Tattoo culture proves colorful topic on campus

Clara Bartlett

Walking through the campus of a liberal arts college, especially colleges located in the Pacific Northwest, you wouldn’t be surprised to see a few tattoos, nose piercings or alternative hair colors and styles. While unusual personal expression and body modifications may seem normalized in a college setting, it’s easy to forget that tattoos were once taboo in mainstream society, confined to fringe elements like sailors and street gangs. Nowadays, teen idols casually flaunt their latest ink in exotic languages, and everyone from Angelina Jolie to the British Prime Minister’s wife, Samantha Cameron, has been known to go under the needle. Is the tattoo truly a thing of the past? The Pioneer investigated Whitties’ true feelings on tattoo culture.

Credit: Allie Felt

Sophomore Taia Handlin explained her motivations in getting her tattoo––a tree with roots placed between her shoulder blades.

“I’ve always liked body art; I’ve always sort of imagined getting a tattoo, and I sort of like the way tattoos look on people’s bodies, especially in movement. And well, this is a more cliché answer, but I get really bored with my appearance,” said Handlin.

Sophomore Bridget Tescher also chose to get a tattoo of a rooster and an agate geode between her shoulder blades.

“I am really into art and artistic expression, and so for me, a tattoo is just another medium to work with,” said Tescher. “I like that clichéd line, ‘Your body is a temple,’ because if my body is a temple, why not decorate it?”

The question remains–– are tattoos really a shocking statement anymore?

“I’m from Portland, so I feel like faux-hawks and tattoos are a dime-a-dozen,” said Handlin. “I don’t really get that much negative judgment. I mean, people react definitely––I feel like with any extreme body alteration people definitely want to know why.”

One cause of divergent opinions on tattoos may be generational. In an online survey, 19 percent of Whitties responded that they had or intended to imminently acquire a tattoo, but 66 percent thought that having a visible tattoo would be a problem for their future career plans, with multiple respondents adding that they would conceal a tattoo in an interview with a potential employer.

Credit: Allie Felt

Faviola Alejandre, a first-year student considering a tattoo, expressed her worries in this area.

“For me, one of the fears is that it gives the wrong image in job interviews. Like, I would never get anything too extreme. But one of the things I do like about tattoos is that it’s a form of expression,” said Alejandre.

“I definitely think it’s more common for people to get tattoos now as opposed to our parent or grandparents’ generation,” said Tescher.

However, generational divides are not universal.

“My grandmother saw [my tattoo] on Facebook, and her reaction was, ‘That’s really cute!'” said Handlin.

In discussing tattoos, students’ opinions ranged widely, based on the type of tattoo, its location and its message, which lasts for life, barring laser removal.

“[It] can’t have cursive, script, any of that stuff. No stars, no hearts, no names, no faces, nothing in the middle chunk of your body and I don’t like wrist tattoos,” said first-year Perry Anderson. “If one of my friends was like, ‘Hey, I’m thinking about getting my grandpa’s name in script on my boob,’ I’d say ‘No, don’t do it.'”