Tattoos are no longer just for bikers

Tattoos had a sliver of acceptance in the past, largely due to the people who wore them. When military men returned to the United States after serving overseas, it was tough to be critical of their sweethearts’ names or the words “Mom and Dad” emblazoned on their arms. However, it’s more likely that the acceptance was for the person rather than the tattoo, as tattoos had yet to gain credibility among the general population in the United States. As syphilis became more common, and less-than-sanitary tattooing practises contributed to the spread of the disease, New York City outlawed tattooing, and it wasn’t legalised again until 1997.

A new counter-culture arose as contempt for the military spread across the United States. To most Americans at the time, the word “tattoo” meant someone who was not part of the mainstream of society, someone who was snubbing society. It reminded me of the undesirables on the periphery, from the popular film “Easy Rider” to the infamous Hell’s Angels.

Bikers were greasy individuals who rode motorcycles and wore offensive artwork on various areas of their bodies– they were only “cool” amongst their own type, and the majority of the American populace thought of them negatively. Tattoos were mostly limited to that group of people, and the motorcyclists with their “sleeves” were something the general public desired to avoid.

Tattoos were still not regarded an acceptable way of personal expression in the mainstream community, even if they were tolerated in select areas, particularly those with Navy bases, throughout the 1970s. With the customary curiosity of youth, the younger population in these places frequented tattoo parlours and began to make tattoos a part of their lives.

Because these were typically young individuals with a lifestyle that included drug use and excessive alcohol use, their acceptance of tattoos did not help persuade the older generation that there was anything great about it. Tattooed persons “don’t normally make it to forty years old,” according to one tattoo artist in the Navy town of Port Hueneme, California.

He also said that tattoos are “a fever,” which brought up some of the most negative aspects of the practise. Even though it was against the law for artists to perform such work on people who were in any state of intoxication, his clientele usually fell into one of two categories: those who wanted tattoos while severely inebriated, or fainters.

For the benefit of the latter, his tattoo shop had a large couch. The majority of his customers were young drug users and Navy soldiers.

Tattoos did not begin to get positive attention until the 1980s. With the cover of Rolling Stone magazine featuring the Long Island band “The Stray Cats,” not only did the rockabilly music style resurface, but it was also one of the first steps towards tattoos gaining general acceptance.

The Stray Cats’ image, in contrast to the coarse music of the time, was one of good clean music and good clean fun, and tattoos were a part of that image. Suddenly, everyone wanted to be a part of it, even the tattoos, and tattoos began to have less stigma associated to them, much to the displeasure of the older generation.

As tattoos became less associated with the counter-culture, they began to appear on a wider range of people. They began to appear on regular Americans across the United States in the following years. Tattoo parlours popped up in cities with colleges and universities, making tattoos a common aspect of student life. As the people in that age group grew older, their tattoos stayed, and interest in tattoos grew among the newer, younger population. They are now prevalent in most sections of the United States, and are seen as a basic form of self-expression.

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