As a 34-year-old native Austinite, I’ve seen the rise in acceptance of tattoos. I was a child who was appreciative of alternative culture. I adored the artistry of the vibrant colors and the cool designs. Growing up, it was impressed upon me that carrying a tattoo or having a piercing was somehow “bad,” or that these symbols marked a person who was untrustworthy (perhaps even criminal). This view seemed to be the overall consensus, but if you fast forward to the present— oh my, the perspective has changed.
Our society has progressed so much. The acceptance of being inked has changed with it. What is the reason for this? Is it just a trend? Or a colorful way to express oneself? It could be as simple as the world becoming more accepting in general. This is especially true with the larger, more liberal communities who push for social acceptance. Rather than being told to ‘get in line’ and ‘fit in,’ people are now treated as unique individuals. Of course, celebrities and athletes could certainly have played a role. More than ever we see these ‘stars’ sporting at least some kind of design. In fact, it is rare to see a musician or athlete without some sort of symbol etched into them. It would only make sense that this would progress the overall acceptance of tattoos.
I must admit, the ”monkey see, monkey do” phenomenon most likely has played its part in this as well. It may not be much deeper than that tattoos are accepted and look cool to some people. One person, age 22, I spoke with about the subject told me, “They [tattoos] don’t have to mean anything”. Others however, carry true and personal meanings in every centimeter of ink. I personally like to take this more romantic stance.
Most people who I have spoken to who have tattoos agree with one thing: personal meaning is reason number one for getting ink. Both the tatted and the blank canvases out there seem to actually agree on this. “Tattoos are tied to symbolism for me,” one person, age 30, told me. “There is a lot of meaning and sense of personality. I got mine at a very important time in my life. I would get another for sure.” A tattoo-less man I spoke to, also age 30, said, “I would like some for sure,” but admitted the idea of getting something for the rest of his life on his body was daunting.
For me, permanence is comforting, but older generations can struggle with this facet of tattoos. Annette Pearson, a 60-year-old woman who splits her time between Galveston and Austin, has seen the rise of acceptance of tattoos firsthand. “I might,” she replied when I asked if she would consider getting a tattoo. “I appreciate tattoos, but don’t know if I want to commit.”
As a person with tattoos, I know the importance of personal meaning. I gaze upon my own art that I carry around, and I am reminded of things that are important to me. I lost my dog, Max, to cancer and I decided to have him tattooed. It is essential to me to be reminded of that love that will be there forever. Now, just about a year later, I look down at my arm and smile and feel that love every time I see Max.
The world has moved forward, and tattoo culture has seemed to seep into all corners of life. Whether it’s art, a reminder to yourself, or some deeper spiritual meaning, tattoos are everywhere. I love to see acceptance of not only the beauty of tattoos, but the individual as a whole. And no matter your view of tattoos, there is one thing everyone agrees with— be yourself. If that’s your heart on your sleeve (perhaps literally), don’t be afraid of being you.