HAPPY NATIONAL TATTOO DAY! Join us as we celebrate getting inked and heart shapes that say “Mom”! Today we’re celebrating with comedian, engineer in biotech, and tattoo owner and enthusiast Nicki Fuchs (Twitter: @nfewks / Instagram: @nfewks)!! LET’S PARTY!!

Show Notes

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History + fun facts about the holiday

  • First, let’s define what a tattoo is, for those listeners who may not be familiar with the term. According to Wikipedia, a tattoo “is a form of body modification where a design is made by inserting ink, dyes and pigments, either indelible or temporary, into the dermis layer of the skin (the layer between the epidermis and subcutaneous tissues) to change the pigment.”
    • Tattoos generally fall into three broad categories: purely decorative (or no specific meaning); symbolic (with a specific meaning pertinent to the wearer); pictorial (a depiction of a specific person or item)
    • Tattoos may also be used for identification purposes such as ear tattoos on livestock, tattoos denoting that a domestic animal (such as a cat or dog) has been sterilized, or you know, good old fashioned concentration camp style
  • The word “tattoo,” or tattow as it was stated in the 18th century, is derived from the Samoan word for “tatau” meaning “to strike.” Before the word was imported to the western world, the practice of tattooing was described as painting, scarring, or staining.
  • The American Academy of Dermatology distinguishes five types of tattoos: amateur tattoos, professional tattoos (both via traditional methods and modern tattoo machines), cosmetic tattoos (or “permanent makeup”), traumatic tattoos, and medical tattoos
    • Traumatic tattoos, also known as “natural tattoos,” occur when a substance such as asphalt or gunpowder is rubbed into a wound as the result of an accident or other trauma. For example, coal miners may develop characteristic tattoos from coal dust getting into wounds.
      • Another example is an amalgam tattoo, which occurs when amalgam particles (a liquid mercury and metal alloy mixture used in dentistry to fill cavities) are implanted into the soft tissues of the mouth during filling placement and removal
      • Accidental tattoos can also be the result of deliberate or accidental stabbing with a pencil or pen, leaving graphite or ink in the skin
    • Medical tattoos are used to ensure that instruments are properly located for repeated application of radiotherapy and for the areola in some forms of breast reconstruction. They may also convey medical information about the wearer, such as blood group or a medical condition. Medical tattoos may also be used in skin tones to cover vitiligo, a skin pigmentation disorder
      • SS blood group tattoos (Blutgruppentatowierung) were worn by members of the Waffen-SS in Nazi Germany during WWII to identify their wearer’s blood type. After the war, this evidence of belonging to the Waffen-SS lead to arrest and prosecution, so a number of ex-Waffen-SS would shoot themselves through the arm, removing the tattoo and leaving scars like the ones resulting from pox inoculation, making the removal less obvious
    • Tattoos may also serve as rites of passage, marks of status and rank, symbols of religious and spiritual devotion, decorations for bravery, sexual lures and marks of fertility, pledges of love, amulets and talismans, protection, and as punishment, like the marks of outcasts, slaves and convicts
    • People also choose to be tattooed for artistic, cosmetic, sentimental/memorial, religious, and magical reasons, or to symbolize their belonging to or identification with particular groups, including criminal gangs or a particular ethnic or law-abiding subculture
    • Tattoos have been and are still used for the purposes of identification, and people have also been forcibly tattooed for this reason. 
      • During the Holocaust, an infamous Nazi practice was to forcibly tattoo concentration camp inmates with identification numbers, a practice that began in the fall of 1941. 
        • Of the Nazi camps, only Auschwitz put tattoos on inmates. The tattoo was the prisoner’s camp number, sometimes with a special symbol added. For example, Jews would sometimes receive a triangle, and Romani received the letter “Z” to denote the German word Zigeuner or “Gypsy.” 
      • As early as the Zhou dynasty, which lasted from 1046-256 BC, Chinese authorities would enforce facial tattoos as a punishment for some crimes or to mark prisoners or slaves
      • The Roman Empire would tattoo gladiators and slaves. Exported slaves would receive a tattoo with the words “tax paid,” and it was also common to tattoo “Stop me, I’m a runaway” on their foreheads
        • The practice came to an end when Emperor Constantine the Great came to power. He heavily promoted the Christian church, and banned facial tattooing around AD 330 due to the Biblical strictures against the practice. The Second Council of Nicaea banned all body markings as a pagan practice in AD 787
      • During the period of early contact between Europeans and the Maori, the Maori would hunt and decapitate each other for their moko tattoos, which they then traded for European items such as axes and firearms. “Moko tattoos were facial designs worn to indicate lineage, social position, and status within the tribe. The tattoo art was a sacred marker of identity among the Maori and also referred to as a vehicle for storing one’s tapu, or spiritual being, in the afterlife.”
      • Forensic pathologists occasionally use tattoos to identify burned, putrefied, or mutilated bodies. As we mentioned earlier, tattoo pigment lies encapsulated deep in the skin, so tattoos aren’t easily destroyed even when the skin is burned
      • Tattoos may also be used on animals, such as cats, dogs, show animals, thoroughbred horses, and livestock. Tattooing in these cases may serve for purposes of identification, ownership, or to signify that the animal has been surgically sterilized
    • Cosmetic tattooing, sometimes called permanent makeup, is the use of tattoos to enhance eyebrows, lips, eyes, or even moles, typically using natural colors. 
      • Placing artistic designs over surgical scarring is a growing trend, particularly over mastectomy scarring. Rather than received reconstruction surgery following a mastectomy, many women choose to tattoo over the scar tissue instead, as a truly personal way of regaining control over their post-cancer bodies
  • As an artform, tattooing has been practiced globally since at least Neolithic times, as evidenced by mummified preserved skin. The oldest discovery of tattooed human skin was found on the body of Otzi the Iceman, dating to about 3250 BC. Otzi had 61 carbon-ink tattoos consisting of 19 groups of lines simple dots and lines on his lower spine, left wrist, behind his right knee and on his ankles. It’s been argued that the tattoos were a form of healing because of their placement, though other explanations are plausible
    • The oldest figurative (derived from real object sources, or representational) tattoos in the world were discovered in 2018 on two mummies from Egypt which are dated between 3351 and 3017 BC
    • Other tattooed mummies have been recovered from 49 archaeological sites, including in Greenland, Alaska, Siberia, Mongolia, western China, Egypt, Sudan, the Philippines, and the Andes.
    • The earliest possible evidence for tattooing in Europe actually appears on ancient art from the Upper Paleolithic period as incised designs on the bodies of humanoid figurines. One example is the ivory Lowenmench (“Lion-Man”) figurine from the Aurignacian culture, which dates to about 40K years ago and features a series of parallel lines on its left shoulder. This figurine also happens to be the oldest-known uncontested example of both zoomorphic sculpture and figurative art
    • Ancient tattooing was most widely practiced among the Austronesian people (Southeast Asia, Oceania, East Africa). It was one of the early technologies developed by the Proto-Austronesians in Taiwan and coastal South China prior to at least 1500 BC
      • It may have originally associated with headhunting, and employed the characteristic skin-puncturing technique, using a small mallet and a piercing implement made from Citrus thorns, fish bone, bone, and oyster shells
    • The oldest known physical evidence of tattooing in North America was made through the discovery of a frozen, mummified Inuit female on St. Lawrence Island, Alaska who had tattoos on her skin. Radiocarbon determined that she lived sometime in the 16th century
      • Early explorers to North America made lots of ethnographic observations about the Indigenous People they met. As they didn’t have a word for tattooing, they instead described the process as “pounce, prick, list, mark, and raze” to “stamp, paint, burn, and embroider.”
    • In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, tattoos were as much about self-expression as they were about having a unique way to identify a sailor’s body should he be lost at sea or impressed (taking of military or naval force by compulsion) by the British Navy. The best source for early American tattoos is the protection papers issued following a 1796 congressional act to safeguard American seamen from impressment. These proto-passports catalogued tattoos alongside birthmarks, scars, race, and height. Using simple techniques and tools, tattoo artists in the early republic typically worked on board ships using anything available as pigments, even gunpowder and urine. Men marked their arms and hands with initials of themselves and loved ones, significant dates, symbols of the seafaring life, liberty poles, crucifixes, and other symbols.”
    • It is commonly held that the modern popularity of tattooing stems from Captain James Cook’s three voyages to the South Pacific in the late 19th century. The dissemination of the texts and images from them brought more awareness about tattooing, however, tattooing has been consistently present in Western society from the modern period stretching back to Ancient Greece. 
      • Tattoo historian Anna Felicity Friedman suggests a couple reasons for the ‘Cook Myth,’ including that the modern words for the practice (“tattoo,” “tatuaje,” ”tatouage,” ”Tatowierung,” ”tatuagem”) derive from ‘tatau,’ which was introduced to European languages through Cook’s travels.  However, earlier European texts show that a variety of metaphorical terms for the practice were in use, including pricked/marked/engraved/decorated/punctured/stained/embroidered. The growing print culture at the time of Cook’s voyages may have increased the visibility of tattooing despite its prior existence in the West
    • New York City is largely considered the birthplace of modern tattoos, since the first recorded professional tattoo artist in the US was a German immigrant, Martin Hildebrandt, who opened a shop in NYC in 1846. He quickly became popular during the Civil War among soldiers and sailors of both Union and Confederate militaries
    • In 1891, New York tattooer Samuel O’Reilly patented the first electric tattoo machine, which was a modification of Thomas Edison’s electric pen
    • Some of the earliest appearances of tattoos on women during this period were in the circus. Other than their faces, hands, necks, and other readily visible areas, these “Tattooed Ladies” were covered in ink. The earliest women would claim tales of captivity in order to draw crowds, claiming to have been taken hostage by Native Americans that forcibly tattooed them as a form of torture, though those stories were eventually replaced with narratives of the women’s personal liberation and freedom.
      • The last tattooed lady was out of business by the 1990s
      • The percentage of fashionable NYC women who were tattooed at the turn of the century has been estimated at around 75%. Popular designs were butterflies, flowers, and dragons
      • Tattoos were an early way that women took control of their own bodies
    • When Social Security numbers were introduced in the 1930s, it became a trend to get your numbers tattoos on your arms, chest, or back to make them easier to remember
    • A Tattoo Renaissance began in the late 1950s and was greatly influenced by artists such as Lyle Tuttle, Cliff Raven, Don Nolan, Zeke Owens, Spider Webb, and none other than our fave, Don Ed Hardy 
      • In 1961, however, this renaissance experienced a temporary setback, at least in New York City, as a hepatitis outbreak prompted the health department to ban tattooing, leading tattoo artists to either move their shops out of the city or work out of their apartments
        • This ban wasn’t lifted until 1997 by Mayor Rudy Giuliani
  • According to National Day Calendar, the holiday has been observed since 2016, but the source and founder are currently unknown
  • Americans for the Arts, a nonprofit organization for advancing the arts and arts education in America, also recognizes the holiday. In recognition of the 2016 holiday, they released a series of findings on the country’s perceptions and attitudes towards tattoos as an artform.
    • The survey was conducted in December 2015, polling 3,020 adults online
    • They found that 73% of Americans believe that at least some tattoos are art (a graph breakdown by age and whether all or some tattoos are art can be found below the sources in the shownotes)
    • 27% of Americans have at least one tattoo. 15% have one, 12% have more than one
    • There is no significant difference between genders on the likelihood of having a tattoo (27% of men vs. 25% of women, respectively). Men are more likely to have just one tattoo (17% vs 12%), women are more likely to have multiple (13% vs. 10%)
    • Americans with full-time jobs are the most likely to have at least one tattoo (34%), compared to those who work part-time (26%), are unemployed (27%), or retired (9%)
  • I got the following statistics from historyoftattoos.net and the article, “Tattoo Statistics: 23 Facts You Won’t Regret Reading,” from creditdonkey.com, published in June 2015:
    • 40% of American households report having at least one person with a tattoo. This is a significant increase from 1999, when about 21% of households did so
    • 22% of millennials aged 18-24 report having at least one tattoo
    • 30% of millennials aged 25-29 report having tattoos, and 38% of adults aged 30-39 are tattooed
    • Nearly 30% of 40-49 years olds, 11% of seniors between 50-64, and just 5% of seniors 65 and older report having tattoos
    • Women are more likely to have their ankle or upper back tattooed (27% and 25%, respectively), while men overwhelmingly choose getting inked on their arm (75%)
    • Tattooing is a $3billion industry, at least as of 2015
    • As of 2013, there were at least 21K tattoo shops operating nationwide
      • The number grows by one every day
      • Miami boasts the highest number of tattoo parlors per capita, with about 24 shops for every 100K people
      • Salina, Kansas has the fewest, with just one tattoo parlor that serves all of its 47K residents, which is a per capita rate of about 2 per 100K (this is inaccurate as of 2019–I found four tattoo parlors listed in the Salinas area, bringing the per capita rate to 8 per 100K)
    • The most expensive “tattoo” is a temporary one composed of 612 half-carat diamonds individually adhered to the skin in a floral pattern, and costs $924K. It was created by Shimansky, a luxury store based in South Africa
    • Average tattoo prices range from $45 for smaller ones to $150 for larger pieces
    • The term “tattoo” became the #1 searched term on the Internet in 2002
    • 31% of those that have tattoos feel that tattoos made them sexy, 29% feel that it made them (or shows them as) rebellious, while 5% feel that a tattoo shows them as intelligent
    • The most searched language as an inspiration for tattoos is Japanese
    • When looking to get a tattoo, 49% of those polled considered the reputation of the tattoo artist or studio as a most important factor, 43% needed a tattoo with personal meaning, and 8% considered priced as a most important factor
    • 32% of people with tattoos claim that they are addicted to getting inked
    • 69% of people don’t see people with tattoos any more or less deviant than people without tattoos
    • 10% of Americans who have at least one tattoo say they don’t like them
    • Somewhere between 17 and 25% of tattooed people regret their decision. Men are more likely than women to have second thoughts. The most often cited reason for regret is “It’s a name of another person.”
    • 5% of Americans have cover-up tattoos
    • The average cost to remove a tattoo is around $588
    • Tattoo removal is booming, with a yearly revenue in the ballpark of $80 million
    • Earliest tattoo inks were made of carbon and ash
    • If a tattoo ink has metals there is a rare chance that it will become hot during an MRI
    • The current world record holder in number of tattoos is Gregory Paul McLaren, AKA Lucky Diamond Rich, whose skin is 100% covered with tattoos, including the insides of his eyelids, mouth, ears, and foreskin. He’s held the title since 2006
      • Britain’s most tattooed man, King of Ink Land King Body Art The Extreme Ink-Ite (born Matthew Whelan) currently has over 90% of his body covered. 
        • In 2013, the Passport Office refused to issue him a passport, claiming that his unusual name doesn’t fit their policies, however he successfully challenged the UK Government and obtained his passport in 2014
        • On July 1st, 2019, he whined to The Daily Star that he’s having trouble finding love
        • Key quotes: “A lot of women are put off by my tattoos or it makes them really curious. I’m a bit like Marmite so you either like them or you don’t. I’ve had about 15-20 relationships in my life and have definitely got more attention since I got my tattoos. But since my last relationship ended two years ago I haven’t had anything serious. I’m nearly 40 so I would like to settle down and have a family. But at the same time I understand that the way I look might create an issue for some people. A lot of women are really shallow and only go for guys with Love Island-type bodies. Then I get other women who are just interested in me because of my tattoos.”
        • He has also dyed his eyes black and had his nipples removed to allow for a smoother canvas. He also has a huge labret gauge, a subdermal piercing in his forehead, carved “teeth marks” in his ears, and split his tongue in half
    • George C. Reiger Jr. has special permission from Disney to have tattoos of some of their copyrighted material, and specifically Disney characters. He has over 1000 Disney tattoos, including all 101 Dalmatians

Activities to celebrate

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  • From National Day Calendar: “You have the design. National Tattoo Day is the time. Use #NationalTattooDay to share on social media”
  • Checkiday.com suggests that you celebrate the holiday by getting a tattoo! They suggest that, should you want a permanent tattoo, you should find a good local tattoo shop or visit one of the most iconic ones in the world (link in the shownotes)
    • https://matadornetwork.com/abroad/20-iconic-tattoo-shops-around-the-world/
    • If you’re afraid of commitment,  you can always get a temporary tattoo instead, which could be applied with henna, ballpoint pen (or permanent marker or highlighter or whatthefuckever), or a water soluble sticker
    • If you’re a tattoo artist, “the day is best utilized by doing the work you love!”
    • You could also observe the day by going to a tattoo museum or by reading a book on tattoos
    • Tattooed In Reverse by Marilyn Manson
    • The Taste of Ink by The Used
    • Beat the Devil’s Tattoo by Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
    • Rose Tattoo by Dropkick Murphys
    • Tattooed Love Boys by Pretenders
    • Tattooed Tears by The Front Bottoms
    • The Woman with the Tattooed Hands by Atmosphere
    • Inked up by Leo Tatts
    • Tattoos by Caravan Palace
    • Moon Tattoo by Sofi Tukker
    • Like a Tattoo by Sade
    • Tattoo by Hilary Duff
    • Tattoo by Jordin Sparks
    • Tattooed Heart by Ariana Grande


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