Tattooing is no longer the preserve of bikers, sailors and convicts. More than that, celebrities are getting tattoos. And women too. But hang on, haven’t we heard all this before?
“Tattooing is on the increase: habit not confined to seamen only,” proclaims one headline, while a second article declares: “Tattoos are no longer the trophies of rockers, sailors, bikers…”
The first appeared in the New York Times in 1908, the second appeared on the BBC website 2012, over one hundred years later.
The story – that tattooing has “entered the mainstream” – is just one of a number of tattoo tropes recycled relentlessly over the decades. Others include:
· Everybody seems to be getting tattooed, should we not be concerned?
· Surprise at women, the young or the old getting a tattoo
· The pain during a tattoo
· The issue of regret at having a tattoo
In the late 19th Century, Princess Waldemar of Denmark’s tattoo was big news. As was the inked skin of Queen Olga of Greece, King Oscar of Sweden and the Grand Duke Alexis of Russia. These were the celebrity figures of their day. Modern day equivalents might include David Beckham, Cheryl Cole or Kim Kardashian. Although the names, faces and places might change, the stories remain the same.
Almost 20 years after the New York Times reported in 1876 how tattooing had taken hold and how women were amongst those getting tattooed, the same title reported how tattooing was no longer uncommon and how a number of aristocrats were getting “marked”.
Jump forward almost one hundred years to a magazine called Men in Danger, which again expressed surprise that women were getting tattoos and showed a photo of a young woman with a tattoo which read”I love Elvis”.
The fact is, tattoos have been around as long as civilisation itself, with Egyptian mummies and frozen cavemen found “Inked up”. The media like to associate tattoos with biker gangs and outlaws, and yes they are associated with that, but only because the media made that connection in the first place. People from all walks of life, from every country, and from every time period have adorned tattoos, and shows no signs of ever changing.