History 20th Century Tattoos
Subcultural Tendencies Tattoos as Bricolage Summary & Bibliography

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The Tattoos:

Mainstream Tattoos

Tattoos entered mainstream popular culture in North America in the late 1980’s and 1990’s. It is almost impossible to define a particular style or type of tattoo of the mainstream. Images include a wide variety of symbols and styles, from the big and colourful, to the small and monochromatic, from Christian iconography to tribal or indigenous designs. Mainstream tattoos are the exclusive domain of the “tattoo artist” who inks in a sanitized tattoo studio using the latest electric tattoo equipment.

Tattoos are “not just for biker’s anymore” and are now the domain of the middle-class, educated and professional (DeMello 1995). Many Hollywood and sport celebrities, pop and television stars, role models and visible icons of North American popular culture today, wear tattoos. Importantly, women now make up almost half of who gets tattooed (Armstrong 1991:215).

Mainstream tattoos are commonly single events (i.e. isolated tattoos) and, suggestively, are often located on easy to conceal places on the body. Men typically get their first tattoo on their arm or hand, women overwhelmingly choose the breast, lower abdomen or back/shoulder (Sanders 1988:412). Mainstream tattoos generally tend to avoid the “negative” imagery associated with many traditional prison, biker or punk styled tattoos. Studies of tattoos worn by “career-oriented” revealed the most popular designs to be small crosses, butterflies, hummingbirds, ladybugs, flowers, Celtic rings and arm and ankle bracelets (Rubinstein 2001:279; Armstrong 1991:218).

Picked a design yet? Compare the subcultural tattoos in Subcultural Tendencies.







'Under the Skin', Copyright 2004, Tony Hewer.