One of the most interesting trends in today's culture is tattooing. Tattooing is an ancient art form that was prevalent as long ago as 7300 B.C. in Europe, where it was practiced regularly (Maloney). Today, people get tattoos for a variety of reasons from gender enhancement to identification with groups, gangs, or ideologies (Maloney). Moreover, because "The body is a vessel which contains the essence of self and expresses it," tattooing becomes "one of the most intimate, personal and profoundly serious forms of esthetic expression practiced" (Maloney). Unlike clothing, which can readily be put on, taken off, and changed with passing moods, tattoos are for all intents and purposes a permanent modification to one's body that must weather future whims of fashion.
In modern America, tattoos were most common, prior to the current rage, in the context of the military-particularly the Navy. Maloney cites Webb's Tattootime 1988 article #3, explaining that, "When you had gone 5,000 miles at sea, you got a bluebird on your chest, When you'd gone 10,000, you got the second bird on the other side. When you made your second cruise, you got a clothes line with skivvies and girls' stockings between them...A dragon showed you had crossed the International Date Line." It was common to see sailors with tattoos on their forearm or possibly their chest.
Today, however, tattoos have become an art medium that extends over the entire body, from scalp to toes. Even lips, ears, eyelids, and eyeballs can be tattooed. In fact, some tattooed individuals have no readily apparent bare skin that is not covered by tattoos; they are a walking, breathing panorama of tattoo art. Tattoos since the 1950s have been largely associated with counterculture, such as gangs and cults, but as Richard L. Naren points out in a Bodyart article, tattoos are now "more of a fashion statement than counter culture statement," and tattoo designe