Today's View of Tattoos: Their Style & Stigma - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Today's View of Tattoos: Their Style & Stigma

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Eau Claire (WQOW) - A picture is worth a thousand words, especially when it's a permanent one on your body.  Tattoos are becoming more popular and we're wondering what the perception is today of body art, at home and at work. Not 40 or 20 years ago... but today.

Tattoos can mean many different things: they can show where you've been, support your favorite team, help you remember a loved one, or someone you've lost, or they can just bring a little levity. They're a way to set you apart.

Joshua "Lunchbox" Beaulieu, a tattoo artist from Artisan Tattoo in Eau Claire says, "It's kind of like your own scrapbook on your skin."  With TV shows and the Internet, ink is on the rise.  Kyle Hoffman, the owner of A Brand New Tattoo in Eau Claire says, "Tattoo culture is in everything now."  Aaron Krueger, an artist at Brand New says, "Sometimes in their 80s, a grandma or grandpa getting their first tattoo, which is kind of neat."

But that mainstreaming can have a downside.

Hoffman says, "It's good and it's bad... it keeps us busy... it makes everybody and their brother think they can do what we do for a living and it's definitely not the case."  Beaulieu says, "I'm covering up a lot more these days, there's so many places popping up, and not everyone has been taught correctly, so what happens is the people are being misguided, so they go into the shop, and they feel, because they're in a studio, that it should be a safe zone for them, they should be able to get what they're paying for, and they're not."

Every artist we spoke to had the same advice: before you get a tattoo, do your research.

Krueger says, "Actually come into the shop, look at portfolios, let the work speak for itself."  Hoffman says, "Get what you want, where you want it, how you want it, and do it smartly. You only get one chance to do it right."

But there are some people who say you maybe shouldn't do it at all.

Karen Trinko, from Eau Claire says, "I think it hurts them more than it helps them."  Ken Anderson, a fellow citizen says, "I just don't understand why people would put something so permanent on their body."

C.J. Long, a tattoo enthusiast from Eau Claire says, "I can see people, like older people, they'll see us with our daughter, and they give that disgusted look, like I'm a bad person or a bad parent because I have tattoos."

When you first meet Long, the first thing that jumps out at you is the tattoos.  "Somewhere around 50, I just quit counting."  He has them on his arms, his neck, his face.  "I got one right here under my beard, it matches it."

But he wants people to look past the tattoos and get to know the person underneath.  "I'm an at home dad. I'm a chef, I have a Bachelor's Degree in the Culinary Arts. Tattoos don't make the person, tattoos are just something that person likes, and if you don't like them, that's cool, don't get them," says Long.

"I've gotten in so many arguments with people over tattoos, 'Why would you get that many?' or 'Why would you get them on your face?' I'm like, 'Why do you wear jewelry? Why do you buy rings?' 'Well, you can take those off.' I'm like, 'So? I don't want to take mine off,'" says Long.

Anderson says, "I've talked to people who have had them a long time, and now they kind of regret having them."

Hoffman says, "It kind of cracks me up that people who don't have tattoos are so worried about people that do."

But the trends do seem to be changing.

Ruth Peterson, from Eau Claire says, "I don't mind them, I'm a person of the sixties, so I'm used to a lot of expression and different ways of doing that."  Beaulieu says, "I know doctors, I know attorneys, there's a lot of people that have them."  Hoffman says, "It's usually the older crowd that doesn't get into tattoos, but I have an 80-year-old grandma that I've tattooed nine times now, and I don't think that would've happened 30 years ago."

The stigma is fading more and more every year, but for it to disappear completely, that will require patience.  Kay Weinzirl, from Eau Galle says, "It's a generational thing, and there's many generations ahead of the generation now that prefers tattoos that really don't care for them, it would take years."  Beaulieu says, "Tattoos are becoming a sign of the establishment. So many people have them, that it's going to become a rebellion not to have them."

Krueger says, "I think our generation is more tattooed, and we're going to keep getting older, we're going to keep rising up in all the companies, and pretty soon it's going to be common that just everybody has a tattoo. So hopefully it keeps growing like that, and doesn't get to a point where some of the younger generation thinks it isn't cool to have tattoos and they don't get tattooed to be different. That'll not be good... for us."

In the meantime, those in the tattoo world would remind you that most of the negative reactions to tattoos are the result of out-of-date thinking.  Krueger says, "It's the stigma that follows from years ago, that you've got tattoos, you're a biker, or you're a drug dealer, or you're some dirty person, and it's not that way anymore."

Long says, "I'm just like anybody else. I'm not afraid to... I'm just... I'm a dad. You know? I've got three kids… I'm just like anybody else. Like I said, just because I have tattoos doesn't make me a bad person or a bad parent. They're just ink."

One of the key issues involving tattoos is what employers say.  Tattoos in the workplace is the focus as the series "Tattoos: Style & Stigma" continues Thursday night at 10 p.m. on Eau Claire's Own News 18.

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