Inked in stone: One societal trend that’s going off the charts.

ttWhat’s one of the biggest societal trends in America nowadays? Believe it or not, it’s the rapidly growing popularity of tattoos.

Once the province of just a slim slice of the American population, today we’re smack in the middle of dramatic changes in attitudes about tattoos.

Let’s begin with figures published by the Harris Poll recently, based on its survey or more than 4,000 American conducted in late 2015. That survey finds that nearly one in three Americans age 18 or older have at least one tattoo (29%, to be exact).

Not only did that percentage surprise me, but also the increase that represents over a similar Harris Poll conducted just four years ago. In that survey, ~21% reported having a tattoo … which means that the nearly 40% more people have tattoos today than in 2010.

Pretty amazing, I thought.  And the surprises don’t stop there, either. Of those people who are tattooed, more than two-thirds report that they have more than one tattoo.

What isn’t surprising at all is that the tattoo craze is most prevalent among younger Americans:

  • Millennials: ~47% report having at least one tattoo
  • GenX: ~36%
  • Baby Boomers: ~13%
  • Matures: ~10%

There are also some locational differences, with rural and urban Americans somewhat more likely to be tattooed than those people who reside in suburbia:

  • Rural folks: ~35% have at least one tattoo
  • Urban dwellers: ~33%
  • Suburbanites: ~25%

[There’s no discernible difference at all between people of differing partisan/political philosophies, according to Harris.]

With such a big increase in tattooing, the next question is, what’s behind the trend? For clues, we can see how respondents described what their tattoo(s) mean to them personally:

  • Makes me feel more sexy: ~33% of tattooed Americans cited
  • Makes me feel more attractive: ~32%
  • Makes me feel more non-conformist/rebellious: ~27%
  • Makes me feel more spiritual: ~20%

[Far smaller percentages felt that their tattoo(s) made them feel more intelligent, more employable, more respected or more healthy.]

But what about regrets? Are there people who wish they hadn’t taken the plunge?  The Harris survey found that approximately one in four respondents do feel at least some regrets about having a tattoo.  The reasons why are varied — yet all pretty obvious:

  • Personality changes … doesn’t fit my present lifestyle
  • The tattoo includes someone’s name I’m no longer with
  • The tattoo was poorly done … doesn’t look professional
  • The tattoo is no longer meaningful to me
  • I was too young when I got the tattoo

In conclusion, I think it’s safe to conclude that tattoos are a generational thing. Those of us north of age 50 don’t have any tattoos — and likely will never get one.

But for the younger generations, not only have tattoos gone “mainstream,” for many they’re a decidedly aspirational thing.  And that, of course, means ever widening acceptance of tattoos along with encountering more of them than ever before.

Comments … thoughts anyone?

3 thoughts on “Inked in stone: One societal trend that’s going off the charts.

  1. Few may agree with one pastor who stated that our culture is increasingly secular and may be leaning in the direction of customs that are more associated with paganism such as piercings and painting or dying of the skin as status symbols.

    I had to give that some thought when comparing people in some countries who put bones and plates in their flesh to stretch it out, with those in America who have holes in their stretched earlobes larger than a nickle.

  2. Ego is invented, fragile, and socially reinforced. That’s an uncomfortable truth.

    Worse, our egos are tremendously more transient and inconsistent than we often want them to be. I just see tattoos as an existential cry for the ego, to etch the temporary into the permanent.

    That, and they look bad-ass.

  3. Someone over the age of 60 cannot help but associate tattoos with a certain sense of blue-collar brutality. “Nice” people didn’t have them. But it’s become generational. Evolution seems to be best served when the young go out and mix-up the genes.

    It helps to have the generations dislike each other. In the 1960s parents hated hippies. Now they hate tattoos. Unfortunately, you can’t remove a generational marker as easily as cutting one’s hair…as people age and expand or sag, there will be some pretty sad scenes visible!

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