Gang Tattoos

I have been watching a television show series lately called Dexter. It is about a guy who works for the Miami police as a blood splatter analysis. One of the crimes the police is trying to solve relates to gang violence and killings that have been occurring. All of the gang members have tattoos on their necks that say 39th Street Kings.

This got me thinking about gang tattoos, who gets them, and what they mean. According to, gang members get tattoos to show their dedication to the gang, to show their beliefs about the gang, and in many cases the number of crimes or murders the have committed for their gang. Apparently gangs were amongst the first groups to start getting tattoos, but it wasn't to identify themselves as a unit. They would actually be forced by society to get the tattoos or markings to signify that they were a criminal But over time, gangs started to embrace these "criminal" tattoos, and add onto them to make them their own.

Gang tattoos can be honorable, but in some cases very dangerous. Gang tattoos in prison can signify a person's importance to the gang. But if someone has an unauthorized gang tattoo, members have been known to literally remove the tattoo from that individual by cutting it out of their skin. This can be dangerous for youngsters who see rappers with what they think are cool tattoos, then decide to go get the tattoo. When really, they do not know the meaning or the consequences of getting the tattoo in the first place.

Before deciding to get a tattoo, you must first understand the meaning of what you are getting. This is true for anyone getting a tattoo. Since tattoos are permanent, it is important to know exactely what they mean, so you know what kind of message you are giving off to other people.

Celebrity Tattoos

In today's American culture, we very much so worship celebrities. They are held on a pedestal to be looked up to. Since we look up to these celebrities, do their tattoos have an influence on us?

There are many celebrities with tattoos. Some popular ones being Angelina Jolie, Megan Fox, Lady Gaga, Kat Von D, and many male rappers. When we as Americans look up to these stars, do their tattoos subliminally have an impact on us? I believe that if someone we look up to has tattoos, then we will think tattoos are cool. So this is one of the reasons people of our culture today get tattoos. Whenever we look up to someone, we often try to be like them, whether it being through appearances or the way we act. Sometimes we can't help it, but other times it is intentional. Someone might look at a picture of Angelina Jolie's tattoos and think they are cool, then they might go get a tattoo similar to it. Whether they claim it as being inspiration, or admiration, they are being influenced by someone famous.

This isn't the only reason why people get tattoos today, but I believe it is an influential reason. We look up to celebrities, and try to be like them.


Although tattooing maybe more popular in our culture today, there is a significant number of people who choose to get them removed. In today's culture, permanent tattoos can actually be temporary. There are many means to get rid of tattoos including laser removal, tattoo cover-ups, intense pulsed light therapy, and products you rub on your tattoos that eventually "erase" the tattoo. These are options that were not offered in the past.

But how well do these options work? Tattoo cover-ups are creams put on the skin like make-up, so it is not permanent. Laser removal is permanent, but is very expensive and takes many sessions over the course of months to complete. The products you rub on your skin such as Wrecking Balm and TatBGone are just faders. They aren't guaranteed to permanently remove the tattoo. And in this case, a faded tattoo might look worse than a normal tattoo. No matter what option you choose, you are going to have to save up, because they are pretty much all expensive.

So what is this telling us about our culture? There are a lot of people who do not take the permanency of tattoos seriously. There are people who come up with the idea to get a tattoo when they are drunk, or get dared, then just go do it. They do not think of the permanent consequences that tattoos have. Just because you like the idea of a tattoo now doesn't mean that in a week or even a year from now that you will like it. The reason tattoo removal is now an option is because of all these people who don't take tattooing seriously.

Extreme Tattoos

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While I was looking online at weird and obscure tattoos, I came across a picture of someone getting the whites of their eyes tattood black.


This image is a picture of "Quille De Sade, who is a chef who has had a fascination with tattoos and piercing since he was 17-years-old. Quille has chosen to be the first person in the world to have the white of one of his eyeball tattooed black."



I guess there are tattoos out there that I didn't even know existed. Not only are there mainstream tattoos that people get, but also extreme tattoos. Some extreme tattoos would be black light tattoos, 3d tattoos (implants put into the skin to raise up certain parts of the tattoo), inner mouth tattoos, people who tattoo their entire bodies to look like animals, and more.

So what makes people want to get tattoos like this? Maybe they are just trying to create their own new look. Or maybe they are lashing out from society's norms. It is definitely against the norm to get your whole body covered in tattoos. I think people get tattoos like this because they want to tell the world who they are through visual means. Some people choose different styles of clothign to do this, but some people want a more permanent way. Tattoos tell you something about that person. Unless if the tattoo is spur-of-the-moment, it is usually chosen carefully and thoughtfully. The content tells us something about that person and their personality.

When it comes to extreme tattoos and extreme body modification, it takes a very dedicated person to commit to it. Usually things like this take more than one session, and definitely lots of money. You have to go into the shop multiple times to keep getting work done on your why do it?

The word Tattoo

I've been thinking about my next blog entry and what it should include. I thought a lot about different types of tattooing, and different cultures who tattoo, but then I thought, where did the word tattoo actually come from? I did some research about the origin of the word, and found this to be the case:

"the word tattoo is said to has two major derivations- from
the polynesian word 'ta' which means striking something
and the tahitian word 'tatau' which means 'to mark something'."

I looked up a bit about Polynesiam tattoos and found out that they started doing them because they believe that a person's mana, which is their spiritual power of life force, is actually displayed through their tattoos. Elaborate geometric designs were tattooed onto their body until they were eventually covered in tattoos. Tattooing was also done to show hierarchy in different tribes. The more tattoos you had, the higher up in the tribe you were.


Wow tattooing has changed. What would our world be like today if tattooing showed hierarchy in our culture? The president would be covered in tattoos, and none of us students would. Tattoo parlors would probably all be up-scale, expensive shops. It's weird to think about since it is our generation that is becoming covered in tattoos, not our elders. It's just something to think about.


Tattoo Interview

I have been thinking and researching about the different reasons why people get tattoos today. I interviewed someone I know who has quite a few tattoos, to get some perspective on the matter.

Interview of Taylor Schnell:

When did you get your first tattoo: a week after my 18th birthday

Why did you want to get a tattoo: because I could, because I always wanted one, and I think they look cool.

Why did you get another one: I just like the way they look. They look better than plain skin. They make people look more interesting in general. I just like tattoos so I get tattooed. I like the way it looks.

How many tattoos do you have now: 4 (and now I'm 24)

What tattoos do you have: an Egyptian ankh on my right shoulder, a nautical star on my left upper peck area, a skier pinup girl that takes up my entire right side from my armpit to my hip, and a leg sleeve of underwater scene on my left leg.

Do you want to get more tattoos: Yes. I already have my next one in mind.

Would you cover your whole body if you could: No, I think that's a bit too extreme.

Why do you think other people tattooed: I have no idea. But lots of people get tattoos for dumb reasons. I think it's stupid when people get tattoos because they are incredibly meaningful (the tattoos). I think the sob stories are boring. If you're going to get a tattoo, get it for yourself, not because someone you know has died and you want to get it to remember them.

Do you think other people influence your tattoos: Yes, kindof...I don't really know. I choose the content of them for me because I want to get that tattoo, but those close to me usually give me their opinions.

Here are photos of Taylor's tattoos:

Tattoos copy.jpg<

LA Ink


LA Ink is a show on the TLC channel on television about Kat Von D, a woman who owns her own tattoo shop in Hollywood. I have watched many episodes of this show lately and have come to the conclusion that there are a few main reasons why people get tattoos today: when someone dies and the person getting the tattoo wants to remember/mourn, when people go through changes in their life and want to remember the different stages, and when people have a passion that they want to identify themselves through. However, I personally know people who get tattoos just because of the way they look.

Then there are those people who go to get tattoos because they were dared to, or because they are drunk and think it will be fun, or they go with a friend or a loved one and end up later regretting it. Why do these people think that getting something permanent on their body is a good idea?

There are some questions I am curious about and am researching:
What kind of people get what kind of tattoos?
How are female tattoos different from male tattoos?
Why do people choose the tattoos that they choose?
What is the most common theme today throughout tattoos?

Tattoos...why today?

tattoos.jpgI have a friend who is a tattoo artist. I have been at his shop for many hours and have figured out that most people today get tattoos for absolutely no reason. I have seen 16 year old girls come into his shop and ask if they can get tattoos of stars, flowers, and hearts...what's the point? Does it have something to do with our culture today? Do people do it because they think it looks cool? Do tattoos have any cultural references anymore?

For my essay topic, I am going to explore the history and culture of tattoos. There are many different cultures throughout history that have used tattoos for different reasons. I want to explore this history and compare it to what tattoos mean today in our American culture.

I was researching different cultures and why they get tattoos, and here is an article from the Smithsonian I found about some different reasons why people have gotten tattoos.

Different Cultural Tattoos:

Egyptian Women: "dancers/prostitues" would be tattood
Maori Warriors: New Zealand tribal warriors would tattoo their faces
Yakuza: Modern day Japanese Mafia tattoos, covered entire body except face, hands, feet
African Tribal Tattoos: different tattoos throughout history
Otzi: the Iceman, first body ever found with tattoos, consisting of dots
Identification Tattoos: used in Holocaust
Jail Tattoos: show ranking in jail gangs

I want to explore the different reasons why people have gotten tattoos in the past, to figure out how why people get tattoos today. It seems as though people get tattoos today just for fun. It is more culturally accepted than it was in the past. But why do people get tattoos now vs why they have in the past?

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Recent Comments

  • Brandy Hoffmann: Wow. I like how you hit on the "dedication" aspect read more
  • murph602: Yes I would love to hear about your story! If read more
  • schm1944: Interviews make really cool blog entries. I love that you read more

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