Nearly every enthusiast culture holds conventions – events where fans with like minds and similar interests can congregate and immerse themselves in their favorite pastimes while surrounded by similarly energetic community members. Tattooing is, of course, no exception. Tattoo conventions have sprung up all across the U.S. and the world at large, offering both veteran inksters, curious neophytes and onlookers a chance to rub knuckle-tats with some of the best artists and most stunning art in the industry, while having a bit of fun along the way.
For those who don't fully understand tattoo culture, such events may seem strange indeed. But many would be surprised to find out just how informative and entertaining they can be. So dust off your tattoo gun and take in some of these interesting facts about tattoo conventions – not to mention, where one may be rolling through a town near you.
A global celebration of a worldwide art
You most likely already know that tattooing didn't originate in the U.S. or even the Western world. Despite its ever-growing prominence in Western culture, tattoos are actually something of an import, picked up in Polynesia from sailors in the 18th and 19th centuries, Tattoo Temple reported. What is less clear, however, is where the practice began initially. Interesting to note is that despite prevalence of tattooing among South Pacific tribal cultures, this area of the world doesn't lay sole claim to the art. In fact, tattooing seems to have evolved simultaneously worldwide. From Polynesians to Africans to Celts to Ancient Greeks, nearly every corner of the classical world has independently used a tattoo needle to leave its mark on history.
Despite the current modern trend of tattoos as a fashion statement, cultures around the globe have been inking themselves for far more utilitarian and functional purposes. For example, certain tribal groups use intricate tattoos to determine membership to a specific tribe or even rank in the military or social caste. And even though mainstream culture would have you believe otherwise, there was even a period in recent U.S. history where authorities weren't only accepting of tattoos, they were recommending them. According to the Chicago Tribune, fear of nuclear attack in Cold War-era America prompted many officials to recommend all citizens tattoo their underarms with their blood type, as a sort of permanent medical alert bracelet in the event of disaster. The underarm was suggested instead of the arm or leg to ensure that unexpected dismemberment didn't result in ad hoc tattoo removal. In fact, the source noted that the idea was so popular at the time that not one single newspaper that reported on the idea opposed it.
Getting in on the action
If you're a tattoo enthusiast, or even a curious bystander interested in learning more about a subculture, there are plenty of opportunities within the U.S. Most major metropolitan areas host tattoo conventions throughout the year. Some of the more notable ones are the Boston Tattoo Convention which, according to the Boston Herald, just celebrated its 13th year with 200 of the top tattooists from around the country. New York City is, not surprisingly, something of a Mecca for these events, serving as home to the Empire State Tattoo Convention as well as the New York Tattoo Show.
Even those who are outside the U.S. have plenty of options, as Europe has its own thriving tattoo culture. The Netherlands' famous Amsterdam Tattoo Convention is an annual event that is one of the largest such expos in all of Europe. While skilled artists are on hand to administer ink to the attendees, these events are fun for the ink-free as well, as they are usually accompanied by live music, craft shows and other attractions.
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