Tattooed Youth

Stepfanie Lam

Junior, Microbiology major

Photography by Kierstin Webster

Generally society attributes a negative stigma to heavily tattooed individuals. Tattoos, to the judgmental mind connote “delinquent” or “crime.” For instance, in The Social Science Journal, studies yielded a correlation between the amount of tattoos and individual had and the amount of negative treatment they received from strangers. On the other end of the spectrum however, tattoos represent beauty, fearlessness, independence, and free will. For example, Michael Ngo, sophomore nutrition major, told us the story behind his tattoo. “Growing up I was always fascinated with tattoos. I would look up drawings and ideas of tattoos periodically to decide what I would get. It was not until high school that I realized the importance and responsibility of having a tattoo. To me, a tattoo had to represent something deep and personal. I promised myself in high school that if I reached my personal goal of earning valedictorian title and getting dean’s list all semesters, I would get a tattoo. On July 2013, I earned the title and got my first tattoo. My tattoo, “a smooth sea never made a skilled sailor,” a proverb which symbolized that no matter what I go through in life, I can still succeed if I put my mind, heart, and soul into it. This quote celebrates the struggles and obstacle that I faced because it has made me to be the strong person I am today.”

Monica Compte, a 21-year-old public relations senior

In the 1990s, tattoos were a symbol of rebellion; now, however, the argument can be made that the institution has shifted toward more of an art form, utilizing the human skin as a canvas. According to super senior, Kira Krall, Natural Resource Conservation major, “tattoos are like walking art. They are an accessory. The inspiration for my tattoo came from the book Water for Elephants and it is a reminder for me to appreciate each day that I have and to enjoy my youth while I still have it. The pain from my first tattoo came as a mild shock…it was very painful, so painful that eventually I became numb to the pain. I plan on getting two more—one near my ribcage and the second on my shoulder blade.” Moreover, in the past, tattoos were prevalent in many cultures as a sign of respect and status. For example, an article in the New York Times states, “in New Zealand, traditional ornamental Maori tattooing has been given the status of a national treasure.” Their tattoo was called ‘moko’ and this tattoo communicated a person’s status, lines of descent, and tribal affiliations. Similarly, in Samoa culture, the tradition of applying a ‘tatau’ by hand defines an individual’s rank and title. Another instance is the Polynesian culture that believed that a person’s spiritual power or life force was displayed through their tattoo.

Bryan McLean, a 21-year-old African American studies junior
Bryan McLean, a 21-year-old African American studies junior

As with the invention of most things (like antibiotics), the first tattoos were created on accident. Someone had a small wound, and they rubbed the wound with soot and ashes from the fire. Once the wound had healed, they discovered that the mark stayed on permanently. The oldest tattooed individual was found to be from the Bronze age. The five thousand year old body was dubbed as “Otzi the ice man,” and his skin was covered with a total of fifty-seven tattoos, most of which were applied for therapeutic reasons.

Ena Barisic, a 19-year-old political science and European Union studies major
Ena Barisic, a 19-year-old political science and European Union studies major

Although you should never prominently display your tattoos at most job interviews, tattoos are becoming more mainstream. Almost twenty five percent of all Americans today have a tattoo. Even the British prime minister’s wife has a tattoo on her right ankle. Tattoos can be both a form of self-expression as well as a form of self-improvement. They add to an individual’s uniqueness and enables them to stand out in a crowd. Additionally, they can often be used to cover scars from accidents.

Mick Schulz, a 22-year-old student getting his masters in public affairs
Mick Schulz, a 22-year-old student getting his masters in public affairs

How are tattoos done? In the Mayo Clinic, pigments inserted into the skin’s subcutaneous layer with a needle with the use of a hand held machine very similar to a sewing machine with many needles repeatedly puncturing the skin. With each piercing, ink inserted into the skin could result in significant pain and some bleeding. Some potential risks upon the completion of getting one’s tattoo can include, but are not limited to: skin infections, blood borne diseases, allergic reactions, and other skin related problems.


Emily Castro, a 19-year-old criminology and law freshman
Emily Castro, a 19-year-old criminology and law freshman

Tattooing continues to be a growing trend and a fashion statement with tens of millions who have some part of their body inked. With this in mind, I wonder what the new fashion statement will be in years to come. Who is to judge the art of tattooing? Tattoos are another form of self-expression and have no correlation with an individual’s character or morals.

Brittney Hopper, an 18-year-old political science freshman
Brittney Hopper, an 18-year-old political science freshman

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