Over time, tattoos have served purposes as varied as camouflaging hunters, marking victory in battle, memorializing the dead, telling the wearer’s life story, and symbolizing just how goddamn tough you are. “The tattoo is a form of non-verbal communication,” writes Schiffmacher, who has tattooed the likes of Kurt Cobain and Anthony Kiedis. “This is just as true for the so-called primitive cultures as it is for the supposedly civilized world.”
Getting a sleeve tattoo is a huge commitment that requires more planning and time than a typical piece of body art. You cannot impulsively choose an image from a binder or the Internet and stick it on your arm. If you want a decent-looking design that doesn't suck and makes you rethink your life choices, then you need to do ample research about the process, think about a theme and style, shop around for reputable artists, and then sit down with the artist of your choice to design the tattoo.
Tattoos are said to be addicting. Despite the pain, those who get their first bit of body art are often hungry for more. And as tattoos become an increasingly accepted part of society, these ink enthusiasts are filling half or even the whole of their arms with sprawling designs. Called half sleeve and full sleeve tattoos, respectively, these impressive pieces are the result of many hours of hard work for a tattooist and a lesson in patience and perseverance for a client.
While tattoos are considered permanent, it is sometimes possible to remove them, fully or partially, with laser treatments. Typically, black and some colored inks can be removed more completely than inks of other colors. The expense and pain associated with removing tattoos are typically greater than the expense and pain associated with applying them. Pre-laser tattoo removal methods include dermabrasion, salabrasion (scrubbing the skin with salt), cryosurgery and excision—which is sometimes still used along with skin grafts for larger tattoos. These older methods, however, have been nearly completely replaced by laser removal treatment options.
The word tattoo, or tattow in the 18th century, is a loanword from the Samoan word tatau, meaning "to strike". The Oxford English Dictionary gives the etymology of tattoo as "In 18th c. tattaow, tattow. From Polynesian (Samoan, Tahitian, Tongan, etc.) tatau. In Marquesan, tatu." Before the importation of the Polynesian word, the practice of tattooing had been described in the West as painting, scarring or staining.