Saturday, April 09, 2011

Tattoo Culture

Theodore Dalrymple reviews Margo DeMello's Bodies of Inscription. An excerpt:

In fact, her book is largely concerned with a comparatively recent phenomenon: the spread of tattooing to the American middle classes. This is also a British, and no doubt a European and Australian, phenomenon. The tattoo was once a resolutely proletarian form of body adornment which the middle classes regarded as symbolic of lower-class savagery, bad taste, and irresponsibility (the decision to be tattooed was, indeed, often taken while drunk in the company of other drunks). A middle- class person who had himself tattooed was thereby at once déclassé: a slide down the social scale more precipitous and serious than that brought about by a mésalliance, insofar as tattoos last longer, and are more difficult to obliterate, than marriages contracted in haste.

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