Tattoos have become so popular in pop culture that the most recent fad is designer tattoos made out of real gold for formal events such as weddings. Though costing more than five hundred dollars a design, they have gained popularity overseas with an interesting leap. It is estimated that a striking *15% of the world’s population has at least one tattoo. Currently there is only a one percent gap between the number of men to women that have at least one tattoo. So, how did something become so popular when only a few short decades ago individuals went to great lengths to cover up their art? Short answer – pop culture.
Tattoos have been in practice since before recorded history. Oetzi the Iceman being the first noted human to have them over 5300 years ago. Even today, Samoan tattoos, or tatau, take months to achieve and are extremely painful and intricate. Starting from the waist to the knee of its owner, men are the main wearers of the pe’a. Though the malu, the female tatau, is no less important. The Samoan tatau has been a tradition for over two thousand years and little has changed in the way of how the Samoan tatau or pe’a/malu is achieved. Cultures like the Samoan have never swayed from their traditional tattooing techniques, nor has the popularity waned among them. They are as important today among its people as then were in their infancy.
In America, our traditional tattoos deal more with style than with technique. Though over the years we have adopted techniques such as traditional Japanese and Polynesian, however, they’re novelties and a practice that without serious financial resources are not a typical avenue for most. But why? The answer is pain and time.
For most of society the thought of having to wait three months or more to own a tattoo let alone endure the constant pain involved in receiving it would be insane and out of the question. This is where the difference between tradition and pop culture tattooing violently collides.
Traditional tattooing is a rite of passage that is proudly displayed by its wearer like a badge of honor; a gift from the Gods. Not only does the pain endured by the individual mean something to them, it means just as much to their peers. Though it has happened, most traditional tattoos are never removed and never an impulse decision. The number of tattoos gotten on a whim or unplanned is staggering among peers following pop culture and the expense of those tattoos are often tripled due to removal costs and scarring. When there is little to no reason behind the ink, it becomes a liability to its wearer.
*Harris Poll 2003