Tattoos losing their taboo


The lion tattoo on Stephen Horrell’s chest took four hours to complete and represents strength, power and pride. (Angel Grady/Lariat)

While enjoying a prestigious dinner and receiving top of the line service, you might be completely unaware of the full sleeve underneath the server’s white button down.

People of all walks of life are increasing their interest in tattoos. According to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, 21 percent of Americans report someone in their household had a tattoo in 1999. By 2014, that percentage had doubled to 40 percent.

These permanent markings on the body may be simplistic or deeply intricate in design, but the meaning is often personal. They can serve as many things, with signs of love, religion, personal empowerment, loss or gain of a loved one, or plain spontaneity, just to name a few. People are finding more reasons and a stronger desire to express themselves and their emotions through tattoos.

The personal importance one places on their particular tattoo or it’s placement on the body varies by the individual, however the personal feelings behind having a tattoo are similar.

The Harris Polls conducted a survey regarding tattoos with 2,016 participants. Of that survey, 30 percent said tattoos made them feel sexier, while 25 percent said they felt more rebellious, and only 16 percent reported feeling more spiritual.

When asking those without any permanent body art, the percentages were quite different. Forty-five percent said that people with tattoos were less attractive than those without. Interestingly, this survey reported that 27 percent felt that people with tattoos are less intelligent, as though the decision to get a tattoo has something to do with a person’s intellect.

“I think that it’s great when tattoos have meaning but, no, I don’t think that it’s totally necessary,” said Stephen Horrell, a 27-year-old Saddleback College student. “Honestly it’s on your body and it’s what you like and you have to live with it.”

Horrell has several tattoos and does not regret a single one. The lion on his chest is a symbol of strength, power and pride. He has always liked how a lion represents the incorruptible truth and at times he feels like the king of the jungle.

“My family isn’t really for them,” he said. This is an illustration of how some people of this generation are more likely to be open and welcoming to permanently marking their bodies, there are those of older and earlier generations that tend to be less accepting.

Though Horrell places important meaning on each of his tattoos, others do not entirely think things through. For Aaron Hughes, his gangster in a zoot suit holding two guns with the words silent justice, meant something at that time, which is not the case anymore.

“When I was younger I used to fight a lot,” Hughes said. “Everyone knew if I was yelling and screaming, I was calm and wasn’t going to fight. It was only if I was silent, that I was going to fight, give justice.”

He does not regret getting this tattoo, however, it was one that was done when he was young. Hughes no longer lives life like that where he is fighting all the time. Also, he was glad it was on his upper arm and could easily be covered with a T-shirt if need be.

“I think people should definitely express themselves in any way they see fit. If that means having a tattoo I say absolutely,” said Wendy Garcia, 28, manager of Waterman’s Harbor in Dana Point.

Whether one simply likes the idea of having body art or they carefully select each one, tattoos are gaining more popularity and acceptance. With exception to the thoughtless ones, tattoos are becoming another way to express who you are as well as what you stand for.