Tattoo culture has its roots in Polynesian cultures. The term tattoo was coined in 1778 by Captain Cook after he observed Polynesian tattoo artists. These artists adorned their bodies with designs that symbolized the individual’s identity. Today, many Polynesian people are proud to show off their tattoos.
Tattoos are a common way to show individuality, and sailors are no exception. Many adorn their bodies with a tattoo to celebrate special moments in their life, or to mark career milestones. Tattoo styles have evolved over the decades, but many originated during the first half of the 20th century. One prominent American sailor, known as Sailor Jerry, crafted his style over four decades.
Tattoo culture of circus performers has been studied and interpreted in several ways. While contemporary scholars often argue that the tattooed bodies of circus performers were hidden to protect their work and ensure paying customers, primary sources indicate that circus performers faced discrimination because of their deviant bodies. A 1939 newspaper report states that Robert Broadbent had to cover his tattoos with two pairs of stockings to perform in public. The article does not specify the purpose of the tattoos, but suggests that they were hidden from public view to avoid ridicule.
Among the eight to ten different Native American tribes, tattoo culture is a common form of expression. In the northern plateaus of North America, tattooing was not as widespread as in the southern and western regions of the continent. But in the 1970s, the American Indian Movement began to decolonize the Indigenous peoples and tattooing resurfaced.
The Chinese tattoo culture is growing, both overseas and within the country’s major cities. Although the central government may not approve of it, Chinese people have come to accept the idea of tattoos. Although the recent new rule against the practice was widely covered by the media, the general opinion of the population is one of skepticism. Many don’t think the ban will stick, and don’t expect it to be enforced for long.
Tattooing is not an exclusively Polynesian tradition; in fact, it has a long and rich history of exchange with other cultures. Tattoo exchange histories with Pacific Islanders, European explorers, sailors, settlers, and tourists offer insight into the semiotic indeterminacy of cross-cultural encounters.
Female tattoo artists
There are many women who are involved in tattoo culture. Originally, men were the ones tattooing women, but the female tattoo artists were able to break the rules. In the early 1900s, American female tattoo artists were few and far between. In America, the first woman tattoo artist was Maud Steven Wagner. She had lived in poverty and had joined a circus as a teenager. After becoming a trained contortionist, she became a tattoo artist herself.
Negative connotations of tattooing
In the United States, the stigma associated with tattooing is widespread. Many people associate the practice with criminality, deviance, and gang affiliations. They also associate tattooing with a rebellious, anti-establishment attitude. The negative connotations associated with tattoos are often rooted in stereotypes and preconceived notions.