Tattoos: From A Symbol Of Rebellion To Fashion Statement:

How many tattoos does Robbie Williams (of the pop group “Take That”) have? The answer (an estimated 14) is probably only of interest to his fans, family and also (so it seems) to the British comedian Lenny Henry, who – during the Diamond Jubilee Concert in front of Buckingham Palace on 4th June – made a joking reference to Williams’ propensity for getting himself “inked”. There were of course other performers on the stage that evening who are rumoured to have paid frequent visits to “tattoo parlours” (the “Guardian” has reported that there are now more than 1,500 in the UK compared to just 300 a decade ago) – among them the singer Cheryl Cole, who (in the words of the “Daily Mail”) has accumulated a “growing body art collection”. The writer Tessa Dunlop points out in the June edition of “History Today” that in 19th Century Britain, tattoos were regarded as “ outward evidence of criminality” but today have become “the ultimate high street fashion accessory”. Similarly, the BBC News Magazine columnist, Finlo Rohrer, has noted that tattoos in the Western world were once “the mark of sailors, prisoners, bikers, outcasts, rockers and rebels”. Now, “doctors, lawyers, even Prime Ministers’ wives (Samantha Cameron has a blue dolphin on her right ankle) have them….How did tattoos become so acceptable?”

The Guardian agrees that tattooing has been transformed into a “respectable high street business” catering not only for celebrities but also for teachers, bank clerks, university lecturers and nuclear engineers. It quotes a survey conducted by the “Ask Jeeves” website which indicates that 20% of all adults in Britain have a tattoo, though this figure rises to a “staggering” 29% among men & women aged 16-44. Furthermore, 16% in the 30-44 category have at least two – but 91% of people over 60 have none at all. Although 86% of respondents to the “Ask Jeeves” investigation acknowledge that tattoos have become more “commonplace”, 34% say they “look awful” and another 21% think it’s “ok to have a tattoo as long as it’s not on display” (which rather undermines the reason why many people, especially celebrities, have them at all). When questioned about David Beckham’s “tattoo sleeves covering his arms”, 93% of the over 60’s and 74% of the under 30’s believe he has “gone too far”. Many men (47%) apparently dislike tattoos on a woman but only 38% of women feel the same way about “markings on a male body”. These findings correlate with a recent “Oxygen Media Poll” in the USA, which reveals that, although 85% of the public assume that more men than women have tattoos, the statistic is in fact 59% for women and just 51% for men. “Hearts and Angels” (say Oxygen Media) are the top choices for women, whereas 30% of men get a tattoo “for cultural or religious reasons, 26% to show their loyalty and 20% to express patriotism”.

Regarding the location: 39% of both men and women in America choose the upper back or shoulder; men tattoo their arms three times as often as women; 32% of women tattoo their lower back (Victoria Beckham has five stars in that position); 27% of women agree with Samantha Cameron and prefer the ankle, whereas almost no men put a tattoo there; 12% of American men & women regret their decision to get a tattoo. In the UK, the percentage is much higher: 25% wish they hadn’t done it. Nadia Kelly of “Ask Jeeves” has noticed “an increasing number of our users asking about the various ways of getting rid of tattoos”. This can prove to be an expensive and uncomfortable procedure: As emphasised in a New York Times article, “a tattoo that cost several hundred dollars could require several thousand dollars and many laser sessions to eliminate completely”. Jonathan Sheri of the “Body Clinic” has removed “countless tattoos” (usually the name of an “ex”) over the past 15 years. His charges (according to BBC News Magazine) vary from £50 – £150 per visit, with between 8-12 lasering sessions needed at monthly intervals: “It is not a certain process. For some, the tattoo will disappear completely, for others it will fade a little and for the unlucky ones a scar will remain”.

The BBC’s “Advice Factfile” provides a fairly graphic description of the tattoing procedure: “A tattoo artist inserts ink into the skin, using needles or an electric tattoo machine. This drives the needles into the skin about 80 to 150 times per second”. For those people keen to look fashionable and also impress their loved one with their devotion (but unsure about how long their commitment will last), there is (asserts the website) a “great alternative” available: “Temporary Tattoos That Look Real”. They suggest using “a natural paste made from henna leaves, stick-on tattoos (“main disadvantage: they look shiny and fake up close”) or “painted-on” tattoos (which “require the help of a professional or somebody who can draw well”). Buzzle’s preference appears to be for the “airbrush method”: All you have to do is to “place the stencil with your selected design on your skin and spray the paint from your airbrush”. Buzzle and the BBC Advice Factfile offer a similar recommendation to anyone considering a permanent tattoo: “If you think you might change your mind afterwards – don’t do it”.




Filed under: Society | Posted on June 14th, 2012 by Colin D Gordon

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