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Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Evolution of Tattoos: Getting Inked

Despite the social sciences' growing fascination with tattooing, and the immense popularity of tattoos themselves, and the evolution of tattoos, there is not much of a definitive historical record. The history of tattoo began over 5000 years ago and is as diverse as the people who wear them. The process of early age tattooing was long and painful. Some of the first tools used in tattooing were made of bone, stone, or wood. There were mainly two types of tools used in the process of making most tribal tattoos: a small rake-like shaped tool, and another plain rod with a flat surface. The rake-shaped tool was used to make the design of the tattoo. It would first be dipped into its ink or dye, and then punctured into the skin by being tapped by the flat tool. Other processes consisted of scratching the skin and then rubbing in the ink.

A far cry from the more advanced tattoo parlors today.
Nowadays, tattooing is used as a form of expression, or rebellion. It is be completely voluntary for someone to get a tattoo and in fact harder to find individuals that do not have a tattoo of some kind. The cultural status of tattooing has steadily evolved from that of an anti-social activity in the 1940s to that of a trendy fashion statement in the year 200s. First adopted and flaunted by influential rock stars like the Rolling Stones in the early 1970s, tattooing had, by the late 1980s, become accepted by mainstream society. Today, tattoos are routinely seen on rock stars, professional sports figures, ice skating champions, fashion models, movie stars and other public figures who play a significant role in setting the pace of contemporary culture.

During the last fifteen years, two distinct classes of tattoo business have emerged. The first is the "tattoo parlor" that glories in a sense of urban outlaw culture, advertises itself with garish exterior signage and offers less than sanitary surroundings. The second is the "tattoo art studio" that most frequently features custom and fine art designs, all of the features of a high end beauty and "by-appointment" services only. Today's fine art tattoo studio draws the same kind of clients as a jewelry store, fashion boutique, or high-end antique shop.

My own feeling about tattoos is that unlike most fashion statements, this one is around forever. It is not seasonal or even an era, it is embedded ink that will be present when you leave this world, like it or not. Unless you don't mind scars or have the finances to get a good cover tattoo job, that fashion faux pas is there to stay, whether you are 15 or 80. Make sure that the tattoo that you have decided to get is something that you love, for better or worse, through sickness and health, til death do you part, and even then, as witnessed in several recently unearthed tattooed mummies, tattoos are quite literally forever!