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Artistic boundaries

Removing the stigma surrounding tattoo culture

AOnlineIn our world of bright colours and reality television, people have been brainwashed to see anything considered outside of the ordinary as strange or even incorrect.

But, as time moves on, so do society’s archaic views.

As recently as a decade ago you would have felt comfortable, albeit like a bit of a chump, turning around and fleeing with your tail between your legs after encountering someone covered head-to-toe in tattoos.

However, in today’s society, it’s impossible to tell if the person donning a flaming skull tattoo on their neck is a system-hardened gangbanger or an artist whose indie band just signed a record deal.

And that’s an inherently good thing.

According to Calgary tattoo artist, Chris Dow, the changing perspective stems from the influx of artists in the tattoo industry.

“It’s far more accepted with the rise of the tattoo shows and seeing people on mainstream television [or] reality shows,” suggests Dow.

“Everyone has a tattoo [nowadays]. It’s almost strange when someone doesn’t.”

Dow says he believes the addition of traditional artists into the evolving industry is the cause of tattoos coming into the mainstream.

“It’s accepted as an art form now, not just [for] tough guys, sailors, bikers and whatnot, it’s everyone and their dog,” he laughs.

But, even though times are a-changing, stigma has the uncanny ability to weather the proverbial storm.

Logically, we are cognizant that having a tattoo doesn’t automatically equate to spending time in prison, just like we now know heavy metal enthusiasts aren’t de facto Satanists.

Nevertheless, some people are still unnerved by visible tattoos, specifically those found on the face, neck and hands.

Joshua Moore, a power engineering student at SAIT who has both neck and hand tattoos, says he has experienced the effects of this stigma.

“I’ve made the choices I have in locations of tattoos knowing I could hit roadblocks. I just go around them. It’s becoming a lot more accepted, but it’s still not quite there.

“To me, it’s like the changing of the guard. My grandparents [don’t even] mind anymore. I think it’s just the new generation trying to paint their own paths in life.”

Moore says he got his first tattoo for his 16th birthday and has now lost count of how many he has.

“Ever since then, I’ve embraced it.”

With the growing acceptance around the globe among enthusiasts and onlookers alike comes the change tattoo culture desperately needs to rid itself of its frowned-upon past. While tattoos in Western culture may have a criminal, or nautical background, it simply isn’t the case anymore.

Tattoo parlours and artists, as Dow said, are now coming into the mainstream, and it’s not just criminals, or professionals for that matter, doing the tattooing anymore.

If you go into any college residence, you will be hard pressed to find less than one stick and poke tattoo artist lurking around the corner. This is due, in part, to the blossoming DIY trend hitting North America, and to the aforementioned increase in tattoo acceptance. 

And, while many enthusiasts look down upon stick and poke tattoos for their often amateur aesthetic, the fact that students are willing to give each other permanent pieces of art on their bodies only goes to show the scale of growth the industry is experiencing. It says that they want tattoos, and they want them now, even if professional tattoos are out of the budget.

Moreover, tattoos have become about beauty and expression, rather than informing others of your gang affiliation or naval platoon.

“I have always said that when I die, my tattoos will tell my life story,” remarks Moore.

Moore says he will not cover his tattoos for a job, and that’s the right attitude to have. If everyone with tattoos simply hides them, especially the “taboo tattoos” whenever they’re visible to the public, the stigma will be forever present.

“For some people, it is a lifestyle, for others, it’s just something cute to go do. Regardless of the tattoo, it always comes with a story.”

With the growing number of artists in the industry and more people willing to push the boundaries of where it’s considered appropriate to have a tattoo, the underrated art form will continue to squeeze its way into modern life, leaving people’s antiquated beliefs long forgotten.

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