Why Has the Popularity of Tattoos Grown?

Someone with paw print tattoos on their calf
 ceciangiocchi/Getty Images

It feels like tattoos are everywhere these days, but they've been around forever—so how did they become so popular? Why the sudden resurgence? Dating back to the Neolithic period and indigenous tribes, tattooing was originally practiced during religious ceremonies and as a rite of passage. It wasn't until Christianity deemed tattoos to be part of the Wiccan faith that they earned an "unfavorable" reputation.

Today, slow and steady, social acceptance has helped the tattooing industry grow larger and larger. From the talent behind today's top tattooists, to the ink and the tools that make their artwork possible, the sky is the limit for people who want their bodies to be a canvas. But how did tattoos go from taboo to a normal part of every day life?

In the Beginning...

Funny enough, explorer Captain James Cook is credited for both the words 'taboo' and 'tattoo'. His sailing voyage around the world led him to the Tahitian and Polynesian islands where tattooing was openly practiced. Inscribing the language into his diary, he introduced both words to the English language after his travels in 1769. The word 'tattoo,' specifically, has been used ever since to define a permanent mark made by either ingraining pigments or creating scars. In modern days, however, "scarification" is used for the latter instead of the word tattoo.

Blame it on the media if you'd like. But in all honesty, tattoos have in fact become more and more popular because they are being worn by celebrities, athletes, and people within the fashion industry. This change has slowly helped change the stigmas associated with tattoos. We know now that not everyone who has them is a criminal or someone with a shady moral compass, which unfortunately used to be the stereotype.

Tattoos are finally being recognized as a form of self-expression, and design styles have expanded from American Traditional tattoos, to custom Japanese sleeves, to full body works of elaborate art that could tempt even those most wary of the machine into getting tattooed.

Before You Leap

Planning your next, or even first, tattoo is always fun. For some, it's even difficult to look at a tattoo magazine without getting inspired for another design. Since tattoos are so addictive, it's even more important that you have a plan after you start getting tattooed. Otherwise you may end up with more than you really want, or designs you later regret. It goes without saying, but it's also wise to consider your future before opting for a hand or face tattoo, as it could otherwise prohibit employment should a prospective employer have a (stuck in the past) policy regarding visible tattoos.

What to Look For in an Artist

How do you choose a talented tattooist? Unless you already have an artist in mind, you'll need to do your homework to find one who is worthy of making a permanent mark. Seeking local artist recommendations, knowing where the good shops are, or frequenting a tattoo convention are just some of the ways you can track down the right artist.

A tattoo convention often will house hundreds of top artists from allover the world in just one spot. This means you can stroll, check out portfolios and make the commitment to the right artist once you find them. Or just get inspired by the world of tattoos and check out the stickers, the jewelry and the clothing vendors that are hard at work changing the face of the industry. However, be mindful that if you get a tattoo there, it might be a while before you can see the same artist.