Millennials are approaching tattoos with fresh designs and a new mindset. More young people are open to ink — according to a 2010 Pew research poll, about 40 percent of millennials have a tattoo and around 70 percent of those tattoos are hidden under clothing. While the intensely personal spirit of tattoos is as old as the artform itself, millennial tattoo culture appears to be trending further towards introspective expression.
As Generation Z turns 18 and can legally get a tattoo in most states, Gen Zers seem to be right in step with their older peers by quietly refining a new, more modest tattoo culture. Some USC students shared their journey to tattoos and philosophy on getting inked.
“Obviously, she’s my sister, and we’re twins, and nothing will ever change that. We’ll be twins forever, in our lives and past death. I value our relationship so much that we were both like, ‘hey we should do this, it would be cool to have on us forever, kinda like a constant reminder that we’re always going to be connected as twins,’” Nick said.
“Personally, I like blackwork. Color is hard to do as an artist, so it’s hard to find good quality color work that’s not a million dollars,” Tom said.
“This has always been a thing on my bucket list: be responsible for a rule somewhere. And now there’s a specific rule: don’t get tattoos on school field trips,” Krupa said.
In Krupa’s mind, marking “40,000 ft.” permanently on her wrist was innocent enough. That is if you ignore the fact that she ditched her graduation in New Jersey, flew off to Nebraska for a theater festival, and then ditched that festival to go to a tattoo parlor.
However, when Naik launches into the story about her tattoo, you can see that her collection of numbers, letters and punctuation are less about rebellion, and instead are an embrace of life’s ebb and flow.
“People always get confused on what ethnicity I am, so I have this little piece [that confirms] yes, I am Hawaiian,” Elaine said.
Best friends Deepa and Juhee have known each other since age 8. To celebrate their college graduation last spring, they got matching ink on their ankle — two delta signs overlapping, signifying how they changed together, and how nobody ever grows alone.
Deepa has two other tattoos. The one on her back says “perspective” backward so she can read it in the mirror.
“I like to go to studios. The first tattoo was made by a friend of mine. And this was made by an artist in a studio who I became friends with later. It’s an experience you share with somebody,” Aslan said.