Tattoos today and research

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Inked up

FAU does its homework on today’s tattoo culture

By Kaceion Hudson

More than 40 million Americans, according to the Harris Poll, have at least one tattoo. It seems tattoos have gone mainstream, so what does the future hold for inked individuals?

FAU is currently doing research through a study called "Stories on the Skin: Tattoo Culture at FAU." This project attempts to shed some light on the growing emergence of, and changing attitude toward, permanent body art.

"Anyone can get tattoos: prison inmates, athletes, students, even runway models," said Karen Leader, a professor in the department of visual arts and art history and co-director of "Stories on the Skin."

Leader believes the meaning behind tattoos and the demographics of the people getting them has changed over the past 20 years. "If you had a tattoo [back then] you could be identified as something; that's not true anymore."

Last fall, 1,147 FAU students took a survey during Phase 1 of the project. Fifty-eight percent of those taking the survey have tattoos. According to the survey results, the main reason a student gets a tattoo is to commemorate an event.

Third-year marketing and management major Julian Hanlan shared his opinion on tattoos and his reason for getting them. "They all have meaning and they all relate to each other. One side of my body basically has a family and love theme, the other side has a strength and courage theme."

According to the project, there is a story behind every tattoo. Sometimes the story is found in the meaning of the tattoo, while other times it's the experience of getting a tattoo.

Arthur Jaffe, founder of the Jaffe Center for Book Arts and co-creator of the "Stories on the Skin" project, believes tattoos can be seen as another kind of book. "They are something that can be read, something that has a story."

Jaffe asked, "If a person dedicates their whole life to something, why shouldn't they be able to tattoo it?"

According to both Leader and Hanlan, one reason people do not tattoo their story is because of their current or future career.

Hanlan confessed fears he had when getting body art. "I hesitate every time because of the thought of a career and just hearing what my mother feels about them."

He went on, "Instead of conforming … I'd rather get what makes me happy and stand by my belief that a person with tattoos can work just as well as someone whose body is spotless."

Leader believes, "Heavily tattooed individuals are still going to be largely judged in the business world, but otherwise attitudes are shifting. Cover up and discretion is where the split now lies."

One of the goals of the "Stories on the Skin" project is to help people understand that a tatoo's permanance makes it more than a fashion statement.

"I'm using tattoos to explore other things like aesthetics, beauty, identity and self-fashioning. We create who we present to the world and that creation is how society accepts or rejects us," said Leader.

Here on campus, students are in a constant state of learning and creation and many seem to be using tattoos as their outlet of expression.


Do you think every tattoo has to have some meaning? Do all your tattoos have meanings? Have you ever just gotten a tattoo because of the tattoo shop, tattooer, or tattoo design? Would enjoy hearing everyones opinions on this as the media has fed this with the "Cable Invasion" which many have discussed is not an accurate portrayal of tattooing. I do see the positives to some of these shows and there are actually some good tattooers on them. Alright have at it and below are some relevant links to tattoo pictures, tattoo history, and more on our tattoo forum:

Was tattooing as popular 100 years ago?

Swinggates and The Pike

Dan Higgs

Tattoo books

Old Tattoo Pictures

Chicago Tattooing History

Spaulding and Rogers

222 Tattoo

Scottish Tattoo History

Russian Tattoo Designs

Tattoo Definitions

Religious and Spiritual Tattoos

What tattoo designs can you never see enough of?

Tattooers Reference Libraries

Visual Tattoo Opinions


Feminism and Tattoos

Female Tattooed Clinical Social Workers

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When I turned 18 I was itching to get tattooed, but I was struggling to come up with a design that had some unique, personal meaning behind it. I ended up getting my dad's businesslogo (of all things) tattooed on my leg, figuring I could say that it was a tribute to my dad when showing it off to my friends. Oh, and I got it done at the first and best shop I could find while visiting Denmark (because rumors had it that it was cheaper to get tattooed there than here in Norway)

I thought my tattoo was the shit back then, but I can't say I'm particulary proud of it today. I knew nothing about tattoo tradition/culture/history back then, nor was I interested. I just wanted "something" so I would look cool in shorts and maybe gain some credibility from the punkrock scene I was into at the time.

After that first tattoo I didn't get tattooed again till 5 years later which was when I decided to get a japanese'ish halfsleeve. I still didn't know much about tattoos, but atleast I did some homework that time around. I found a talented artist, saved up enough cash so money wouldn't be an issue and I had come to terms with the fact that I could get a tattoo without putting a bunch of bullcrap stories/meanings/symbolisms behind it. Getting that piece was such an awesome experience and it sparked the obsession I now have with tattoos and tattoo art.

I'm not in any way saying that getting a tattoo with some meaning behind it is wrong. I'm just saying that in my opinion and experience you shouldn't let that be a leading factor if you want to get a tattoo. Atleast don't repeat my mistake by choosing a design that you're not really that into so you can "explain" yourself when asked why you got that specific tattoo. I suspect that alot of people who aren't that into tattoos have trouble grasping that someone would get a tattoo just because they like the artwork and how it looks on the skin, and that kind of mindset held me back on getting something I could be proud of wearing today.

I'm hoping to get tattoos that have personal meanings to me someday, but so far I'm more than satisfied collecting badass tattoos from my favorite artists..

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Lochlan you have the most awesome topics. Well I'll add my 2 cents on this.

For me I feel that a tattoo can be many things.

First off, sure a tattoo can have a meaning even if you don't realize that it does. Do you think that maybe for some unforeseen reason you were attracted to an image with out knowing its meanings only to find out later that the image suits your personality perfectly, or even some of your beliefs. Some tattoos are carefully planned out with piles of research on their meanings before the ideas and images start flowing.

Secondly, a tattoo could be just an image thats it, nothing else. It could be just to look cool or to accentuate the body.

For me I have a fine balance of tattoos. Some are ones that I really like and don't have meanings for. Some of my tattoos I have wondered about why I picked certain images only to look into their meanings and find out more about my self. LOL. :) Given the chance, Sure I would get tattooed by a great artists, but not necessarily a specific shop. Here is an example where it could have happened if I was not already getting tattooed. I was at the NIX convention a few years back and I was getting my koi tattoo. Steve Peace was sitting right beside me bored because his client was a no show. Well that would have been a great opportunity to fill in for his no show appointment and get a great pin-up tattoo.

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