Tattoos have become a norm for younger generations, but older generations can't seem to shake the negative stigma against tattoos (Image via Haaretz)

Tales From the Tatted: Tattoo Conventions and Why They’re Important

Find out why people are positively buzzin’ about tattoos. 

Culture x
Tattoos have become a norm for younger generations, but older generations can't seem to shake the negative stigma against tattoos (Image via Haaretz)

Find out why people are positively buzzin’ about tattoos. 

Long gone are the days when tattoos were permanently inked on only the meanest, toughest dudes and the rare female. The year is 2017 and tattoos have begun to crop up just about everywhere; from young college students to bad-ass grannies, inking up is becoming pretty popular. Pop culture is starting to reflect increasing interest in tattoos with shows such as “Ink Masters,” where established tattoo shops compete to create the best tattoo which is then evaluated by a panel of judges.

Millennials are leading the race to get under the gun, while as much as 47 percent of the Gen Y population is sporting some type of ink. While it’s apparent that most millennials view tattoos positively, it’s important to investigate whether this holds true regarding older generations.

Though times have changed, the negative stigma that comes along with tattoos has yet to be shaken entirely. Typically, tattoos were and still are, to some degree, viewed as “unprofessional.” Gen Y might be more inclined to get tattooed, but they are also perceptive of the baby boomer generation’s hesitancy to accept tattoos in the workplace. Millennials consider this fact when they pick the placement of their tattoos. 86 percent of millennials decide on their tattoo placement based on whether they can conceal their artwork while at work. It’s a no-brainer that there’s no correlation between having tattoos and being an efficient worker, so it’s time to address the stigmatization of tatted people.

As a person with quite a few visible tattoos myself, I’ve been victim to the negative opinions toward tattoos extend beyond the workplace. I was once asked whether I was concerned about the ink in my tattoos poisoning my organs in the future. Talk about awkward. While the comment was disregarded because it was completely unfounded, it reveals the attitudes and opinions that some hold regarding tattoos. Biases about tattoos are still very much alive and thriving today. While becoming a human canvas might not be your ‘thing’, it shouldn’t change the fact that permanently painted people deserve the same respect. So, what can be done to unlearn this silly bias?

Answer: Attend a tattoo convention!

Tattoo conventions are held all over the globe, which makes them quite accessible to just about anyone. The basic premise of a tattoo convention is simple: Artists from all over sign up to feature their artwork and offer tattoo appointments throughout the day. A few days leading up to the event, artists participating in the convention will put out feelers for potential tattoo appointments during convention hours. If you’re looking to get tatted, I heavily recommend taking advantage of this because most artists will offer deals for quick flash tats (not to mention, it’s a badass tattoo story). Various vendors will set up tables that showcase their best art, which is typically a book of photographs that feature past tattoos the artist has created. From the bare-skinned to the human works of art, tattoo conventions offer a non-traditional learning experience for everyone.

@shishmania work done on Zack Frost at 2017 Westchester Tattoo Convention (Image via Zack Frost)


For those who remain in the non-inked population, it might seem intimidating to show up to a convention hosted by a bunch of knuckle-cracking, tatted people (insert heavy-handed sarcasm here). It’s actually the perfect place to begin challenging the stigma perpetrated against tattooed people because you get to see firsthand that they’re just like anyone else. A stereotypical tattooed person doesn’t exist because tattoos have become so commonplace as of late. Conventions offer a great opportunity to meet and speak to the people who live underneath all the ink. Most artists are extremely open to discussing their ideas about tattooing and the various style in which they tattoo.

By conversing with tattooed people, there is an opportunity to learn what motivates some to ink up completely. There’s something to be said about making a lifelong commitment to a certain symbol or phrase, so why not learn what inspires tattoo connoisseurs. Conventions are also a great experience for the ink-less because there is a chance to investigate the various styles of tattooing before committing to a lifelong tat. Perusing an artist’s book of previously completed work might also serve as a catalyst for inspiration for a future tattoo. Keep in mind that not all tattoo artists are created equal, so it’s important to do your homework before committing to an artist who might not be able to create the perfect tat that you’re gunning for.

Understanding why people enjoy getting tattoos might help negate the stigma that continues to surround the tattooed community. Bear in mind that everyone has a different perception of tattoos. Some feel that tattoos need to have a super deep meaning while others are completely comfortable getting a slice of pizza buzzed on their skin. Whatever the case may be, conventions can be used as a chance for all of us to become a bit more open-minded.

Tatty Daddies

Tattoos have, thankfully, come a long way since they were first discovered by archeologists on a 5,200-year-old mummy named “Iceman.”  Tattoo junkies can rejoice that the guns and inks used today have been revolutionized to produce clean lines and vibrant colors. Conventions are attended by people with an enormous variety of ink, so the heavily tattooed can see how their own ink stacks up against others. Some conventions hold contests that rate tattoos based on specific characteristics, such as best traditional tattoo or most heavily tattooed person. Winners of the contests usually earn a nifty trophy and certified bragging rights.

Tattoo conventions also offer the chance to see a variety of skill levels, ranging from novices to knockout veterans. For those who are familiar with the tattoo world, getting the chance to see high-caliber artists in action is a surreal experience, since these artists can have wait lists that are months long. Conventions are awesome because sometimes if the stars align just right, a well-sought-after artist might be able to squeeze you in between other clients. Another added benefit that can be reaped by attending a tattoo convention is the ability to extend your tatty social circle.

Scoring a sweet tattoo is a great experience. But if getting a tat isn’t on your bucket list, conventions are still a great place to socialize with people who might fall outside of your typical group of friends. Whether you’re a lover of going under the gun or are just dipping your toes in the water, tattoo conventions offer a little somethin’ for everybody.

Writer Profile

Kelly Lambkin

SUNY Cortland

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