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Is gen Z changing the tattoos game?

From sailors to TikTok, they are challenging the concept of "forever"

Is gen Z changing the tattoos game? From sailors to TikTok, they are challenging the concept of forever

The world of tattoos is, by its nature, colorful, constantly evolving and ancient. It has a precise history, rich in tradition, both in the East and in the West. It was a sort of rite for sailors and convicts, a cry of subversion against social and aesthetic norms, always done in odd numbers (because tattoos symbolized departure, travel, and return home). The tattoo culture, like many others, eventually stepped onto the mainstream stage and now thrives on trends and fashions, but it still remains an expression of the times.

Tattoos for Women in the Past

It was the same, or perhaps even more so, for women, who in Europe began to embrace this art in the 1800s when they were still not allowed to wear trousers, let alone show skin in public, risking scandal and public ridicule. As Margot Mifflin notes in "Bodies of Subversion - A secret history of women and tattoo," tattooed women in those years defied the Victorian ideal of feminine purity and decorum, using tattoos as pins of self-determination and linking them to other contemporary struggles such as feminism, the right to vote, and abortion rights.

Trends and Models from the Seventies to the 2000s

Their debut in the world of fashion is attributed to the 1970s, when Issey Miyake presented his Tattoo Collection in New York. If we jump ahead to the 90s and 2000s, we immediately see how tattoos transformed into signs of well-being and glamour, flaunted by soccer players and the stars of the moment, starting with David Beckham. Attainable, but not too much. The stigma associated with them became weaker, succumbing to aesthetic ideals that favored athleticism, sun-kissed skin, and a touch of edginess. It was the era of tribal tattoos, to put it plainly. And now?

Tattoos Today

Tattoo trends move at different speeds, both geographically and in terms of age and generations. In the local Italian dimension, in small towns, tattoos often serve as a mark of geographic or familial belonging, expressions of love for children or life partners, or manifestations of religious or sporting beliefs. Furthermore, we could make a distinction related to age: for adults, getting a tattoo is often still a significant step, an indelible mark on the skin that requires careful consideration, but for the very young, things are a bit different.

@okeypoke SOME SILLY TATTOOS IVE DONE RECENTLY #tattoo #dumbtattoos #stupidtattoo #silly #dumbtatt #fyp #melbournetattoo It's That Time - Marlon Hoffstadt & DJ Daddy Trance

Small, Colorful and Silly

As with everything related to aesthetics and fashion, there are two main trends on social media for contemporary tattoos among young people. The minimalistic trend, consisting of fine lines and tattoos in hidden places, is also the path chosen by the Beckham children and top models like Hailey Bieber and Bella Hadid. There's also a more maximalist trend, but still with relatively small designs. A quick look on TikTok immediately highlights this: the most popular tattoos right now are small, colorful, and... silly. In other words, they are linked to childlike and whimsical elements, decided on impulse or for a bet, often done in groups and without any regard for aesthetic coherence or long-term planning. One trend in particular has made this clear, where people post photos of their tattoos accompanied by emotional music and reflect on what it reminds them of. Starting as a serious trend, it quickly devolved, featuring Coca-Cola cans, brands, lines from comedies, pets, pasta shapes and doodles.

@tigerspitbalm Done by • @sisi.lovelove How to make dream pond . . . #tattoolove #tattooinspiration #tattoolife #tattooaftercare #tattooed #tattooidea #tattoostyle #Tattooart #inked #blackandgrey #tattooculture #tattooaddict #tattoosociety #tattoo #traditionaltattoo #tigerspit #tattooartist #tattoodesign #blackandgreytattoo #realismtattoo #colortattoo #minimaltattoo #finelinetattoo #ornamentaltattoo #japanesetattoo #tattoobalm #tattoocream original sound - TIGER SPIT TATTOO AFTERCARE

Forever is No Longer a Thought

And so, we see frogs, monkeys, kittens, and bows. The inspirations are numerous, ranging from cartoons to inside jokes among friends, to the botanical and culinary world. The general feeling is that tattoos have lost their deep cultural weight that they still maintain in some places and for some people. They have become light, an ironic aesthetic choice, made to remember something or simply for decoration, with no particular concern for forever. It's not surprising: in a world that's increasingly challenging to navigate, we live for the here and now, to laugh and experience together rather than to communicate universal ideals on our skin.