Tattoos are a form of personal body art which has been increasing in popularity and acceptance in the US and Europe since the 1980s and 1990s. Once considered in Western culture as taboo and shunned by so called respectable people, tattoos are now becoming mainstream.
Tattoos are produced by injecting or forcing ink or dye under the surface of the skin where they form a permanent image. Mummified remains throughout Europe and Africa indicate that this process dates back to pre-historic times.
The use of facial tattoos was common among early warrior communities. Sometimes they would use them as camouflage, altering the look of the face so as to not be easily spotted when lying in wait. Another approach to facial tattoos was to accentuate the features, creating a more fearsome and terrifying visage with the goal of intimidating the enemy.
Other historic uses of tattoos include signifying rank or membership in a community, group or order. Most religions, including Christianity, have a history of using tattoos in this way.
Tattoos as decorations date back to pre-history as well. Body art was used to attract mates, indicate fertility or virility and otherwise differentiate an individual from the rest of the community.The religious use of tattoos was prevalent in the history of many cultures. Tattoos were applied as talismans, to signify allegiance to a deity or spiritual power and to identify the wearer as a person with specific authority or ability within the local belief system.
In the Western world in the twentieth century, tattoos were relegated to what was considered the sub cultures; bikers and gang members, sailors and military personnel, and low income segments of the population. Getting tattoos in middle class America was virtually unknown.
In more recent years, tattoos are being worn by every segment of the population. While still used by some to denote affiliation, modern tattoos are more frequently used as a form of self expression.
Tattoos attract attention and make a statement. The negative stigma of body art is rapidly being replaced by at least acceptance and at best an embracing of the concept of getting tattoos.
Not everyone views tattoos as a positive, however, and there are many with concerns about what the popularity of tattooing says about our culture.
But for most people today, getting a tattoo is simply a way of standing out in a very crowded world!