The News Courier in Athens, Alabama


June 1, 2009

Indelible ink, recession proof

Tattoos leave permanent reminder of things valued

Are the tattoos many young Americans wear today an expression of their subconscious views on the nation’s consumer driven downturn? Or are tattoos this generation’s choice of rebellious symbolism against the government? Whatever the case, while many companies and industries are tightening their financial belts, the tattoo industry seems to be thriving.

Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen metaphorically connects the influx of tattoos accepted into mainstream society to the recent spending habits that put America’s economy into a recession. People don’t want to think about how their actions may be regrettable in the future, but want the instant gratification pick-me-up of today, he says.

“The tattoo is the battle flag of today in its war with tomorrow,” Cohen said in a column last July. “The permanence of the moment — the conviction that now is forever — explains what has happened to the American economy. We are, as a people, deeply in debt. We are, as a nation, deeply in debt … We bought homes we could not afford and took out mortgages we could not pay and whipped out the plastic on everything else. Debts would be due in the future, but, with any luck, the future would remain in the future.”

He goes on to say, “[Today’s tattoos] don’t represent an indelible experience or membership in some sort of group but an assertion that today’s whim will be tomorrow’s joy.”

However, many tattoo artists feel that the steady business stream of recent years is in direct proportion to the positive, more thrifty, shift of consumer and societal values.

Tattoos do, indeed, give the owner a large circle of comrades, they often reveal what the owner holds dear, and, yes, tattoos have, with the exception of a laser, permanence, said artists at West Coast Tattoo in Athens.

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