Body art is no longer taboo for millennials and, as a generation that has broken away from endless cultural norms, tattoos and piercings have become commonplace. So what’s with millennials’ obsession with body art? Are they really no longer taboo?
It may surprise you to find out that there was a time where tattoos were actually illegal in some states in the United States. Yet, today, they seem to be everywhere. And why wouldn’t they be? Tattoos, piercings, and other forms of body art or modification have been around for millennia.
A Brief History of Body Art
The earliest forms of tattoos, piercings and other modifications can be found 5,000 years ago, in archeological findings from the Neolithic period. The oldest human remains that we have have tattoos on them.
Tattoos and piercings have been part of various human cultures for millennia and have been used as a marker of class, religion, and sexual potency/virility, among other things. The word “tattoo” is first attributed to Captain James Cook, who referred to the common practice of tattooing among Tahitian and Polynesian people, in 1769.
And, even though we’ve been led to believe otherwise, tattoos and piercings weren’t always taboo, with records existing of tattoo shops dating back to the 1800s on Jermyn Street, London. Elites have a long history of getting inked in the high-end fashion district, and even Winston Churchill sported some ink.
Body art has come to be considered taboo in different cultures for a variety of reasons. For example, tattooing was used exclusively for prisoners and criminals during Japan’s Edo period. Western nations such as the United States, on the other hand, had a number of factors that contributed to the existing stigma. Nazis tattooing numbers on bodies for bureaucratic record-keeping is one such factor, while the “purity of the body” idea proposed by the Protestant Ethic, along with the portrayal of criminals as inked-up in both the media and scientific research are among the other factors. Tattoos were banned in some parts of the United States over medical concerns and myths that tattoos can spread diseases.
Over the years, big name tattoo artists such as Cliff Raven and Ed Hardy have gotten behind activist movements that restore the rich history of body art our human culture and revamping public imagery. With celebrities, sports stars and fashion icons and many other public figures inking up their bodies with visible tattoos, public opinion has taken a turn and the stigmas against tattoos have started to fade.
Employers Still Lagging Behind
While there’s definitely an upward trend in popularity among millennials for body art, employers – made up mostly of older generations who are a product of their time – have not taken kindly to the increase in popularity among their employees and the stigma certainly still exists in the job market.
While 40% of millennials survey in a Pew Research study had at least one tatto, but 70% of those who do make sure to hide them at work – even if there’s not a company policy prohibiting it. 86% of students from the University of Tampa admitted in a survey conducted a decade ago, believed that finding a job would be harder because of their tattoos. So there seems to have been a small shift over the last decade.
However, the stigma certainly does still exist, in client-facing jobs in particular and it might still take a while for the popularity of body art among millennials may only translate into hiring practices and workplace prejudice.
Nonetheless, millennials are changing the game. It’s not uncommon at all for us to have a little bit of metal and/or ink. It’s become great way to express ourselves and we’re returning to the roots of one of mankind’s odest cultural practices.
Do you have any tattoos or piercings? How do you feel about them, and would you be afraid to show your tattoos while on the job? Let us know in the comments below.