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Tattoo culture is undoubtedly a thing. The tattoo trend isn’t a modern phenomenon though; the tradition of tattooing dates way back, as far back as the prehistoric era, to 12,000 BC. Most if not all cultures practiced some form of tattooing and body art, but each culture had its own reasons for and meanings behind their tattoos. The word tattoo comes from the Tahitian word ‘tatau’ which means “to mark” or “to tap lightly”, as the sound made by tattooing is ‘tat tat’, the Tahitian tautau.

The art and tradition of tattooing was especially important, even sacred, for Polynesian cultures. Symbolism was a primary element, with each symbolic meaning deriving its basis from one of the four elements: Ocean, Earth, Wind, Fire. For each tattoo a specific ceremony was held, depending on the symbolic meaning of the tattoo, and some of these ceremonies could last up to several weeks. More than just a body ornament, tattoos reflected an individual’s rank and status within their community. For men, oftentimes their tattoos were a sign of strength, ability to endure pain, as the tattooing process itself was an incredibly painful one, and also a symbol of wealth. A woman’s tattoos were often a sign of sexual maturity and represented the development of a girl become woman.

The perception of tattoos and piercings has developed in many different ways over time, as the functions and symbolic meanings have changed and varied widely since the tradition’s conception. In more recent times, tattoos have moved from being seen as a sign of deviance and rebellion to being accepted as a form of self-expression and identity. Especially among young adults and college students, the freedom to alter one’s physical aesthetic and looks in whatever way one wishes leads to a great sense of self satisfaction and confidence in one’s self-image. The meaning of tattoos has become a more personal matter, and they no longer function as symbols as such, but rather serve an aesthetic value and personal purpose.

There are many arguments as to whether or not tattoos can be considered “art”. The people that have them of course consider them to be art and are very passionate about the meanings and aesthetic values behind them (unless of course it was a drunken mistake while on holiday in Santa P., but hey, even those tattoos can have memories of good times attached to them). Many people argue also, that tattoos as one ages begin to look “horrible” as skin loosens and wrinkles. But, really, at the end of the day, your body is your body. If something about it is unpleasant to or displeases someone else, then that is their problem and is in no way a negative reflection on you. If you don’t like tattoos, fine. Don’t get one. But don’t look down on or judge others for theirs.

Many people worry about tattoos affecting their chances of employment. A survey carried out by Peninsula Ireland in 2014 revealed that, out of 2,500 employers, 73% were “unlikely to employ someone with excessive tattoos”. Company and workplace dress codes are very common, and are implemented for various reasons that may include meeting health and safety regulations and keeping an air of professionalism. In April of this year, the law firm Mason, Hayes & Curran examined the issue of company dress codes, following the declaration by the European Court of Justice that “a company policy banning employees from wearing religious signs such as Islamic headscarves is not necessarily discriminatory”. They state that “dress codes may regulate clothing, piercings, tattoos, makeup, nails, hair, and more. Undoubtedly, they have the potential to affect an individual’s personal choice outside the workplace. For instance, choice regarding hair style or location of tattoos can be limited.” The jury is still out on this particular issue with regard to tattoos and employment but in most cases it really is just down to the personal preference of those in charge in the workplace.

Interestingly there has been a correlation drawn between tattoos and poor mental health, with those that have tattoos shown to be more at risk of psychosocial problems. However, it is important to note that sometimes correlations can be independent, meaning that the presence of one variable is not necessarily dependent on the presence of another variable. Basically, just because you have tattoos does not necessarily mean that you are at higher risk of psychosocial problems and poorer mental health than someone without tattoos. The correlation is however an interesting one, and one that might prompt further research into the interdependence and apparent relationship between these two independent variables: poor mental health and the presence of tattoos.

An interesting relationship has also been found to exist between tattoos and higher alcohol consumption. There was a study carried out by Nicolas Guéguen in 2012 in which everyone leaving a particular bar one night was asked if they had tattoos and/or piercings and then they were breathalysed. It was found that those who had tattoos and/or piercings had consumed a higher amount of alcohol. Again, quite possible these two variables are entirely independent ones and the correlation between them is simply coincidental, however it is still interesting to note the relationship and perhaps further research will be carried out in order to establish a stronger understanding of and grounds for the interdependence of these two variables: the presence of tattoos and/or piercings and the consumption of higher levels of alcohol.

Thinking of getting a tattoo? If so, awesome! Getting a tattoo is very exciting, especially if it is your first, so let yourself be super happy and buzzed about it! As well as that, here are just a few things to consider before going for it, and some things to keep in mind after getting your tattoo…

Tip number one has got to be to think carefully and really give a lot of thought into the planning of your tattoo: the three most crucial elements in the planning of a tattoo are the design, the placement, and the artist.

With regard to the design, sit on your idea for a while. Have your design idea finalised and then sit on that idea, without it changing too majorly, for at least 6 months. If after a good while your idea remains the same, then you’ll know it’s a pretty safe bet and that it isn’t just a jump-the-gun decision that you’ll get sick of over time.

Deciding on the placement of your tattoo is hugely important, and a lot in this regard will depend on the size of the tattoo, naturally. Think of who you want to see it, and how easily you want to be able to hide it. Is the tattoo a personal one, just for yourself, or does it have an aesthetic value that you want to show off and display in a place visible when wearing day-to-day clothes?

I think it goes without saying that it is vitally important to find the right place and person for the job. You’ve got to source yourself a tattoo artist who not only provides a top-quality, safe and highly hygienic service (cleanliness of the studio and all the equipment is crucial) but also whose style you like, and whose designs are similar in style to the design you want. A tattoo is for life, so don’t shy away from an exceptional service for a mediocre one because of the price. You pay for what you get, and this is going to last you a lifetime, so this isn’t really the smartest situation in which to take the opportunity to be nifty.

Once you have your dream tattoo, the first few days to weeks are crucial to ensuring that the healing process goes as well as it can. A lot will depend on the type, size and location of your tattoo. Either way, your tattoo artist, if they’re any good (which they should be, if not that’s on you ya gowl, gotta do your research), will give you all the information you need in order to take care of your fresh ink. Just like doctors, tattoo artists will have their own methods and practices and will offer advice that may vary from what you’ve heard from others’ experiences, so I won’t go into the ‘how-to’s here; you should follow closely the more specific advice of your tattoo artist.

So, you know that tattoo idea you’ve had in the back of your head for a while now? If it’s been a good bit over 6 months and it’s still there, I say go on, go for it. Treat yourself, it can be your Christmas present from you to you.