For many of us growing up, our parents were keen to remind us that if we went ahead and got that tattoo we'd been asking about, we'd never be able to find a job. Fortunately for the NBC-reported 40 percent of U.S. households that have tattooed individuals living under their roofs, this turned out not to be the case.
However, while tattoos may be becoming more accepted in mainstream culture and society, there are still those enthusiasts who are committed to taking the practice to new levels. From inking nearly their entire bodies to covering themselves with extreme and sometimes graphic images, the extreme tattoo crowd likes to make itself known. One trend in extreme tattooing is poking its head above the shirt collars of the U.S. – facial tattoos. One celebrity in particular – U.S. football player Ethan Westbrooks – has called new attention to this growing phenomenon with his recently inked face.
Like almost all trends in the history of tattooing, facial tattoos have been around for a while, and their history extends back through the centuries and across international borders. As the Daily Beast reported, one such example is the cultural practice of women receiving facial tattoos in Papua New Guinea. According to the source, the practice has existed in New Guinea culture practically forever – it's believed to be a tradition as old as the tribal creation myth. Interestingly, facial tattoos among the country's Korafe tribe are reserved strictly for women, as a coming-of-age rite administered to adolescent girls.
Despite the tribe's rich and long-standing cultural history centering around the practice of tattooing faces, a world made smaller by globalization has begun to creep into even this small corner of the world. Modern-day tribal members told the Daily Beast that interactions with more Western cultures have resulted in something of a culture shock when outsiders not familiar with the specific tribal practice were brought face-to-face – literally – with the Korafe's robust tattooing appreciation.
Tackling normalcy to the ground
While facial tattoos are far from new, we Westerners have been fairly sequestered from them for centuries. Those within our own society who have inked their faces have typically been regarded as fringe and esoteric, somewhat separate from "normal" life. As CNN reported, a 2011 survey revealed that 31 percent of employers stated visible tattoos would be a hindrance to an employee's promotion prospects. Even the U.S. Army prohibits tattoos on the neck and face, according to Regulation 670-1, the source reported.
"People will start treating you differently once you become a heavily tattooed person," tattoo artist Alivia Foley told the source.
One recent example drives home this distinction. NFL defensive lineman Ethan Westbrooks made sports headlines with his facial tattoo, Business Insider reported. Heavily tattooed athletes are fairly commonplace even in the U.S., but as the source indicated, Westbrooks' case is somewhat unique. He received his signature ink back in 2011, while he was working at a local Toys "R" Us store, before his rise to the NFL. According to Westbrook, his motivation for receiving a tattoo just below his eye wasn't to further normalize tattoos, but just the opposite – he wanted to make sure he could never get a "normal" job.
Westbrooks' unconventional motivation may have paid off in his case, but it highlights just how far the U.S. has to go in terms of general tattoo acceptance. Before you go out and ink your own face, keep in mind that once Westbrooks is no longer an NFL star, this celebrity tattoo icon may be seeking out celebrity tattoo removal. After all, if tattooing your face specifically to prevent you from getting a normal job isn't a recipe for future tattoo regret, nothing is.
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