If you were to ask someone chosen at random 20 or 30 years ago what they thought of tattoos, chances are you'd hear plenty of allusions to criminal activity, destructive counterculture or other unsavory and antisocial facets of modern life. However, ask that same question again today and you'll find out just how much things have changed in recent decades. 

Tattooing has experienced a meteoric rise over the past years, both as a rapidly legitimized artform and as an increasingly socially acceptable aesthetic choice for those who receive them. Despite the fact that tattoos are nearly as old as humanity itself, it's taken until the early 21st century for them to be integrated into modern Western society. What's driving this change, and what does it mean for the future social position of society's burgeoning artform?

A social explosion
Though we view tattooing as an artistic medium today, it is actually a fairly recent development. Ancient cultures that practiced tattooing did so as much as an expression of social and political status or military rank as for aesthetics. Even when tattooing began to emerge in the West, it was sailors and other transient individuals who were at the forefront of tattooing. In fact, tattoos were performed by sailors and other fringe artists more often than not. 

TattooArtist.com noted that it wasn't until the 1970s when tattooing began to intersect with those in the fine art community. Classically trained artists and MFAs turned their attention to tattooing as a relatively new and developing medium. This coincided with significant advances in the technology of tattoo machines, including electric and motorized needles that made the process of tattooing easier and faster.

The source noted that as a result, tattooing evolved from an inadvertent marker of social status to another form of art appreciation. "Tattoo parlors" became "tattoo studios," with the focus shifting from bad tattoos and simple monochromatic designs to larger pieces in vibrant full-color.

International expansion
As with most cultural phenomena, the spread of tattooing hasn't been centralized to just the U.S. In fact, Al Arabiya News reported that the past 10 years have seen a surge in the number of youths in Afghanistan that have begun embracing the art form.

According to the source, the rise of tattooing in these countries is a direct result of inadvertent U.S. cultural expansion. Factors such as recent U.S. military activity in Afghanistan, which has exposed many young people directly to Westerners and their tattoos – not to mention the ever-creeping spread of tattoo-friendly U.S. pop culture such as movies and music – have sparked an interest in tattooing in a country that may not otherwise have been turned onto the idea.

However, tattooing in some international countries is still facing its share of growing pains. Afghanistan is a prime example – a country with a strong Islamic influence on government and policy obviously has specific feelings regarding the rise of tattooing, and they aren't positive. In fact, due to the religion's firm anti-tattooing stance, the source reported that tattoo shops are actually outlawed in the country, with artists eager to learn and adapt their skills in hidden underground shops. 

A global artform
As a popular artistic medium, tattooing is still very young. Techniques and practices will undoubtedly continue to develop as tattoo stigma slowly but surely erodes away. And of course, as the industry grows, so too will the instances of tattoo regret. Laser tattoo removal is an increasingly accessible option for those who wish to erase their ink.

PicoSure® is the latest technology for laser tattoo removal and offers faster and better removal in fewer treatments. PicoSure shatters ink into smaller, dust-like particles which are more efficiently absorbed by the body's natural processes. It is the first and only aesthetic picosecond laser that is FDA-cleared for the removal of tattoos. Visit www.picosurear.wpengine.com to learn more and find a PicoSure Practitioner near you.