Why do so many young people nowadays have tattoos? It's a question that I've often asked young people. When I hosted a very popular morning music radio show, we often had parties for our fans so I got to meet a wide variety of young people from a wide segment of society.
Many of them had tattoos. Well, in fact, it seemed that most of them did. Often times, in a certain clique all of them did.
The Smithsonian has an interesting article on tattoos here.
Humans have marked their bodies with tattoos for thousands of years. These permanent designs—sometimes plain, sometimes elaborate, always personal—have served as amulets, status symbols, declarations of love, signs of religious beliefs, adornments and even forms of punishment. Joann Fletcher, research fellow in the department of archaeology at the University of York in Britain, describes the history of tattoos and their cultural significance to people around the world, from the famous " Iceman," a 5,200-year-old frozen mummy, to today’s Maori.
The article would have been better if Joann had touched upon today's youth and tattoos. I'd guess that, in Hawaii, about 80% of the young people have tattoos. Of that 80%, I'd say 1/2 have Chinese Kanji that has no meaning or is written incorrectly. Or, if it is written correctly, it is, well, stupid.
If you sell lots of records like this guy (Tim from
Rancid) then you can do as you wish.
Yesterday, I saw a guy who looked to be about 35-years-old who worked as a car parking valet that had a mis-written Kanji on his leg. Both my Japanese wife and I looked at it and guessed said, "Doryoku" 努力. It was spelled slightly wrong. (Doryoku, in English, means effort)...
I guess he doesn't really have that much "doryoku" as, if he did, he certainly would have a better job than parking cars at minimum wage... Having a backbone beats having a jawbone any day. There is a big difference between doing and saying.
As a funny aside, "Doryoku" is a really dumb thing to write on yourself. It makes little, if any, sense. Perhaps he would have been better served with, instead of "Doryoku" it should have said, ”常識無い” "Jyoushiki nai" (Which, in English, means lack of "common sense".... I mean, neither he - nor his tattooist - certainly have any fashion sense, that's for sure.)
One other REALLY stupid guy had "大麻" written on his forearm. This is in Hawaii no less! Hawaii is full of Japanese run companies. "大大麻" means, in English, "Marijuana." Smart move, Einstein. Think he'll ever get a job better than parking cars with marijuana written on his arm?
What did Dean Wormer say in the movie Animal House?
"Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life, son."
In Japan, I'd guess that under 10% of the youth do have tattoos. But you can bet that 95% of the fans of Punk Rock, Hip Hop or skateboarding have tattoos in Japan.
The reason that tattoos are not so prevalent in Japan's youth, excepting a niche, is because tattoos have a historical meaning that relates to crime and criminals. Even to this day if you have a tattoo most sports clubs will not allow you into swimming pools as tattoos are a sign of the Yakuza.
Amy Winehouse has tons of tattoos. Good that
she sold tons of records too!
I've asked many people why they have tattoos and, invariably, they will all say the same thing; "To show my individuality."
I have no tattoo. Though I have thought of getting one before. I like tattoos though I am too much of a wimp for pain. So there you go: Tattooing is a painful process so I don't have one.
I have a curious thought though; Since so many young people today have tattoos, then does that show individuality or does it show conformity?
Just a question.
How did it become this way when so many of today's youth, in certain segments of society have tattoos? Are they conformist or individualists?
I am beginning to think that they are conformist. Here's why.
Who are the role models for these youth with these tattoos? Am I confused when I think the role models are musicians? I can't think of any other group of people can get away with having tattoos like musicians do. It seems to me, in the music business, having a tattoo has become a sign that means, "I am a professional musician and I support my lifestyle with my music."
It's cool that these musicians can do as they please and still eat. Of course most people can't do that. I think a huge percentage of young people who get tattoos come to regret it later in life when it becomes a detriment to a better paying job or career.
Musicians have no responsibility to society. Only to themselves so you won't hear me making any claims that they shouldn't have tattoos. They can do as the please. It's the youth who emulate these people who should think long and hard about what they are doing before they get a tattoo that might harm their future employment chances.
Fact of the matter is that musicians are one dimensional people. I don't mean that as a criticism, just as an observation. Think about it. What does the typical musician do? They make music. That's it. Do you see these widely tattooed musicians starring in TV dramas or big Hollywood movies? No you don't. That's because they have been pigeon-holed. They are one dimensional. They do one thing.
There's nothing wrong with doing one thing as long as you are world class at it like a professional singer or baseball relief pitcher who can strike out three guys in a row. If you can do your one thing, and be the best in the world at it, you can have a job. Unfortunately, most people can't be the best in the world at one thing. Most businesses require multi-skills and multi-tasking... Most business require flexibility and multi-dimensional skills.
I'm beginning to think that tattoos are a sign of a cliquish mentality, one dimensionality and a definite lack of individuality.
Hollywood stars need to be multi-dimensional.
Quick name a Hollywood star with tattoos! (Answer below)
Think about this: Compare, say, a rock musician to a famous Hollywood actor or actress. The Hollywood actor or actress, in order to survive and be a success, must be able to be flexible and to play a variety of parts. The musician only needs to play his music.
The Hollywood star must be able to play a wide array of characters and to play them convincingly. The musician needs only to do one thing.
Can you think of one famous and successful Hollywood star who has many tattoos and can only play one role? I can't.
Maybe this is why Hollywood stars don't have tattoos that are widely visible on their arms, legs and neck?
In this day and age of a tough economic environment, perhaps thinking about future employment should be a more important factor in deciding if a tattoo should be had?
Perhaps in this day and age, the multi-dimensional Hollywood star is a better role model than the one-dimensional rock star?
-------Quiz: Quick name a Hollywood star with tattoos! (Hell, I can't think of one either)