Why do you think people get a tattoo

Published 17 May 2017

Getting a tattoo is a form of rebellion made by the individual or a statement made to show others that the individual is a part of a society that will not accept the norm. The tattoo as an art form has developed over the years. In the past it was a way youth and other individuals made a statement to society, showing them that they were not ordinary. The tattoo became a representation of their rebellion and the tattoo they chose to have engraved on their body was the symbol of their beliefs. In the past bikers, sailors and prisoners, people who lived against the norms of society got tattoos. Today, we see tattoos as a more prevalent part of society.

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Celebrities are getting tattoos and flaunting them. People from diverse parts of society are getting tattoos. So has the symbolism of the tattoo changed? Not quite. While in the past society was more constrained and less open in its outlook today all that has changed. The diversity of society ensures that the biases of the past are slowly eradicated and prejudices no longer exist to the same extent. Yet, the tattoo still retains its exotic reputation.

While in the past only the people who rebelled against society openly got tattoos, today the tattoo has become a form of making a statement for those leading an otherwise ordinary life. A school teacher may go out and get a tattoo. It’s his or her way of showing their individualism in an otherwise ordinary life.

The tattoo is a cultural phenomenon. In the European society the tattoo represented a group, a family or a people of a certain class. In African society it represented different tribes and in Asian society it represented coming of age. For them the tattoo was a norm, but for the Western society we see the tattoo as a social symbol.

As society is seen to change the tattoo retains its exotic value. The value of the tattoo as a form of rebellion may have become less but it nonetheless retains its appeal of going against the norm. The very idea of having something engraved on the body is perhaps the most tantalizing. It is something so permanent that it is a statement against society and nature.

This is what ordinary people aim for, getting a small part of the extraordinary, in this case the tattoo and making themselves something unforgettable in the mainstream of their ordinary lives.


  • Atkinson, Michael. Tattooed : The Sociogenesis of a Body Art. Toronto ; Buffalo: University of Toronto Press, 2003.
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