Tattooed Persons,

Originating perhaps as significant identification or ranking systems and evolving through time to take on a variety of meanings and approaches, today’s artistic approach to the tattoo can be as obscure and complex as some of the designs are themselves or as simple as a drunken night on the town coupled with a sudden impulse and an unscrupulous artist.

However, only the latter of these two options is typically acknowledged in modern society’s perspective of the art. The purpose of this paper is to understand the stereotypes that are commonly associated with tattoos.

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Part of the stigma of the tattoo harks back to the custom of the evil samurai and his gang affiliations and thus its subsequent use still today among gang members and in prisons. Tattoos are used in these cases as a means of displaying one’s allegiance to a particular gang or crime syndicate, and in prisons to represent murders committed or the length of time the person has spent in incarceration. Tattoos were worn for similar reasons in Japan, such as to denote membership in the Japanese Kabukimono or the Otokade gangs, during the latter part of the 19th century (Kunihiro, 2004). Gangs tend to have a definitive symbol to represent membership. Members may also have the name of the gang tattooed in large letters visible on the arms, face or chest. Criminal gang members may also opt to get tattoos that have less obvious or clear-cut yet still generally understood connotations.

An example of this less obvious type of tattoo, which has become synonymous with the concept of crime and prison, is that of the teardrop tattoo. The reasons behind this design and its affiliation are numerous and cannot be easily defined. Those who bear the teardrop tattoo, worn on the face, do so for a variety of personal and intra-personal reasons. It’s said to have become popular in Mexico and in American/Hispanic circles, as gangs became rife in a post-depression climate.

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