Today, tattoo art is mainstream. You do not have to be a criminal to have tattoos and you do not have to be a merchant seaman for any tattoos that you have being understandable facets of your life. In today’s world, you can be an upstanding citizen, male or female, and sport tattoos while still being perfectly acceptable. Things were not always this way, especially for women.
In the late 1800s, however, women in high society sought a means to beautify themselves. Ironically, this was done through Victorian tattoos. Men were doing the same thing after returning from journeys across the globe on ships. They often obtained tattoos in faraway places from primitive peoples who taught them the technique of applying tattoos.
These Victorian tattoos were done to beautify the elite. Men got them to be more fascinating and women often go the names of their husbands so as to appear more loyal and beautiful. The first Victorian body art was documented within the upper class in England. The trend then migrated to the United States
By the late 1800s, the trend changed. This was when the only women who had tattoos were those who were involved in circus acts. This is when the practice became associated with being something that only lower class individuals partook of.
Unfortunately, this assumption remained in place during the mid-20th century. This is because body art soon included raunchy images. Before this, however, there were a few notable individuals that gave tattoo art a great reputation.
One individual was the first woman tattoo artist in the USA. Maud Wagner had her entire body tattooed. Her husband had introduced her to the art after his career as a merchant seaman. Maud originally had her start in the circus world, so she did have an adventurous side that allowed her to venture into the world of body art quite freely.
Maud and her husband are credited with bringing the modern age of body art into the mainstream world. As for her Victorian counterparts, the body art allowed them to be fashionable and ornamental. Body art was viewed highly because for these women and men the art usually was depicted tastefully with images and patterns of beauty and femininity.
Once the circus acts began traveling around the United States, the wearers of body art became looked at as anything but tasteful people like their Victorian elite counterparts. It was during these times that tattoos fell into a place of cultural disdain. Unless a man wore them and had them from time spent during war or at sea, they were anything but attractive and upscale especially if worn by a woman.
Today, it seems the worldview of tattoo art has reverted back to the view held by upper class individuals in the Victorian era. People from all walks of life are now looked at as being perfectly acceptable wearing meaningful works of art in the form of tattoos. This art is a form of individual expression.