Tattoo Culture

Tattoo Culture - Haven Webster March 19, 2008 Stas Tattoo...

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Haven Webster March 19, 2008 Stas Tattoo Culture: an Increasingly Commercialized Deviance Tattoo culture has existed for centuries as a way for people to decorate their bodies and identify with groups. Military as well as gang members use tattoos to express their affiliation with the group, memories of events and loved ones, religious or otherwise symbolic icons are inscribed, physically becoming a part of the tattooee. Officials have tattooed criminals for ease of labeling: the tattoo denotes the person’s status as a criminal. Historically members of the lower classes and/or criminals have worn tattoos; which has led to tattoo culture’s status as deviant. Because of close ties in the public’s consciousness between criminality and tattoos, tattoos are considered deviant to the point that they can inhibit job options and many employers require them to be covered. Conversely many athletes, musicians, and actors have visible tattoos and are popularizing tattoo culture. Television shows such as Miami Ink and LA Ink chronicle professional tattoo artist’s work in a positive light. In 1996 the tattoo industry was among the top six fastest growing business industries (Vail 1999). As having tattoos becomes more mainstream, lines are being redrawn between what is “normal” tattoo wear and what is “deviant” tattoo wear. Tattoo culture is organized in a rigid hierarchy based on social, economic, artistic, and technological factors. The proper ways of using symbolism, where to put the tattoo, reasons for getting it, etc. are set and are taught to those who are interested in getting tattoos as they enter and get deeper into the culture. Differences between the hardcore collectors of tattoos and those who merely have tattoos are important and noted. The
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difference is in motivation and dedication to tattoos as both an art form and a means of self-expression. There are four types of tattoos: prison, street, semi-professional, and professional. Prison tattoos are the most deviant type of tattoo since in order to get one the person must have been convicted of a crime. Prison tattooing is also illegal so the act becomes even more deviant. It is done with a single needle with string wrapped around it dipped in ink (the string serves as a reservoir for the ink) the needle is then either stuck into the skin by hand over and over until the desired result is achieved. This type of tattooing produces results that are the most primitive in appearance. Typically this type of tattoo is done in the juvenile facilities and often self-inflicted. In adult prisons machine tattoos are far more common. A “tattoo gun” is made using the needle or, more often, a guitar string, the barrel of a pen, and a small motor (from a cassette recorder, electric razor, etc.). Both ways produce fine lines by virtue of the single needle and are black because prisoners have no access to tattoo inks and while black ink from a pen will work, colored inks do not. These tattoos tend to be in very visible places such as lower arm or
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This note was uploaded on 05/06/2008 for the course SOC 332 taught by Professor Stas during the Spring '08 term at Willamette.

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Tattoo Culture - Haven Webster March 19, 2008 Stas Tattoo...

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