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Tattoo Sub-Culture; Where did the sub-culture go?

Tattoo Sub-Culture; Where did the sub-culture go?
May 17
11:48 2017

Tattoo Sub-Culture; No longer a pre-requisite or an instant consequence of having tattoos:

Now I want to start out this article, about tattoo sub-culture. By making a couple of things clear.
First of all, this is my own theory, based on both my research as a sociologist and my own experience in the tattoo community. Second of all, I am not trying to diminish anyone, no matter their amount of tattoos or how they identify (with)them. Lastly, I am aware of the ongoing discrimination, of tattooed people, a point I frequently speak up against. I am trying to avoid, that points in this article are misunderstood.

After this short disclaimer, I would like to get started. As the sub-heading above this section clearly states, it is no longer automatically a sub-cultural, rebellious or deviant thing, to have tattoos.
This is mainly, as many may already know, caused by the rising popularity in tattoos. As well as how they have entered into the mainstream of society and so on. Another reason as to why the sub-culture has disappeared and isn’t inherent in tattoos automatically. Is the rise in accessibility to the tattoo community, as well as knowledge about tattoos.

This has occurred through both reality shows like Miami ink and the like, an onslaught of documentaries. As well as through books and internet sites. Together, they all make it way easier, both for tattoo lovers and those who are just curious, to know more about tattoos. Slowly lifting the stigma from tattoos and lifting them out of their previous deviant and sub-cultural standing. I personally think this is a great thing, with the stigmatization slowly disappearing more and more. It is however far from gone, which I am aware of.

So what is Tattoo Sub-culture today?:

Well Tattoos seem to have become a cross cultural and indeed cross sub-cultural phenomenon. What this means, is that tattoos aren’t a subculture by themselves anymore. Instead all different cultures (and sub-cultures), even the mainstream, seem to utilize them. From goths to hip-hoppers, from preppy mainstream people to old-school punks. They all use tattoos to decorate their bodies, and in some cases communicate their identity.

Indeed as the theory I have used previously goes (Serup, et. al., 2015, Tatovering – Helbred, Risici og Kultur), if we look at tattoo culture as a language, it might be easier to understand. Because knowing how to speak a language in this case, seems natural to anyone. But what language you speak and how you use it, that is where the specific individual or sub-culture, comes to light. The individuals who wear the tattoos and use them, seem to be responsible for defining their meaning today. Social connections seem to define tattoos much less today, however they still do in some cases. Both within sub-cultures and the mainstream,There are still many examples of tattoos being socially defined.

So where do we find sub-culture within tattoos today?

Well it seems to me, as a tattoo artist I know once said to me; “Tattoo sub-culture doesn’t just happen, they are way too popular and diverse for that”, A point I already made in this article, “The sub-culture now, is in the tattoo nerds, the people who get into tattoos like others are into bands or football”. Indeed this is where the sub-culture has gone, to clarify , it has gone to the “extremes” and the “nerds”. It is no longer a problem or inherently sub-cultural to have tattoos, not even having a full sleeve tattoo.

However, in the two cases mentioned above, the sub-culture renters the tattoo community. It is the people who can tell just by looking at the craftsmanship who did a tattoo, who know the history of the tattoo craft in minute detail, who know the tattoo scene in and out. They are the one part of what can be called tattoo sub-culture, the “tattoo-nerds”, a culture where not just anyone gets let into.

The next category of tattoo sub-culture, occurs with what I endearingly! call the “extremes”. It is the people, that for whatever reason, whether they just love body art that much, whether it is to find themselves or to shock others. Go beyond what you normally see, covering so much of their body, that it is more difficult to find a place, where they are not tattooed.

However, even in these two examples, there is so much variety in how people define their tattoos, the reasons why they love them, and indeed why they get them. That it is difficult to recognize, the strict norms and values of an actual sub-culture within them. But this is, non the less, where I see the most sub-culture within the tattoo community today.

End comments:

Feel free to tell me if you disagree, or if you think the sub-culture is just something else. Even if you want to tell me I missed something. But let’s keep it civil, it all helps us to know more about tattoos and body-art,to have a friendly discussion.
But I hoped you enjoyed this article of mine (despite the lack of pictures).

For more awesome content keep your eyes peeled at Mediazink.com and my blog Tattoo-Logia.

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And stay awesome people!

About Author

Mads

Mads

Mads W. K. Masters of science in Sociology (Cand. Scient. Soc.), from the University of Copenhagen, who specializes in embodiment sociology, but especially in tattoos and tattoo culture etc.

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