattoo, photo credits: Wikimedia Commons] 

Today, more and more people are getting tattoos. In Korea, about 1 in 4 of the population have tattoos. In the US, 21% of Americans reported having at least one tattoo in a 2012 survey, whereas seven years later, in 2019, 30% of all US citizens had at least one tattoo. Indisputably, the number of people receiving tattoos around the world is growing compared to the past. Surprisingly, tattoos are more popular among people with higher education than those with lower education.

This trend has influenced teenagers to also want to get tattoos. A 2018 survey claimed over a quarter of US teenagers have asked their parents for permission to get a tattoo. Adolescents behave more impulsively than adults due to the lack of myelination in the neurons of the teenage brain. Whether it be tattoos, or underage smoking and drinking, many adults regret the decisions they made as minors. Moreover, I have seen many instances where parents strongly object to their kids getting tattoos, including mine. Of course, it is only right that we should respect the opinions of those who have raised us for many years. I would therefore advise teens to hold off on their decisions to get tattoos until they reach adulthood. Sure, you have autonomy over your own body, but tattoos are permanent. Once you get a tattoo, you have to live with it for the rest of your life or undergo painful laser tattoo removal which often leaves terrible scars. Besides, depending on the size, location, and genre of the tattoo, it can drastically alter people’s impression of you. Are you willing to take the risk on a whim? Think well before you get a tattoo.



Justin An
Mercersburg Academy

Justin An

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