Tattoo Blog

Art that adorns the flesh…

Popularity Contest

January 11th, 2009 by

Although the ’30’s have been called the “Golden Age” of tattooing, it would seem to me that, just based on the basic numbers, this is actually the Golden Age of tattooing. Tattooing has never been more popular in modern society than it is now. In search engines across the board on the Internet it has rarely left the top ten searches in the last decade. In 2002 the term tattoo hit it’s highest ranking of number two in the search engines.

In 1936 a Life magazine article estimated that 10 million Americans, (6%) had at least one tattoo. A 2003 Harris poll indicated that the number has risen to 16%, or around 30 million by 2003.

Now when you add that to the broader range of artwork that is now available to tattoo enthusiasts over the last few decades, I would go out on a limb and say that we are living in the Golden Age of tattooing right now. Makes you feel a bit special, doesn’t it?

Tattoo choices themselves have seen a mercurial shift as well. During the “reintroduction” of tattooing brought back to the west by Captain Cook, and the first tattoo craze of the modern era, nautical, and military themes were the rage.

During the Industrial Revolution you were pretty much limited to flash, or as one famous tattoo artist was rumored to have said back then, “If it ain’t on the wall, I don’t do it!” At this time the most popular choices were oriental dragons, skulls, hearts (usually with MOM in the banner), and “pin up” girls in various stages of undress.

As the ’60s and ’70s came around several college educated artists began to look at tattooing as a means of expression, and a way to avoid the “starving artist” gig. Bringing with them more innovative techniques and styles it became a little easier to get custom work done and the art soon saw a change in popularity as peace signs, marijuana leafs, and the Zigzag┬« man took center stage for a bit.

The ’80s saw the rise of tribal, (both real and faux), as well as the beginning of the Kanji and Hanzi craze. Either of which could be a bit embarrassing if you don’t read Japanese and Chinese. A case in point, one poor dude who thought he was having the characters for Love, honor and obey found out from a Chinese waitress that his Hanzi actually said “At the end of the day, this is an ugly boy.”

The ’90s saw The rise in the popularity of the portrait. From realistic renderings of members of the client’s family, to pop icons and celebrities ranging from May West to Kiss. All of which leads us up to our current decade.

So, just what are the most popular tattoos now? That is probably as easy to pin down as holding a handful of smoke, but given the questions asked on several web sites, and the numbers from several popular search engines, the numbers read it this way. (I’m sure by the time this blog sees the cyber-light of day the numbers will change.)

1: Star tattoos
2: Angel tattoos
3: Tribal tattoos
4: Flower tattoos
5: Celtic tattoos
6: Swallow tattoos
7: Lower back tattoos
8: Butterfly tattoos
9: Kanji/Hanzi tattoos
10: Black work tattoos

OK. Pecker contest aside, what do I think the most popular tattoos are? Easy. The tattoos that you feel good about getting. The ones that make you proud to own. Those are the most popular tattoos.

*Photo from 1946 Life Magazine Tattoo Article, view more Life Tattoo photos from the 30s and 40s on Google Images

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