Got Tattoo?

Scott Selmer

Tattoos have been around for centuries, even before the birth of Christ. Various cultures around the globe have featured some type of body art which, involved drawing on or coloring their skin in some fashion.

Body art or tattoos, or “tats” as they are popularly called today, have definitely become a more visible part of the lives of people here in the United States particularly in the last couple of decades.

Despite the fact tattoos have been around for so long, many in the U.S perceived them negatively. A discernable majority of people viewed them with suspicion and skepticism, and often stereotyped those who wore them and negatively associated them with bikers, criminals, hippies and people generally perceived as cultural rebels.

The military is one of the rare associations that not have generated a negative response from those wearing them or by those who knew military personnel who had them. There were readily recognized logos proudly associated with each branch of the military. Often these logos were converted to tattoos proudly emblazoned on the bodies of the men and women who had proudly served.

Aaron Baller, 26, MCTC finance student, who did two tours, 30 months between Afghanistan and Iraq, proudly wears four tats. Each reflects his emotional relationship to his military service. He wears “STAND TALL SPEAK LOUD” on his forearms. He says it means exactly what it says. Having spent a tour in Iraq, he says he got that tattoo specifically because he served in Iraq.

Fast-forward to today, it would be rare to go out in public and not see someone proudly sporting their tats. Their acceptance is common, especially among the post-baby-boom generations.

Isaac Hogen, 20, MCTC business student, said, “It’s a generational thing. People under 30 are cool with it.”

He has four tattoos. The eagle on his right upper bicep is in honor of his grandfather who has the same tattoo.

“I got the others for purely aesthetic reasons,” he said. The tattoo of particular meaning for him is the one he bears proudly and discreetly on his chest, which says, “Just for Today” For him it represents the never-ending journey of his daily battle to stay sober.

Generations X, Y, as well as millennials, say tats are another form of expression. Often each “tat” has a meaning unique to its wearer.

Amanda Jacobson, 30, MCTC license alcohol and drug counseling student said she has twenty tattoos right now and is currently working on a full sleeve.

“I think they’re a tool for expression. Everyone’s got a style. My grandmother disapproves but she’s one hundred and one,” she said.

Shasta Tresan, 22, MCTC coffee shop employee agrees. She has three tats, a sunburst on her arm, a mountain on her back and a keyhole on the back of her neck. Each has personal meaning for her.

“The sunburst is for when I graduated from college. Our motto was light, more light. The keyhole is in memory of my grandfather. The mountain is Mt. Shasta, which is what I was named after. It also has California poppies on it, which has meaning because I’m from California,” she said.

People of all backgrounds and socio-economic status are now wearing tattoos. It is no longer limited primarily to people perceived as societal misfits.

Andres Martinez, 27, MCTC sound arts student, came to the U.S. from Venezuela seven years ago. He said his tattoo represents respect for the Buddhist culture and the peaceful and respectful way he tries to live.

Tattoos are a part of today’s society. They have become a new mode of expression spearheaded primarily by the post-baby-boom generations inclusive millennials, generations X and Y. Although some baby-boomers have tattoos, many of them are in their late 50s and older. They often express concerns about their own perceived barriers young people are unwittingly creating to their future employment.

Finding a good job was a goal but future employment was not a major concern because they reasoned the disapprovers were those of the generations that would be retiring soon to be replaced by younger more accepting interviewers.

They believe those with whom they will be interviewing will be just as comfortable with this form of expression as they are.

Millennials have considered their employment future. They’ve decided to have them anyway. It is just not a big deal with people they know or about whose opinion they care. Dezzy Boswell, 20, MCTC visual arts student said, got her tattoos because they represent her survival. The tattoo of the rabbit tattoo on her left upper arm carried the most meaning for her.

She has six tattoos as well as body piercings and was not concerned about how her tattoos would impact her future job prospects.

“All of my tattoos can be covered. They even have makeup specially made to cover up tattoos,” she said. “I am more concerned about my piercings because they are less accepted than tattoos.”

For the younger generations, tattoos are just as acceptable as any other fashion. They wear them proudly and are not preoccupied with their acceptance in the business world or otherwise, as those of previous generations. They reasoned those who disapprove had the right to their opinion as did they.

Cameo Michaud, 20, MCTC sound arts student has fourteen tats so far.

“My favorite tat is the spider web on my elbow. It makes me feel confident. I feel like I want to be a badass rocker,” she said.