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It’s hard to look authentically rebellious or menacing these days, when even well-behaved businessmen wear earrings and ponytails and college students destined for quiet suburban lives have body piercings and tattoos.
Tattoos, in particular, are not the radical brandings, the bold violations of flesh and propriety, they once were. Available in New York from almost 1,400 licensed tattoo artists, tattoos are probably better and safer now than they’ve ever been — more creative and varied, applied in many cases by serious, highly skilled body artists.
Then again, there are tattoos, and there are tattoos. It is unlikely that the ambitious professional with a single, understated, discreetly placed and wittily conceived tat, or for that matter the teenager with her boyfriend’s name and two lovebirds emblazoned in the small of her back, will ever have tattoos on the face and scalp, or a full chest or back “panel” or a tattooed arm or leg. Some tattoo aficionados, though, have transformed large portions of their bodies into multicolored canvases for all manner of skulls, serpents, raptors, flame-breathing dragons, flowers, vines, angels, demons, daggers, buxom bombshells and portraits of heroes and loved ones.
Tattoos have been used for centuries to reflect changes in life status, whether passage into adulthood or induction into a group like the military or a gang. In recent years, tattoos have also become a fashion accessory, a trend fueled by basketball players, bands and celebrities.
A report by the Food and Drug Administration estimated that as many as 45 million Americans have tattoos. The report based the number on the finding by a Harris Interactive Poll in 2003 that 16 percent of all adults and 36 percent of people 25 to 29 had at least one tattoo. The poll also found that 17 percent of tattooed Americans regretted it. And a tattoo that cost several hundred dollars could require several thousand dollars and many laser sessions to remove.
From Times articles.
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