Bloomberg reports that about one third of adults in America now have tattoos. That’s right — fully 30 percent of the people walking among us every day are sporting ink, somewhere, and that number includes about half of the “millennial” generation.
This news will not come as a surprise to anyone who is observant about our modern world. Go to any local eatery, and you’ll notice that the young person waiting on you will have an elaborately designed sleeve, or a neck stamp. Watch an NBA game, and you’ll see multiple examples of the cover art on Ray Bradbury’s The Illustrated Man come to life, sprinting up and down the court and throwing down thunderous dunks. Sit in a subway train, and you’ll observe that when the 40ish businesswoman sitting on the other side of the aisle crosses her legs, she displays a Chinese or Japanese symbol on her ankle. In America, the ink is clearly flowing, and it’s pretty much everywhere. The Bloomberg article reports that the increasing popularity of such “body art” has made tattooistry into a thriving industry that generates an estimated $1 billion annually, primarily through cash sales at individual tattoo parlors.
The tattoo phenomenon is one of those cultural changes that has happened so gradually you don’t really notice it — until you reflect on it, and compare modern times to earlier years. Once, tattoos were rare and basically reserved for aging sailors, ex-convicts, Ivy Leaguers like George Schultz, who famously had the Princeton tiger tattooed on his keister, and outrageous personalities like Dennis Rodman, who displayed a lot of ink when he wasn’t wearing a wedding dress.
Now tattoos are ubiquitous. That doesn’t mean I’m going to get one, however. The idea of paying somebody to puncture my skin and ink up the dermal layer underneath gives me the willies.
But I wonder: What’s next — serious facial and body piercings? Maybe Dennis Rodman is more of a cultural trendsetter than we ever suspected. That’s kind of a scary thought.