Tattoos: From Tribal Rituals to Modern Expression of Freedom
In this article, we focus on perceptions regarding tattoos. The topic was approached through an online survey conducted on the questia.ro platform. The research study was active between April 2nd and April 3rd, 2019 and covered 1.200 respondents, with a +/- 3% margin of error when reported to the Romanian online population.
From Design to Ink
The starting point of this article was an Inked Youtube interview regarding tattoos that artists refuse. Tattoo artists usually turn off lovers’ initials tattoos, hand and face tattoos, hate or racist symbols, religious related tattoos and tattoos that aren’t going to last (tattoos on the side of the fingers or lip tattoos).
This custom of decorating the human body has been practiced for 12.000 years now as a method of healing, as rebelling, as punishment, as a way of self-expression and as a way of religious worship.
Tattoos have not only been seen as insurgent behavior or rising up against societal norms but also as a way of identifying criminals and even saving lives:
- The ancient Greeks and Romans tattooed slaves and criminals for easier identification when they were fleeing.
- In Soviet Russia, some prisoners tattooed the faces of Lenin or Stalin. This was a form of salvation from death sentences because the guards were not allowed to shoot as it was illegal to shoot in the images of the national leaders. Smart, huh?
Nowadays, certain tattoos are still seen as a controversy. For example, Islamic or Socialist countries can arrest or fine people who own tattoos with religious, political or racial messages. Moreover, in Iran, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates it is forbidden to get a tattoo.
As of a 2017 study conducted in US, 39% of respondents said they don’t have any tattoos or don’t plan on getting any, while more than a quarter of the population are adorned with at least one tattoo. Most Americans first met the prick of the needle in their twenties and the vast majority (77%) never regrets the decision of getting tattooed.
Tattoos weren’t always this popular in the US. In 2015, more than one-third (36%) of people were having unfavorable opinions about tattoos, while only 26% were supporting it.
In other countries, the share of tattooed inhabitants is even higher. According to a study conducted in 2018 in 18 countries around the world, Italy was found to be the country with the highest percent of people getting tattooed (48%), followed by Sweden (47%) and US (46%). Contrary to popular belief, young people don’t have the highest rate of tattoos: 32% of respondents age 14 to 29 have a tattoo compared to 45% of people age 30 to 49 and 28% of people over 50. Although it seems hard to believe, women (40%) are tattooed more than men (36%).
Some fun facts about tattoos:
- Americans’ yearly expenses on tattoos account for $1.65 billion.
- The most popular tattoo images are angels and hearts.
- US women are more tattooed than men (59% compared to only 41%).
- The skin is pierced 50 to 3000 times per minute by the tattoo machine when you get a tattoo.
- The most tattooed person in the world (his entire body is covered in tattoos) is Gregory Paul Mclaren.
- Women are more likely to get their tattoos removed as compared to men.
- Black is the easiest color to get rid off with laser surgery. Green and yellow are the most difficult to remove.
A Form of Expression
First, we asked respondents how they feel about having tattoos. More than half of them (63.1%) seem to agree to the idea of tattoos, with 28.2% agreeing totally and 34.8% agreeing partially. However, more than one third (37%) are not fans of the concept.
As expected, out of those who disagree (37%), around 98% do not have tattoos. On the other side, 62.1% respondents who don’t have a tattoo of their own said they agree with having tattoos.
More than three-quarters of respondents (79.9%) agree that tattoos can be considered a form of expression. However, 85.8% said they don’t own any tattoos yet. Out of those who have tattoos, 89.5% made the decision of getting a tattoo by themselves while 10.5% were influenced by their friends. Talking about friends, more than three-quarters (87.8%) have friends who own tattoos.
Moreover, when being asked if they intend to get any tattoos, a little more than half (51.2%) said they don’t plan any new tattoos in the future, while almost one-quarter (24.4%) are willing to ink some art into their skin. Moreover, almost one-quarter (24.4%) have not made their minds regarding a future tattoo yet.
Out of those who said they will get a tattoo in the future (24.4%), more than half (59.2%) don’t own any tattoos yet while out of those who are not decided (24.4%), 90.4% don’t have any tattoos.
We then wanted to know what types of tattoos respondents prefer as the trends have evolved into numerous styles. The most famous tattoos are the ones with words (as 29.6% of respondents prefer these ones), followed by tribal patterns (23.8%) and tattoos with animals (18%).
As for the colour, more than half (55.1%) prefer coloured tattoos while 44.9% go for the black and white classic version.
We were also wondering if people prefer tattoos at sight or in covered areas as research reports that tattoos (especially facetats) lower the chances of people getting hired. As it seems, more than half of our respondents (56.7%) prefer to show off their tattoos by inking a visible part of the body.
As we find out, tattoos are considered a form of self-expression. Thus, most people generally prefer their tattoos to be special and unique in order to highlight their own vision of the world and state their beliefs. That being said, the above statement is supported by the fact that more than half of the respondents (68.4%) have a custom-made tattoo, while 31.6% chose the pattern either from a catalog or by another person’s tattoo.
More than half of the respondents (59.6%) chose a tattoo artist to do their tattoo, while more than one-third (38%) turned to friends or freelancers.
Tattoos ... are the stories in your heart, written on your skin. - Charles de Lint
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