The Tattooing of Generations X and Y

Not so long ago, tattoos enjoyed acceptance only in certain limited social circles: primarily bikers, longshoremen, and skanky strippers. At that same time, piercing was only suitable for earlobes, and even that was confined to a single gender.

But sometime in the mid 1980s, a cultural shift took place. Maybe it was Axl Rose’s well-inked arms. Maybe it was a punk scene that was just beginning to poke its head above the underground water. Maybe it was simple youthful rebellion. Whatever the reason, tattooing and piercing established strong roots in the counter-culture of the time. Throughout the 1990s, both became progressively more accepted by mainstream twenty somethings. Generation X was painted and poked more than any generation before them.

Today’s youth are taking full advantage of that groundwork laid by Generation X. Another beneficiary is Icon Tattoo and Piercing (Myspace) in Nashville and Murfreesboro, TN.

I spent an evening at the Icon shop on Broadway in Nashville. Like most typical Friday nights at a tattoo store, it was a bit atypical.

The tattoo schedule was tight with appointments. This is evidently the case every Friday and Saturday night. In fact, Shannon Wages, a tattoo apprentice and henna artist, recommends that people avoid shops that have room for walk-ins on weekend nights. An open schedule suggests that their work is not sought after and therefore not well regarded.

In a back booth Korey LeMay straddled a chair while Tim Bobeck needled black ink into her lower back. Korey was well acquainted with the procedure. She’d already had large colorful flowers stained into her abdomen. Friday she was balancing the cheery plant life with a dark cemetery scene, complete with gargoyles and twisted trees.

Korey was so undisturbed by the whole process that she occupied herself with a billiards game on her phone without even a flinch. Next door, Angel Price put a cartoonish ladybug and a reference to a bible verse on the foot of Laura Caudill. Angel had whipped up the design minutes earlier to match an existing ladybug on Laura’s foot.

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