Long before the age of social media, global trends or the internert itself, tattooed bodies were something of a rarity here in the UK. Traditionally reserved for sailors and the working classes, tattoos soon found their way into popular culture thanks to the rock and roll stars of the 1970s and the models, artists, and sport stars of the 80s and 90s.
Often associated with bikers throughout the world, tattoos have been used to exhibit loyalty to a particular brand or club, or to show respect to a lost family member while demonstrating personal strength.
As time has passed however, the connotations linking tattoos and bikers together has faded as other mainstream cultures became associated with the trend. Today, tattoos can mean anything and everything, while their popularity has spread far and wide throughout the country. But where, exactly, has this recent spread of tattoo culture manifested itself here in the UK?
According to a recent survey carried out by Carole Nash, Britain’s growing romance with tattoos has surged throughout the past 50 years. While 7% of people born before 1950 have a tattoo, that figure has soared to a staggering 42% for people who grew up in the 80s and 90s.
So far, so predictable. But when it comes to highlighting the regions with the most tattoos, the findings are pretty interesting.
In terms of numbers, the most tattooed cities in the UK include Birmingham, Norwich and Glasgow, respectively boasting 48%, 41% and 40% of their populations donning six or more tattoos.
Design-wise, the survey found that while geometric patterns remain the order of the day in London, northern cities such as Bradford, Sheffield and Leeds tended to favour tribal patterns or tattoos containing big lettering or floral designs. And, while the people of Glasgow may favour a Maori pattern, Liverpool’s population tended to favour a memorial style tattoo in a bid to remember loved ones now lost.
Why people get tattoos remains a subject of debate. While 39% of the people surveyed stated they got a tattoo simply because they liked the way it looked, others support the argument that tattoos present a case for self-expression and allow people to showcase their personal interests, hobbies and passions in a world dominated by popular culture for the masses.
Whatever an individual’s reasons, design preference or location, there’s no denying that over the past 50 years, tattoos have moved from the shadows and into the limelight.
From traditional connotations through to contemporary styles, the popularity of tattoos today highlights a leap in the UK’s make-up, permitting its entire population to experiment with this particular form of self-expression.