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ORIGINS

The art of tattooing is thousands of years old. At first they were clan or tribe markings, often used to indicate a person's status in tribal society. For example great hunters and warriors' tattoos would stand for their greatest trophy kill or the number of enemies defeated. Later, in medieval Japan tattoos were used to mark criminals: a law breaker would be branded with a ring (or rings, depending on the nature of their crime) tattooed around the wrists and/or ankles for instant recognition. The art of tattooing evolved throughout the centuries mainly in Asia, and reached the Western world already in a somewhat sophisticated form. 

TECHNIQUE

Historically, tattoos were made using wooden tools with steel needles attached to a "miniature hoe" and a small hammer tool. Nowadays tattoos are made using electric tattoo machines, which makes the whole process a lot faster, less painful and safer. The ink is punctured into the third layer of the skin, making the image permanent. It takes about three weeks for a fresh tattoo to completely heal (depending on where on the body it was done  - some places heal faster, some slower). During the healing of a tattoo it is recommended to stay away from direct sunlight exposure as much as possible, avoid swimming and exposing the tattoo to excessive moisture. The only way to remove a tattoo without permanently damaging skin is to burn the ink out using a special laser beam. The cost of tattoo removal is extremely high, and even after completion, the skin is of a different tone in the spot where the tattoo used to be. 

TYPES OF TATTOOS

Tattoos can be categorized using various criteria, like technique, colors, and themes. The theme of the tattoo seems to be used for categorization most frequently.   
  • "Tribals" - modern abstract designs, sharp geometrical shapes often resembling claws/thorns/flames. They're usually done in black and are "flat" (with no shading or depth". Mostly meaningless.
  • Tribal tattoos - also mostly done in flat black, they represent a person's accomplishments in the tribe or clan. Still used by Asian tribes, such as the Maori people, and also by phony wanna-be badasses. 
  • Old-school - nautical-themed tattoos, in the beginning mostly put on sailors and military men. They mainly use nautical imagery, like ships and anchors, although the definition of an old-school tattoo has been expanded to included designs that now depict objects like knives, brassknuckles, guns, etc. They're done in color and are probably the most popular type of tattoo, next to tribals. 
  • Lettering - "I love mom" or "Vengeance is mine" (or any other words...) usually done in shades of grey and in a variety of different fonts. Popular amongst gangs.
  • Prison tattoos - mostly made using very primitive methods in prisons all around the world. The most sophisticated form of prison tattooing is done in Russia, the tattoos signifying an inmate's crime, sentence, and position in the prison hierarchy.
  • Decorative tattoos - designs with no meaning attached to them, can be anything from a panda bear to a portait of Satan. They serve the purpose of decoration, are often done without any consideration and often turn out to be shameful reminders of teenage stupidity. 
  • The Douchebag Tattoo - barbwire tattooed around the bicep, or Chinese characters (which the owner can't even read, in most cases). Supposed to make a male cooler. 
  • Irezumi - traditional Japanese tattoos, often full-body suits (a full-body suit is one tattoo that covers the entire body, excluding the head, hands and feet), used almost exclusively by the yakuza. Some non-yakuza also get irezumi, however mostly for decorative purposes. Irezumi tattoos take hundreds of hours to complete and are some of the most beautiful and sophisticated designs in the tattoo world. They most often depict characters and symbols from Japanese history and Shinto mythology. In video games they are best portrayed in Sega's Yakuza (Ryuu ga Gotoku) franchise.

SOCIAL RECEPTION

In the past tattoos were most often associated with criminal activities, prisons, and the insane. However, in the last twenty years or so, the public approach to tattoos has continued to slowly change, as they became more and more popular. In some parts of the world tattoos are still seen as a form of pointless self-mutilation, however that paradigm seems to be dying too. The tattooed Ryan Davis is a genuinely funny and lovable person, thus disproving the theory, that everybody with a tattoo is a criminal. 

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