The History of Tattoos: From Medicinal to Decorative


Tattooing has a rich history that dates back more than 5,000 years, and it is believed that the practice existed even before that. The origins of tattooing have many meanings, and they have long been marginalized. But today, tattoos have made their way even in the elite world of fashion.

One of the earliest known examples of tattooing is the mummy of Ötzi, a 46-year-old man who lived around 3200 BC. He had lines tattooed on his lower back, ankles, wrists, and knees, which are the parts that begin to hurt as you age. It is believed that these tattoos had a medicinal purpose.

There is also evidence of Egyptian women from 4,300 years ago who were carved or painted with statuettes on their bodies, which were usually a series of dots around the abdomen. Likewise, many ancient communities also carried out tattoo practices.

In modern times, tattoos entered Europe around 1700 after an expedition to Tahiti. The ships went back to London, transferring aborigines who were full of tattoos (even on their faces) to be exhibited in the city. The tattoos were so striking that it did not take long for imitators to emerge. Tattoos began marginally, but eventually ended up being assimilated the moment the artistic tattoo became a novelty among European aristocratic society. Later, it found its way and became acceptedin the United States and other parts of the world.

The Tattoo Fashion in the 20th Century

In the early 20th century, tattoos were used among sailors to express their work. Wearing them was a synonym for long voyages at sea, like a “curriculum vitae.” Among the designs, for example, swallows represented extensive navigations, and anchors used to mean resistance.

At that time, tattoos were common among those considered “outsiders,” such as circus people or gang members. There were some womenthat went with tattooing their faces as makeup alternative, which was really expensive in those years.But in order not to compromise their social status, they did not make it public.

Somewhere around the middle of the 20th, tattoo artists began to emerge, creating tattoos in the original or traditional style that is now known as the Old School style. The “outcasts” became a symbol of masculinity, building the idea of a “bad boy.” Tattoos began to become more frequent in society and began to be popular among different groups of people, while still being perceived as something thatonly outcasts did.

But by the 1980s, the rock scene changed everything. Although the so-called “rockabilly” tattoo fashion was in force, with glam, rock, and leather jackets, tattoos accompanied a booming fashion and began to be considered differently, even more decorative. In the 1990s, the tattoo fashion was already a trend, and the designs no longer belonged only to the marginalized, as many young people decided to get tattooed.

The Boom of Tattoos and Haute Couture

When it comes to its effect on the perception of beauty and fashion, there has been an extensive discussion about tattoos. Until relatively recently, the high-end fashion worldfavored models without and tattoos or skin marks, like a white canvas.

However, one designer wanted to change this perception by presenting a collection in New York in 1971. He charged his collection with a political statement by basing it on transparencies for both sexes. His name was Issey Miyake and his idea was to try to vindicate the Japanese tattoo and challenge the high fashion rules and vision (regarding the marginal).

After this, many designers (such as Jean-Paul Gautier and Martin Margiela) began incorporating tattoos in their work. Today, tattoos are a strong trend and are even a part of clothing design.

Tattoos and the Modern Society

Today, tattoos have become widely accepted and even embraced in modern society. It has become a form of self-expression, with individuals using tattoos as a way to showcase their personality, beliefs, or simply their love for art. Today,tattoos are seen on people from all walks of life, regardless of their gender, age, or professional. Even people in the corporate world, where conservative attire is often required, it has become more common for professionals to have tattoos that are not visible during work hours.

However, despite the growing acceptance, there are still stigmas attached to tattoos in certain cultures and communities. In some Asian countries, tattoos are still associated with criminal gangs and are often viewed as taboo. In some conservative societies, tattoos are seen as a sign of rebellion and a deviation from traditional values. It is important to note that the acceptance of tattoos varies greatly from culture to culture, and it is crucial to understand the local customs and norms before getting a tattoo.

Choosing a Tattoo Design

Getting a tattoo remains to be a personal decision of any individual,therefore it should bebe well-thought-out. It is essential to choose a design that is meaningful and that resonates with you. Tattoos are permanent, and removal can be a difficult and expensive process. Therefore, it is important to choose a design that you will be happy with for years to come. On the other hand, is you want to know how effective is tattoo removal, the answer is that laser tattoo removal can help you get rid of unwanted tattoos pretty effectively.

When choosing a tattoo design, it is also essential to consider the placement of the tattoo. Some professions and industries may require tattoos to be covered during work hours. It is also important to consider how the tattoo will look as you age, as the skin may change and stretch over time.


In conclusion, tattoos have come a long way from being stigmatized and marginalized to being a widely accepted form of self-expression and even high fashion. While the acceptance of tattoos may vary from culture to culture, it is important to respect local customs and norms. When getting a tattoo, it is crucial to choose a design that is meaningful and that you will be happy with for years to come. Additionally, the placement of the tattoo should be carefully considered, especially for those who work in industries that require tattoos to be covered. Ultimately, getting a tattoo is a personal decision, and it should be approached with careful consideration and respect for the culture and society in which you live.

Written by Megan Taylor
Megan is a beauty expert who is passionate about all things makeup and glam! Her love for makeup has brought her to become a beauty pro at Glamour Garden Cosmetics.