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Shift from rebel to mainstream is sign of the times


IT was once just bad boys and bikies who sported them, but now even Barbie has some ink marking the cultural shift of the tattoo from rebel to mainstream.

The fascination with tattoos skipped Generation X but cemented itself among Generation Y with one in four aged under 30 now wearing ink art as proudly as their parents wore shoulder pads and skinny ties.

"It is the fashion. Even Chanel does the fake tattoo on the runways. Everyone has one," said Vanessa Morgan, editor of Inked Australia/NZ magazine.

"I got my first tattoo at 18 in 1995 and no one had one then, but now I have them on every limb, body part, my legs, my feet, my fingers," she said.

Celebrities such as Angelina Jolie and sport stars David Beckham, Todd Carney and Benji Marshall have dragged the trend into

the mainstream.

"Public perception has changed; it's not dirty backstreet stuff any more, it's grandmothers and granddaughters getting matching tattoos," said Kian Sorreal, tattoo artist at Inner Vision, Darlinghurst.

"I can't see police banning it either because I tattoo a whole bunch of police, lawyers, accountants and military," he said.

Social researcher Mark McCrindle said historically tattoos had been about branding groups, but this was the first time the tattoo had marked a generation.

"Traditionally it was about branding warriors, clans and tribes, bikie groups and surf sub-cultures like the Bra Boys, but now with Generation Y, it's about individual branding and showmanship," he said. "But I think it will be a generation of regret."

Wollongong musician Jarrod Bartlett, 21, has spent $7000 on his body art so far. "I'm not finished yet -- I still have my back and legs to go," he said.

An anchor on his hand is for his late Poppy. "I think of it as a story book or a photo album and you can take it to the grave," he said.

Hannah Pritchard, a 21-year-old events manager from Enmore, has three tattoos and wants a fourth.

"They're just awesome. It's cool now. It's a live-for-the-now attitude," she said.

Mr McCrindle said socially, we have left the organised church, so tattoos may signify "emotional" things, such as a relationship. "Once you may have done that with a wedding, now it's a tattoo."

But while few relationships are permanent, ink is, which explains why Angelina Jolie's "Billy Bob Forever" tattoo has been faded with laser, and Johnny Depp's "Winona Forever" now reads "Wino Forever".

At Jeffrey Heimann's Laser X tattoo removal service at Revesby, the most regretted tattoo is the Southern Cross.

"It was a symbol of pride; now it's an embarrassment after the Cronulla riots," he said.

Tattoo removal can take up to 15 sessions of laser at a cost of $100-$200 a pop.

Some cite career advancement as the reason for wanting a tattoo or tattoos removed.

"Professional people wanting to join the police or the military, or if the tattoo is showing on the hands or the neck, they need to get rid of them," Mr Heimann said. "The canvas does not get better with time."


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