Body art has become more and more common over the decades. I have three tattoos and am planning many more. Loads of my friends and family members have at least one. Though our grandparents’ generation may not like them, tattoo and tattoo culture has shifted from the associations of working class servicemen (sailors, army members and naval officers) to a stylistic form of self expression.
Here, in the UK, one in five people have a tattoo or several, with this rising to one in three young people. “Young people” constitutes those between 18-25, however, there are fifteen and sixteen year olds with etchings gallivanting about. This makes Britain the most tattooed nation of a “young” population in the world with over 21.6 million (33%) having a tattoo. Across the pond in America, it is said three in ten have tats and in Stockholm, Sweden one third of 18-49 year olds have been inked, making it the most tattooed city in the world. However, in countries such as Japan and Korea tattooing is seen as taboo because of its associations to gangs and mafia, although many young people seem to rebuke that idea and get them anyway.
The notion of tattooing goes back as far as 3000 B.C with Otzi the Iceman, who has over 60 markings. Then the Celts would use ashes or paints in battle wound as well as creating their own markings to signify fellow tribesman. In the Victorian era, tattoos were popular among young bureaucrats and upper classes. Yet moving forward and despite their current popularity in the Western world, young people could face issues with regard to what is seen as professional. Back in 2014, solicitor Jo Perkins was fired from her firm for having a miniscule butterfly on her foot because it wasn’t “professional”. A few months later trainee teaching assistant, Charlotte Tumilty, was dismissed for having hand and neck tattoos. It seemed parents didn’t want her around their children because of how she looked. At the time, I didn’t have any ink but even then I could see the injustice – to judge someone based on a personal choice because of older perceptions seemed highly unfair.
These perceptions, though it has only been two years, do not seem to have changed. It seems that visible tattoos are more off putting when employers are hiring, as shown by recent surveys done for The Economist and Huffington Post. My gripe with this is that having a tattoo does not mean a worker is less competent, by any means, and you don’t hear of tattooed people judging those who have opted not to get one. So why does it seem that there is a discrimination towards those with tats? Is it because they are still associated with rebellion and danger? I’m far from that type of person and so are many of the people I know. When I was in school, I remember teachers going to great lengths to keep theirs covered up. But with one third of young people, like myself, being tattooed it’s likely in sixty years – when all our tats are grey blobs and the CEO of a company has a design they thought was cool when on holiday with the lads – that even more people will have undergone the needle. Hopefully perceptions will have changed by then and we can respect one another’s choices of body modification.