Since the 1970s, tattoos have become a mainstream part of Western fashion, common among both genders, to all economic classes and to age groups from the later teen years to middle age. For many young Americans, the tattoo has taken on a decidedly different meaning than for previous generations. The tattoo has "undergone dramatic redefinition" and has shifted from a form of deviance to an acceptable form of expression.
A lot of us have imagined ourselves with those same kinds of full-arm sleeves. For some, it could work well with our no-fucks-to-give persona. For others, it's an aesthetic decision, or an emotional one. If you’re serious about it though, then it’s worth knowing what planning is involved—from inception, to execution, to maintenance. So we spoke with Nicolas Gualteros, tattoo artist at Senaspace in NYC, to plot it all out.
Of course, you can always go for tattoo designs based on badass comic book characters. But make sure the design isn’t too cartoony, which defeats the purpose of a badass tattoo. This means the design includes more realism and has darker shades of colors instead of vibrant ones. There are far too many badass comic book characters to choose from. If you want a safe bet, there’s always Wolverine, arguably the most badass character ever.
Tattooing is regulated in many countries because of the associated health risks to client and practitioner, specifically local infections and virus transmission. Disposable plastic aprons and eye protection can be worn depending on the risk of blood or other secretions splashing into the eyes or clothing of the tattooist. Hand hygiene, assessment of risks and appropriate disposal of all sharp objects and materials contaminated with blood are crucial areas. The tattoo artist must wash his or her hands and must also wash the area that will be tattooed. Gloves must be worn at all times and the wound must be wiped frequently with a wet disposable towel of some kind. All equipment must be sterilized in a certified autoclave before and after every use. It is good practice to provide clients with a printed consent form that outlines risks and complications as well as instructions for after care.
In Britain, there is evidence of women with tattoos, concealed by their clothing, throughout the 20th century, and records of women tattooists such as Jessie Knight from the 1920s. A study of "at-risk" (as defined by school absenteeism and truancy) adolescent girls showed a positive correlation between body modification and negative feelings towards the body and low self-esteem; however, the study also demonstrated that a strong motive for body modification is the search for "self and attempts to attain mastery and control over the body in an age of increasing alienation". The prevalence of women in the tattoo industry in the 21st century, along with larger numbers of women bearing tattoos, appears to be changing negative perceptions.
Among the numerous ancient cultures who appear to have used tattooing as a permanent form of body adornment, the Nubians to the south of Egypt are known to have used tattoos. The mummified remains of women of the indigenous C-group culture found in cemeteries near Kubban c. 2000-15000 B.C. were found to have blue tattoos, which in at least one case featured the same arrangement of dots across the abdomen noted on the aforementioned female mummies from Deir el-Bahari. The ancient Egyptians also represented the male leaders of the Libyan neighbors c. 1300-1100 B.C. with clear, rather geometrical tattoo marks on their arms and legs and portrayed them in Egyptian tomb, temple and palace scenes.
One of the most popular places for girls to get tattoos is around the feet and ankles. It seems less of a commitment to a life long piece of art on you because it’s less noticeable and easily concealable. The feet are also not generally considered the most beautiful part of the body, so it can be a great way of making them look prettier and adding some art to them.
Discuss and plan with your artist. Never go into this with a permanent vision. You should talk to your tattoo artist about your likes and dislikes and tell them exactly what you want to convey. They will sit down with you and plan out several designs that will incorporate your ideas. Allow them some freedom of artistry. In the end, you will have the final say in what gets permanently inked on your body, but, before then, let the artist do what they do best: design.
Tattoos have also been used for identification in other ways. As early as the Zhou, Chinese authorities would employ facial tattoos as a punishment for certain crimes or to mark prisoners or slaves. During the Roman Empire, gladiators and slaves were tattooed: exported slaves were tattooed with the words "tax paid", and it was a common practice to tattoo "Stop me, I'm a runaway" on their foreheads. Owing to the Biblical strictures against the practice, Emperor Constantine I banned tattooing the face around AD 330, and the Second Council of Nicaea banned all body markings as a pagan practice in AD 787.