Home Tattoos A Light and Fascinating History of Tattoos

A Light and Fascinating History of Tattoos

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Tattoos are hot, modern day body art and fashion accessories. Tattoos have been around for ages and still are a cultural icon as show by this brief history of tattoos. Everyone wears them, from the celebs to the everyday moms and dads. Ladies, especially, have become very aware of the appeal that a well placed tattoo can have lower back tattoos, small and secret little tattoos, flower tattoos and many more, are meant to surprise and please and decorate and so it does too, otherwise it wouldn’t have been that popular!

Tattoos dating back to the second millennium before Christ have been noted on mummies as body decoration. Tattooing has been an ongoing practice since about ten thousand years ago in Japan as evidence shows. Different ancient traditions and cultures have been identified by the types of tattoos that they made use of.

Tattoos as an art form

Tattoos have been a popular form of body art for thousands of years in Europe and Asia. With the spread of Christianity in Europe and the effort to convert tribal people with traditional cultures that involved ritual tattooing, to Western religions and cultures, the use of tattoos almost completely disappeared in Europe for a while, because it was considered a pagan practice. Europeans to see tattoos again after it had lost its popularity for so many years, were Captain Cook and his sailors when they visited the Marquesas Islands in the 18th Century. Captain Cook described the tattoos as markings and said that the Polynesians called it “Tataw”. The sailors who were on the journey with him reinstated the art in Europe, where it soon was reinstated as a popular form of body-art. Sailors, especially, were associated with tattoos At the time tattooing was a common custom outside of Europe and until today tattooing is a tradition amongst indigenous peoples around the world.

History of Tattoos: Cultural Status

History of tattoos

Tattoos are mostly used to enhance the wearer but also have symbolic and traditional meanings that sometimes have nothing to do with adorning the wearer. The symbolism of tattoos differ in diverse cultures but mostly are symbols of status, religion, protection, fertility etc. In many tribal cultures the coming of age initiation process involves tattooing to mark the wearer as an adult and usually signifies that the wearer then has a certain sexual independence. Tattoos were also utilized, until recent times, by authorities to mark convicts and slaves. The holocaust victims of the Second World War were all bearers of tattoos that were used for identification purposes. Even animals were and still are tattooed for identification purposes, such as thoroughbred racehorses.

Why people get tattoos

Today tattoos are mostly used for decorative or cosmetic purposes. In modern society tattoos still have meanings and there is a strong awareness of the cultural meanings of the different symbols, such as religious, magical, protective iconic, memorial, and of course the ever popular sentimental love and sex symbols. Mystical value is also given to certain animal, flower, insect and iconic symbols to symbolize the status of the wearer’s cultural mind-set. Tattoos are often used to signify that the wearer associates with particular cultural or religious groups. The armed forces banned tattooing for a long time, but tattooing was and still is practiced discreetly amongst soldiers and sailors to indicate battles fought, killings made, in memory of lost loved ones, etc. Military tattoos have gained popularity amongst non-military wearers as well and is established as a tattoo category by itself. Criminal gangs use identifying tattoos to symbolize their gang’s significance and reputation. Prisoners wear tattoos to indicate their social standing in prison.

History of Tattoos: Beliefs and associations

A prisoner with a tear tattoo is to be feared, because it may signify that the wearer has killed someone, with a tear tattoo for each killing. The association of tattoos with criminality and brutality have given them a negative connotation in many societies. Women who wear tattoos are sometimes labeled as people with low moral values and especially lower-back tattoos have been named “tramp-stamps”. In modern society, the connotation has worn thin, though, and it has become perfectly acceptable and a fashion accessory in modern western cultures for women to wear tattoos. Ethic groups and sub-cultures also use identifying tattoos as symbols for their beliefs.

Language Tattoos

Chinese tattoo

Icons with very explicit cultural meanings are sometimes misinterpreted and used for the decorative value, such as Chinese and Japanese symbols that are tattooed on uninformed Westerners. The aesthetic value of Eastern tattoos make them a very popular tattoo category. Tattoos are made by perforating the skin, or even allowing for a small cut to be made into the epidermis of the skin and then inserting pigments into the perforation or cut.

Getting a tattoo done

Enhancing the body with tattoos is a fine and difficult art and in modern times the professional tattooist will advise and make sure that the tattoo you get is an accessory that you will be happy with for the rest of your life.

It is a bad idea to have a tattoo done under pressure. Make sure that you know exactly what you want to have done, beforehand! Tattoos might become an embarrassment if not done properly or professionally, therefore make sure that you know exactly how it should be done, where to put the tattoo, what size you want and if your homework is done properly you will have the perfect tattoo!

The pain factor is something that first timers are wary of, but although everybody has a different pain tolerance, it is not unbearable and most people come back for a second tattoo – in fact, it is said that tattooing can be addictive! Professional aftercare is very important to make sure a tattoo is safe, heals properly and stays as beautiful as it was from the start. Use of numbing creams when a tattoo is healing can ensure it comes out perfectly

Permanent Make-up tattoos

permanent makeup tattoo

Cosmetic tattooing is a very popular way of wearing permanent make-up. Permanent make-up is mostly used to enhance the outlines of the eyes – eyeliner and the eyebrows. Eyebrows are sometimes lost due to illness, age, chemotherapy, etc and permanent make-up is usually the perfect solution to such a problem. Permanent make-up is also used on the eyelids, lip-outlines and on lips and on the skin to hide skin discoloration. It is also used to enhance or restore the breast’s areola after breast surgery. Permanent make-up is also recommended and useful to people who have difficulty in applying make-up due to hand tremors, etc.

Tattoos as an alternative to conventional makeup

Many people also find it useful when allergic reaction prevents the use of conventional make-up. In many countries, only highly professional and trained people, such as dermatologists and plastic surgeons perform these type of procedures. The initial results of permanent make-up are a bit pronounced and looks hard and and obvious, but soon fades to a more natural look in a few weeks time.

The application process is painful, especially to the more tender facial areas and a local anesthetic may be needed to ease the discomfort. The process seldomly can be done in a single sitting, which adds to the discomfort factor. Permanent make-up pigments fade away under continual exposure to harsh sunlight and after about ten years or so, will need to be touched up with regular make-up. How is it Done?

Traditional tattoo methods

Traditionally tattoos were made by cutting designs or making small perforations in the upper layer of the skin following the desired design lines and surfaces and rubbing pigments into the wounds. Sharpened sticks, metal needles and other sharpened objects were used for this process. Mostly this process was done without proper precautions or aftercare, often resulting in painful infection and distortion of the original designs.

Modern Tattoo Methods

Today specially designed tattoo machines are used with multiple needles. The machines are designed to make multiple perforations very quickly, that perfects shading and sharp lines can be made more distinctive. Tattoo machines make the process quicker and gives the artist more control over the desired results. Modern pigments also allow for more colors to be applied and the results are precise and colorful and allow for shading- and color bleeding nuances which results in beautifully rendered art works.

The customer determines the design and placement of the design by having a stencil placed over the chosen area. The complexity and size of the tattoo design ultimately determines the time it takes to tattoo. It could take from less than an hour to many days to complete a tattoo. Tattoo needles are not used repeatedly either, eliminating cross infection and AIDS and are discarded after use. Hygienic precautions are the rule. The tattoo artist has to wear disposable gloves at all times and the wound has to clean repeatedly.

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