Following a trip back through America’s past, Tattoos first started showing up on more and more men in the US during the late 50s. Originally, tattoos were fancied by sailors and marines, and military personnel during the many, many wars our country fought over the years, namely World Wars. Since the 20s, military people have been getting their ranks, or unit, faction, etc. tattooed on their bodies, generally on their shoulders, as a sign of loyalty and pride. Back in the day, if you had a tat, it either meant you just got out of the military or you just were released from prison.
For historical definition, there are tattoo machines that date back all the way to the late 1800s.
There was this taboo association with tattoos that caused people to react. Ink on your skin, “Oh no, that person must be a ruffian!” In the early 1960s, in New York City, tattoo parlors enjoyed a brief period of popularity, until the City Health Department linked outbreaks of blood-borne hepatitis to them and shut many of them down. Shortly thereafter, the state of New York would outlaw tattoos, something that wouldn’t be repealed for a few decades.
In the 60s, Janis Joplin got one of her famous tattoos by Lyle Tuttle, something that would ultimately represent the nomenclature of tattoos as they transcended to 70s rockers and dead heads. By the time the 80s was in full force, tattoos were not nearly as taboo as they used to be. Many major cities had tattoo shops on street corners, and even those who were of higher education were getting inked.
Perhaps the popularity of MTV made tattoos more recognizable and mainstream during the 80s, a trend that would continue into the early 90s—when popular culture cemented tattoos as something that was not only acceptable, but that was hip, in and no longer taboo; never to be again.
While the 90s truly cemented a place for body art, most tattoo artists concur that it was the 80s that really made it hip. Things like MTV made it more mainstream, popular and desirable for many. This fad crossed over into the 90s, and into the 2000s. Growing more and more as time passed, up to the present day; where you see tattoos nearly everywhere you look, and on people from all walks of life.