Though they have been around for centuries, tattoos have seen a surge in popularity in recent years. Today, nearly half of all Americans have at least one tattoo. This trend is being driven by millennials, who are more likely to have tattoos than any other generation. As tattoos become more mainstream, the industry has boomed, growing from a counter-cultural niche to big business.
The History of Tattoos
Tattoos have been around for centuries. The word “tattoo” is derived from the Tahitian word “tatu,” which means “to mark something.” Tattoos were first used as a form of body art among indigenous people. They would use sharpened tools to cut designs into their skin, which would then be filled with dye or ashes.
The earliest recorded instance of tattooing in the Western world was in Rome in 1977 BC. The Roman historian Livy documented that two Prince of Beneventum were tattooed with darts as punishment for rebel against their father’s rule. In the years that followed, tattoos continued to be associated with criminals and outcasts.
It was not until the 19th century that tattoos began to be seen as works of art. In 1846, the French artist Eugène Delacroix created a stir when he showed off his collection of Japanese woodblock prints, which featured heavily-inked men. This exposure led to a renewed interest in tattooing in the Western world, and by 1870, there were over 200 professional tattoo artists working in London alone.
The Rise of Tattoo Culture in America
Tattoo culture truly took off in America in the early 1900s. Thanks in part to the influx of immigrants from countries like Italy and Poland, who brought with them home their love of tattooing, the practice became increasingly popular. It was also around this time that new tattooing techniques and technologies, such as electric needles and tattoo guns, were developed. These advances made tattoos more accessible and less painful to get, further boosting their popularity.
Tattoos began to lose their stigma in the mid-1900s as celebrities like Marilyn Monroe and James Dean began flaunting their ink. In particular, servicemen returning from World War II helped normalize tattoos by getting them as mementos of their time spent in battle. By the late 20th century, tattoos had entered the mainstream; one study found that 40% of Americans between age 26 and 40 had at least one tattoo.
Tattoos have a long and rich history, dating back centuries. Though they were once seen as marks of criminals and outcasts, today they are widely accepted as works of art. This increase in popularity is being driven by millennials, who are more likely to have tattoos than any other generation. As more people get tattoos, the industry has boomed, growing from a counter-cultural niche to big business.