It’s a very interesting supposition that younger people want to be thought of as ‘unique’ and individual and this is what led, initially anyway, to the almost global proliferation of inked skin. Throughout history, young people have needed to belong to a tribe and, despite what they might say, nothing has really changed. You only need to ask a young girl with red, curly hair how she feels about it to understand the basic need of looking like, and behaving like, your peer group. The needing to be different, and having patterns drawn on the skin to reflect that, in actuality has just become another sign of belonging and fitting in. It’s as commonplace these days to see a school teacher sporting a tattoo as it is a nightclub bouncer – even Sam Cam has one on her ankle and she’s the Prime Minister’s wife. The media were aghast last week with headlines such as ‘plebs at Ascot’ but the tattoos, if no longer unusual, are definitely bigger and bolder. Whereas once celebrities, and their followers, were content with discreet little stars on the shoulder or in places hidden away from view, it’s now full sleeves (the whole arm having been tattooed) we’re seeing and they’ve become totally acceptable. So, where’s the individuality in that?
In a bid to be noticed, individuals are resorting to more and more extreme body ‘art’. If the tattoos aren’t enough, then forcing huge rings through ear lobes so they develop their own ‘hole’ just like members of remote African tribes, increases the shock factor. Add to that, facial piercings and strange hair cuts and you’ve suddenly found yet another tribe where the unusual aesthetics become an entry point to membership, nothing more.
There is another tribe who love the whole Dr Spock look and are having cartilage transferred from their middle ear to create a pointed, elf-like appearance. To go the whole hog, you could have tongue splicing and a myriad of other body morphing procedures to create a ‘unique’ appearance.
Just like trends in fashion can date you if you don’t move on, tattoo designs will do the same. The difference, of course, is that you can throw away your shoulder pads. Unfortunately, just like a dog, tattoos are for life and not just for Christmas. Tiny roses or stars on your bikini line or shoulder ages you as a young adult in the noughties. Ten years before that and you’d have opted for a much larger design at the bottom of your spine, peeking through your waistband.
So going back to being a unique and noticeable individual. It seems to me, that the most individual thing you can do if you’re young is to NOT have a tattoo. It’s certainly not conforming to fashion but then there is always the pressing question – Who’s gang will you join?
The pressure to be tattooed is more pressing when, without them, you are considered a nobody, the definition of which (for the under 25′s) is someone who is not being read, seen or listened to. Tattoos are a way of people communicating what they think via their ink. A natural follow on from social media conversations such as blogging, Facebook and twitter and a way of emulating celebrity hero(one)s to bolster confidence.
I wonder what it will feel like, at the age of 50 plus, to have huge gaping holes in your ears, a totally blue arm or the name of someone who has the potential to cause so much pain written on your body? We’ll have to wait and see. One thing is for sure. Just like names have cycles of popularity and then go out of favour, tattoos will become mundane pointers to the age of the wearer and neither botox or cosmetic surgery will be able to reverse.
Embrace your red, curly hair now while you have the chance. One day, you’ll be even more proud that you hung onto it.