Tattoo artists mark new clients

Your future boss probably will not care if you get those Lady Gaga lyrics tattooed across your back. You still might regret it, though.Originally, markers of accomplishment or signs of membership to certain groups, such as tribes, sailors or gang members, tattoos once held a certain taboo connotation in mainstream Western society.  “Outside of certain contexts, tattoos were marks of ‘deviance’ because they were associated mostly with outlaws and inmates,” UVM sociology professor Kathy Fox said. In the past few decades, the status of tattoos has transformed into something so popular that they’ve lost the majority of their stigma.  “I’ve been tattooing 31 years,” Shamus Parker, tattoo artist and owner of Body Art tattoo parlor in Burlington, said. “I’ve definitely seen the change from more of a biker-ish type of clientele — maybe on the criminal edge side — to professional people, students, moms, dads, grandmas. Everyone gets tattoos now.”  Currently, tattooing and body piercing is the fifth fastest growing industry in the world, Parker said. This increase in popularity and acceptance can be attributed to the shift in the tattoo’s public perception.”They are no longer associated only with ‘outsider’ culture and are somewhat standard on college campuses,” Fox said.Contributing to their acceptance is the increase of tattoos shown in popular culture, Parker said.”I think it began when you started to see a lot of sports figures with tattoos, celebrities, people in movies,” Parker said. Seeing tattoos on role models, rather than social deviants, lends a certain legitimacy to them, Parker said.Considering tattoos through a more artistic lens also aids in legitimizing ink. Parker said that, if a person would spend $10,000 for a painting on their wall, why would they not want to wear it around? An important contributing factor to the view of tattoos as a kind of artwork is the increased customization of tattoos. Gone are the days when roses, dice and hearts with a name written across a ribbon were the most popular choices. “Years ago it was like you got to choose from some designs on the wall,” Parker said. “Now it’s more custom. We draw right for people on the spot. It’s pretty much more their idea now. It’s really true art, not number 99 on the wall.” The website of Burlington tattoo parlor Yankee Tattoo underscores the connection between customization of tattoos and the increased diversity of the people who get them. “Our clients are as different as the tattoos they choose,” the website stated. “From punks to professionals, bikers to bankers, young and old. Anyone can be tattooed.” The individuality in tattoo designs signifies a noteworthy evolution of tattoos as indicators of personal expression. People often get tattoos today as a declaration of what is important to them personally, sophomore Alex Haller, who has three tattoos, said.”It’s like imprinting something you believe,”  Haller  said. “It tells a lot about you at a certain point in your life.”Tattoos are now used to mark important events in people’s lives, Fox said. “Middle-aged people will get a tattoo sometimes to mark getting through a painful period, like a divorce or recovery,” she said.With the changing incentive to get tattooed and their growing popularity, tattoos are becoming more accepted, even in the workforce.  “The business world has become much more tolerant in general,” business professor Barbara McIntosh said.”If you’re coming in with a high grade point average and have proven yourself in a number of ways, they’re probably not going to bat an eye — unless it’s a particularly conservative industry.” There is still somewhat of a stigma in some conservative industries, like working on Wall Street, McIntosh said. With the trends of modern tattoos, however, this problem can be avoided. “If that should concern somebody, they shouldn’t get tattoos in a location where it’s obvious,” Haller said. “I didn’t get mine high enough or low enough that it would be a problem.” Many people seem to take this into consideration now, with areas such as the back, rib area and feet becoming more popular, because of their ability to be hidden, Parker said. With an increased demand and increased acceptance, the more mainstream popularity of tattoos doesn’t seem to be a fad.”As long as people continue to do beautiful ink on people, it will continue to grow,” Parker said.Still, the draw of tattoos does not extend to everyone. There are still a number of reasons that some people choose to remain tattoo-free.Freshman Melissa Montero said she thought about getting a tattoo, but decided against it. “I’m a blood donor, my dad would kill me, I’m thinking about my professional career and it was out of rebelliousness. It was just me wanting to be like, ‘Hey, I can do whatever the hell I want to.’ That wasn’t a good enough reason,”she said.It is only fitting that with something that has become such a personal thing, people have personal reasons for deciding to get, or not get, a tattoo.  The cultural context of tattoos, however, is quite different than it once was, and is much more accepting.”There are still norms around tattoos,” Fox said. “But generally they are not as stigmatized as they once were.”