Tattoos are like windows to where have we been mentally and physically , who we are or who we want to be and what we hold on to. They are more than the things we buy and things we wear.
A tattoo tells a story, or at least that should be the very right reason why do we get them.
*My tattoo by Constantinos POW, SINS &SIGNS*
This growing subculture (but also hipster urban style), stirred the mixture of real artist heroes vs poor amateur copycats. One thing is for sure and historical evidence supports the following statement: Tattooing is an ancient art.
For example, sporting a butterfly tattoo doesn’t scream “ex-felon”, convict better known as jail bird, but it can still project a negative first impression…
Although we have reached 21st Century there will always be conservative people surrounding us and throwing their comments and views. Most people think of a tattooed person, especially a woman as a fairly modern phenomenon but humans have been marking their bodies with tattoos for thousands of years.
Tattoos have a long historical background. The earliest known examples were considered for a long time, the Egyptians and were present on several female mummies, but following the more recent discovery of the Iceman from the area of the Italian-Austrian border in 1991 and his tattoo patterns, he was carbon-dated at around 5,200 years old. Among the numerous ancient cultures who appear to have used tattooing as a permanent form of body enhancement, the most interesting fact to me is its importance to social status. It seemed to be an exclusively female practice in ancient Egypt, since mummies were found with tattoos which at ancient times were associated with royalty, in general and specifically to high-status priestess; not to some pagan uneducated tribes etc
Explorers and sailors, during their journeys had observed native women and men with tattoos covering most of their bodies. We do have historical references of Norse Tattoos, which apparently is amongst my favourites. I am referring to the famous traveller Ibn Fadlan, who describes the Rus in his travel chronicles. He called them the “Rusiyyah,” but they are now commonly known as Vikings. This is how he described them and to be honest he couldn’t have said it any better:
“I have never seen bodies as nearly perfect as theirs. As tall as palm trees, fair and reddish, they wear neither tunics nor kaftans. Every man wears a cloak with which he covers half of his body, so that one arm is uncovered. They carry axes, swords and daggers, and always have them to hand. They use Frankish swords with broad, ridged blades.”
At one point, he mentions that all the men were tattooed from the tips of their fingers to their necks. The tattoos were dark green figures of trees and symbols. It is likely, however, that the tattoos were probably dark blue, a colour that comes from using wood ash to dye the skin.
That is how powerful Scandinavian male and female warriors appeared. And I can’t help it thinking how glorious they would look nowadays using the techniques, skills and colours the tattoo masters use it now.
This traditional practice stretches continuously and flows throughout history, custom wise and widely spread during Ottoman rule and up to 20th century. Christian women were tattooed in hope of preventing themselves being kidnapped and enslaved, as well as children so as to be saved from ’dershivme’. And that is a very distinct example of tattooism used as a tool of physical as well as cultural “protectionism”!
Cross-cultural influences, such as those existing between the Egyptians and Nubians, the Thracians and Greeks as well as many other cultures encountered by Roman soldiers, during the expansion of the Roman Empire and certainly, Polynesian culture is thought to have influenced Maori tattoos. Japanese tattoos and its techniques are also real works of art. And the list goes on and on…
Highly popular among the upper class during the Victorian era, was the tattooing of stylish women during their tea parties. With famous women like Lady Jennie Churchill, ink soon became a source of status among the social elite, with even Queen Victoria to have a tattoo on her own!
Many do not think about future implications when regret sets in or a situation arises when a tattoo becomes apparent for removal. On the contrary, most people get one on a dare, peer pressure, drunken frolic, a night to remember, military fellowship, rash moment of emotional difficulty and many other reasons. And I can subjectively state that, all these are very “incorrect” reasons except, maybe in the the case of military comradeship among so many services, particularly in the elite French Foreign Legion, due to the fact that tattooing acts as “bonding” element.
In essence, it is a statement of the person who wears it. Modern society has embraced the trend and it has become a fashion statement, as well as the norm of the industry. Body art has become a big business, triggering the avalanche of tattoo expos, even reality shows! Tatto business is creating huge turnovers, translated into an increased consumer industry as well e.g. tattoo kits, machines, needles, ink etc. Also, all sorts of new products related to healing and nurturing have appeared. It also goes down to little things that are constantly in use, such as paper towels and rubber gloves and so on, so forth. We have to agree that oozes business!
Tattoos are exploding in popularity, becoming also an ethnical sign, but as I always underline it acquiring artistic value. And, NO, although tattoos are not for everyone, yet the trend is spreading exponentially.
If you are not already the proud owner of piece of art on your skin, but you would badly want to have one, for the right reasons of course, then my advice would be to think it over and over, really good and then, make a good strategy before you go for it. As already mentioned above, “the right reason”, is the choice of a professional and unique artist. Be prepared to pay good money for it, because after all you don’t want to be tight on a budget, because at least theoretically, quality and uniqueness of an idea and technique, should mirror your being, correct?
It is also very important to build trust and respect around your tattoo artist. Have in mind that a painful and a not so successful laser removal or even deep regret… should never be an option. Never!
So who owns your skin!?
I am a proud owner of 4 pieces, done by an impressive and outstanding artist and I strongly believe that tattoos should be also copyrighted material.
Recapitulating, just try to project into the future and wonder whether would you still like it after you turn 65?
Well, in my books the answer should definitely be an absolute yes and YES. And for the closure I would like to quote one opinion expressed recently: ‘TATTOO is a WAY of LIFE’.
And YES, I have embraced this way of life!