The University of Vermont's Independent Voice Since 1883

The Vermont Cynic

The University of Vermont's Independent Voice Since 1883

The Vermont Cynic

The University of Vermont's Independent Voice Since 1883

The Vermont Cynic

The student body: a look at UVM’s unique tattoo culture

Jackson Palumbo
Many students at UVM visit Imperial Tattoo in downtown Burlington to get new tattoos April 6.

It’s a well-known fact that at UVM, the student body is known for its unashamed individuality. From curated wardrobes to vibrantly dyed hair, the school has developed a reputation centered around self-expression and personality.

For many students, this love of originality extends farther than their adornments, going as deep as their skin. 

Take a walk around campus on a warm day and personal galleries are on display, intricately designed and etched sleeves of American traditional tattoos, collections of patchwork pieces and more subtle fine line works. 

However, such a high percentage of students having tattoos may be yet another unique feature of the student population. 

In the greater Burlington area alone there are 18 different shops that offer tattoos. A survey conducted by the Cynic found that the majority of students opt to get their tattoos at Body Art, a small shop located on Main Street. Other popular spots include Imperial Tattoo, Yankee Tattoo and Sugarwood Tattoo Company.

When asked if coming to UVM influenced their decision to get tattooed, the majority of survey participants said “yes.” 

“I always knew I wanted to be covered in tattoos, and since there are so many different studios in Burlington, being at UVM definitely made it easier,” said one unnamed first-year survey responder.  

When asked the same question, first-year Sabrina Dichiara felt similarly.

“Yes. Seeing people be so open and themselves made me want to be more creative with my tattoo ideas,” Dichiara said.  

In terms of what students are getting on their bodies, the designs vary widely, as do their meanings. 

For many, their pieces are meant to depict something or someone important to them. 

When asked about their favorite tattoo, survey responder and first-year Sam S. cited making a childhood drawing permanent. 

“My childhood best friend and I used to draw [the] same heart every day in elementary school and say that we had matching tattoos, and on my 18th birthday, we finally made those drawings permanent,” Sam said.  

Others echo this sentiment, with art meant to commemorate past hobbies, lost loved ones and important memories. 

This love for tattoos extends farther than just UVM students. 

Jaime Pompa, an artist at Imperial Tattoo, has been in the industry for almost 28 years. He set up the shop in Burlington in 2021 and stated that the people in the area are solid clientele, he said.

While he has a love for large Japanese-style pieces, he knows that trends come and go.  

“There are certain styles […] that will never die or be out of style, our goal has always been to give people the best tattoo they can possibly get,” Pompa said.  

Pompa urges students to do research before getting a tattoo but views UVM students as a positive addition to the community.

 “We love to tattoo UVM students. We’re very fortunate to have a steady presence of UVM students that come and get their first tattoo at Imperial.”

Tristan Taylor, an artist at Body Art, echoed Pompa’s statements, adding that approximately 85% of his clientele are UVM students and that he is booked by about three students every day, he said. 

He acknowledges that this phenomenon is associated with the freedom that college brings, with the ability to get away from the judgemental viewpoints of family members. While he notes that his favorite pieces to do are bold American traditional tattoos, he said he does a lot of smaller and more basic tattoos on students.

“A lot of Pinterest [tattoos] […] Roman numerals, butterflies, infinity symbols. I have done the same tattoo three times this month: the ‘everything happens for a reason,’” Taylor said.

Both artists view “tattoo culture” at UVM and in the greater Burlington area as having changed in recent years. 

Taylor and Pompa commented on the change from tattoos being associated with more threatening crowds to tattooing teenagers, with parental consent of course. 

“Tattooing is a lot more accepted nowadays, people are seeing the art involved in it versus the idea of tattoos being for outlaws,” Pompa says.

This shift is seen across the UVM campus, with more students feeling confident to get their first tattoos in Burlington. The majority of those surveyed by the Cynic have gotten at least one piece done since coming to Vermont.

“I think there’s a ‘cool mysterious’ undertone to having a lot of tattoos, especially visible ones on areas seen often and lots of people adopt this mentality of finding tattoos attractive or cool and get them,” said first-year survey responder Sam S.

Regardless of whether or not a true “tattoo culture” exists specifically at UVM, they are still a welcome sight on campus. 

The prevalence of tattooed students reflects the culture of the school and the student body as a whole. 

“Tattooing has been around for thousands of years, it’s my craft right now and it will be around forever. Respect the craft. Keep tattooing beautiful,” Pompa said.

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