Tattoos Move Into Cultural Mainstream


Tattooed arm

Mothers shopping with teenage children and parents pushing baby buggies joined the crowds of body art enthusiasts at this weekend’s annual London Tattoo Convention, underscoring the increasing acceptance of tattoos in mainstream culture.

The London convention, one of Europe’s biggest tattoo events, saw over 400 artists from around the world converge on an east London convention centre, which organisers expect will host over 20,000 people during the three-day event.

“There’s been a total global shift in attitude,” Marcus Berriman, organiser of the London Tattoo Convention told Reuters, of the British public’s attitude towards ink.

“Once upon a time, people associated it with criminals and bikers and punks, but now it’s mainstream really,” he said, adding “it’s on a completely different level to where it was 10 years ago.”

With a 2015 YouGov poll suggesting that almost one fifth of British adults have tattoos, and other research suggests that visible body art may be becoming less of a barrier to employment – a longstanding problem for tattoo enthusiasts.

A 2016 survey carried out by Ipsos MORI for Britain’s Police Federation found that 81 percent of respondents said that a police officer having visible tattoos would make no difference to their confidence in their ability to do their job.

Visitors to the London Tattoo Convention show off their body tattoos, in London, Britain September 23, 2017. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls
In addition, Britain’s employment conciliation service, Acas, advised employers that tattoos should not be a barrier to hiring, though many at the event were clearly not concerned at the potential effects of visible tattoos on their careers.

“I think the jobs I would do, tattooing on the neck or the face wouldn’t be a problem – I hope so,” said Julian Zahn, 20, who was visiting from Germany and was in the process of having a large pinwheel design tattooed onto his back.

Some enthusiasts for body art have encountered problems. British solicitors Atwells published case studies in 2016 documenting the cases of several workers – including a consultant, a waitress and a retail employee – who were fired for contravening policies against visible tattoos.

The firm said that employers in all cases insisted they were acting within their legal rights presenting an obstacle for a growing section of Britain’s workforce.

Despite these obstacles, tattoo artists suggested that Britain might be a European outlier in terms of its increasingly liberal attitude to tattooing.

“I think it’s different in other countries. In England, it’s more cool, more accepted, than in France or in other places,” French artist Guillaume Smash said.

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