The first recorded tattoo was during the 17th century. Scottish author and world traveler William Lithgow and his crew went on a holy pilgrimage to Jerusalem in 1612 and got themselves tattooed to document the experience. In 1614 Lithgow published his manuscript detailing the Jerusalem tattoo event.
During the 18th century, Capt. James Cook observed the indigenous people of Polynesia with their body tattoos and wrote about it. He and his men left Polynesia wearing tattoos.
A tattoo was once a distinctive mark in the community of soldiers, sailors, and the undesirables. There was a special meaning, particularly to men in the maritime service, who, for centuries, would have themselves tattooed in the Pacific islands they have voyaged to as lasting souvenirs, a source of bragging rights upon their return home. Case in point: Popeye the Sailorman had the iconic anchor tattoo on his arm.
Aside from the anchor design, sailor tattoos, also called “traditional tattoos” and “old school tattoos,” were familiar designs. And like all things that originated from old folk traditions, sailor tattoos have their symbolisms and superstitions said to ward off challenges and dangers while at sea.
A nautical star will protect a sailor from being lost overboard, while a harpoon protected them against dangerous sea creatures. A swallow tattoo represents 5,000 nautical miles a sailor has travelled, while an anchor represents a sailor who has travelled across the Atlantic Ocean.
“Hold fast” tattoo is usually done on a sailor’s knuckles for good luck during stormy weather. Compass rose symbolizes a safe return to home. A dragon means a sailor has been stationed in the Far East and spent some time in a Chinese port. A palm tree means a sailor has sailed the Mediterranean and fought during World War II.
In 1909, the Navy refused to enlist applicants who sported obscene tattoos unless they modified them to be considered for the job. This led to a proliferation of tattoo artists offering to cover the obscenities.
Some men wear tattoos because it is a cool way to manifest their personality, belief, or life motto by displaying great artwork for visual pleasure.
No longer objects of much eyebrow-raising, tattoos on women are accepted as trendy and fashionable. The tattoos accentuate their natural assets and body curves. Most common designs for women tattoos include flowers, swirls, stars, angel and fairy wings, and butterflies.
First-timers usually opt for simple tattoos, like a name, rather than go for the more elaborate ones. Small tattoos are easily hidden when it becomes necessary to do so. Because they are small and inconspicuous, small tattoos do not distract one’s style and personality.
Some workplaces during job interviews do not take kindly upon applicants with visible tattoos so that future job prospects look dim—neck tattoos are easily apparent. Face tattoos in the workplace are definitely no-nos. It’s an extreme design that makes a not-so-positive first impression so that careful thought on the pros and cons of having one must be seriously considered.
Aside from the “old school tattoos,” other designs have become fashionable as the art became widely accepted.
Tribal tattoos celebrate ancient roots and are symbols of strength and power. These are bold, interlocking patterns and are extremely eye-catching.
Animal tattoos signify power, freedom, strength, and loyalty. Most commonly used images are those of birds, tiger, elephant, wolf, lion, dragon, and phoenix.
Portrait tattoos are very difficult to master to achieve the near-to-realistic result. These tattoos are worn to celebrate or immortalize important persons in one’s life.
Money tattoos are reminders to the wearer to always exert oneself toward wealth and success.
Family tattoos express love and attachment to the family. They may have names, family escutcheon, and family trees.
Crown tattoos make one feel like a king. Car tattoos signify fondness for motor vehicles.
Name tattoos show love for spouse, child, friend, family members, and lovers. Be very careful when having tattoos of a lover’s name. Relationships end. Love disintegrates faster than the dyes in the ink. When wedded bliss turns to hiss, the same caution goes for matching wedding bands inked on the ring fingers.
Sleeve tattoos cover the arms and are quite descriptive, have three or more colors, of tribal designs or abstracts or any preferred set of styles. Knuckle tattoos are very visible, mostly of small images or words. Chest tattoos are the most popular with men, ogle-worthy when at the beach or pool. This also goes for back and stomach tattoos.
Forearm tattoos look good on short-sleeved shirts. Ankle tattoos on cropped pants, and leg tattoos on shorts. Tattoos can also be done on the nails. It is absolutely painless since it is applied on tough keratin. Nail tattoos are temporary and slowly erases themselves as nails grow.
The ribs are painful areas to have tattoos on, but they are favorite spots because large, elaborate, and more colorful designs can be inked on them. The torso is also quite sensitive.
The least painful spots are: the lower back, preferred by women because it has a high amount of fatty tissues; the gluteus or the buttocks because of their cushiony nature and far distance from any bone; the calves, ear cartilages, forearm, bicep, outer thigh, and inner wrist.
Alcohol and aspirin do not lessen the pain. They thin the blood and can cause more bleeding during the tattooing process.
When a relationship turned sour, or your previous belief and motto no longer defines your personality, erasing a tattoo is the positive thing to do. Ask your artist to fix it; avoid going to dubious tattooists or “scratchers.” Think of your budget for the rework or modification. Laser is used to remove unwanted tattoos and the chance of infection is nil.
Food for thought. It is believed that a tattooed man makes the best husband. A real man can take a lot of pain—the most elaborate design takes 20 to 40 hours. And men with such tattoos have this masculine appeal, not easily scared, and can take rugged street brawls any time to protect their lady love. They have this bad boy image which women haphazardly fall for despite their parents’ plain objection.
Dutdutan 2019 is the event for all tattoo enthusiasts, tattoo artists, designers, tattoo-inspired merchandise, and T-shirts.
Its president, Ricky Sta. Ana, has, for years, considerably promoted consciousness and social acceptance of tattoos, and at the same time, Dutdutan is serving the public through various outreach programs nationwide.
The first beneficiary of Dutdutan’s outreach program was Ramon Ramos, 63. He had diabetes and was in danger of having a leg amputated. Dutdutan took care of all hospital bills.
Ramos had himself tattooed on all available body space and now acts as model and promo man for Dutdutan events. He says he now gets attention, especially with his face tattoo.
If you missed the recent Dutdutan 2019 at the World Trade Center in Pasay City, calendar next year’s date. It’s an art event worth anyone’s interest in things awesome and extraordinary.