Why Are Tattoos So Popular?

  • Written By Dan Hunter on November 10, 2020
    Last Updated: January 2, 2021

If you think that more people are getting tattoos these days, you are right. According to a Pew Research Center survey, 36% of Americans age 18-25 have at least one tattoo. 40% of Generation X members have tattoos, though younger people are more likely to have multiple tattoos. 

What has caused this rise in popularity of body art? Tattoos used to be taboo, still, they are not firmly in the mainstream.

Reasons Why Tattoos Are So Popular

Here are some of the most compelling reasons that tattoos are more popular than ever before. 

People See Tattoos on Social Media

Social media has been a game-changer for many industries and cultural practices and tattoos are no exception. 

Before, it used to be that people could not find tattoo designs except by walking into a tattoo parlor and looking around. Social media changes that. From Pinterest to Instagram, creative and elaborate designs are everywhere. 

People get inspiration for tattoos every time they open social media. Tattoo artists are also reaping huge benefits from those platforms. Celebrity tattoo artists have followers in the millions and groups dedicated to tattoos on Facebook have millions of members. 

Getting information about tattoo designs, the best artists, hygiene practices and lots of other things has never been easier, making everything more accessible to a general audience.

Television Shows About Tattoo Culture

Many experts trace the beginning of the tattoo culture explosion in the US to 2005. During that year, a popular reality TV show called Miami Ink premiered on TLC. The show was about a tattoo studio in South Beach and the unique personalities who worked there.

Before Miami Ink, not many people knew what went on in a tattoo studio. Few knew what it looked like on the inside of a tattoo studio. The show allowed them a peek into this culture. 

The owner of the Miami Ink studio, Ami James, became something of a celebrity and other famous people were clamoring to get inked by him.

Miami Ink was a massive success, airing in over 160 countries and generating spinoffs like NY Ink and LA Ink. These shows did a lot to change the prevailing attitude toward tattoos.

People See Celebrities With Tattoos and Want Their Own

As tattoo artists became celebrities, they received lots of attention in mainstream media. Other stars wanted to get inked as a result. 

David Beckham, Rihanna, Adam Levine and many others now sport visible tattoos. These tattoos have become a part of their identity and fans recognize them.

In addition to wider social acceptance, celebrities were like walking advertisements for tattoo culture. People want to get tattoos to emulate their favorite stars or create a self-image similar to somebody famous. 

Popular Among Younger People, Not Older People

The popularity of tattoos is being driven by the youth, for the most part. While younger generations see body art as a form of self-expression, older people often associate tattoos with criminals, sailors or counter-culture groups.   

This dislike can come through in the workplace where older generations still work in management. Because of this, it is no surprise that many company policies discourage visible tattoos. 

Visible tattoos can still make it difficult to get a job in some customer-facing sectors, such as banking. 

Despite the slow change of heart among older generations, millennials keep on getting tattoos. The wide acceptance among younger generations has increased the acceptance of tattoos in the workplace overall. 

With more than one-third of young people entering the workforce sporting tattoos, companies have no choice but to accept employees who have them. 

Tattoos Are No Longer Taboo

With the normalization of tattoos in movies, on TV shows, among celebrities and on social media, they are no longer considered taboo. 

With some exceptions, people with tattoos are increasingly considered normal. Since body art is so commonplace, even people in older generations, who previously saw inked skin as taboo, have come to accept tattoos. 

This mainstream acceptance is one of the main reasons that tattoos have become so widespread. 

Tattoos as a Form of Self-Expression

As mentioned above, younger people tend to use tattoos as a form of self-expression. People have always found ways to build their identity and permanent tattoos are a way to remind themselves of that identity and display it for others to see.  

Some of the ways people define themselves include their career, religion, family and even their possessions, such as their car or house. These things are sometimes the subject of tattoos. 

However, the current world renders traditional modes of developing an identity outdated. It is no longer common for anyone to spend a lifetime with one employer. Many people change careers several times.

Culture, values and other things that used to be permanent also change rapidly. Since millennials are the most wired into modernity, they experience this lack of permanence more intimately than older generations.

Tattoos provide a sort of solution to this problem. A tattoo is permanent. It can be a kind of time capsule used to capture a feeling, memory or life philosophy. 

Looking at it will continuously remind the owner and those around them of this important thing in their life. 

As a result, tattoos make for powerful tools of self-expression, not just so their owners can tell people who they are, but also anchor that identity and remind themselves of it whenever they look at the tattoo.

Final Thoughts

Tattoos have been around for thousands of years and they don’t look like they’re going away anytime soon. Driven by celebrities and mainstream acceptance in both traditional and new media, the popularity of body art keeps surging year after year. 

This popularity is good news if you are interested in getting a tattoo. Talented artists can build careers in this industry, therefore, it is easier than ever to find a quality tattooist who you can trust to create the perfect tattoo for you.

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