The Cultural Context Of Tattoos
By Rachel Jones - July 14, 2023

Tattoos are a form of body art that involves the permanent insertion of ink into the skin to create a design. They have been a part of human culture for thousands of years and have been used for a variety of purposes, including religious and spiritual rituals, expressions of identity and belonging, and as a form of self-expression. Throughout history, tattoos have often been associated with certain cultural or social groups. In many indigenous cultures, tattoos have been used as a way to mark rites of passage, such as reaching puberty or marriage, or as a symbol of social status or rank. In Polynesian cultures, tattoos, known as tatau, were used to mark the passage from adolescence to adulthood and to distinguish members of different social groups. In Japan, tattoos, known as irezumi, have traditionally been associated with the criminal underworld and are still stigmatized in mainstream society.

In Western societies, tattoos have had a more complicated history. During the 19th and early 20th centuries, tattoos were associated with sailors, soldiers, and other working-class men, and were often viewed as a sign of lower social status. However, toward the latter half of the 20th century, tattoos began to be more widely accepted and even embraced by mainstream society, particularly among young people. Today, tattoos are increasingly seen as a form of self-expression and are no longer solely associated with certain social groups or professions.

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One factor that has contributed to the changing cultural context of tattoos is the increasing availability of tattooing technology. In the past, tattoos were often made using crude tools, such as needles or sharpened bones, and the process was often painful and time-consuming. With the development of electric tattoo machines and other advanced tools, the process has become much more efficient and accessible. As people have become more accepting of differences in appearance and personal expression, tattoos have become more socially acceptable.