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Friday, January 21, 2022


Joe Rosner
Joe Rosner writes about politics, current events and cultural curiosities. He enjoys playing casino blackjack, betting on horse and low-stakes Texas Hold’em. He is the author of “Keep Calm & Carry Pepper Spray: Strategies, Tactics & Techniques for Personal Safety & Self-Defense,” and other books related to workplace violence and self-defense.

A tattoo used to signify a tour in the military, biker gang membership, or time behind bars.  It self-identified you as an outlaw or outcast.  Only tough guys got ink needled into their skin.  Sporting arm art signaled rebellion against the “square” lifestyle.  “Bad Boy” appeal, yes. But meeting the parents?  Now it merely means… you got a tattoo, and are as likely to be a suburban housewife as a sailor, a barista as a biker, or an investment advisor as an inmate. As long as someone doesn’t skimp on their dental work to pay for needlework, they’re increasingly unlikely to be stigmatized.

According to a 2019 poll conducted by Ipsos, three in ten of Americans have one or more tattoos.  People under 55 years old are twice as likely to have at least one tattoo. Forty percent of those ages 18-34 and 36% of those ages 35-54 have at least one tattoo, while the same is true for only sixteen percent of those 55 or  older.

Celebrities had a major role in turning tattoos from disreputable to desirable.  Blues singer Janis Joplin was one of the first when she flaunted her tattooed wrist on national TV.     Mike Tyson’s tribal face tatt may not have started a fashion trend, but no doubt it reduced the stigma of less drastic skin graphics.  By the late 1970s and early 1980s punks, grunge rockers, and professional athletes were showing skin with words, signs, and symbols.  Perhaps the proliferation of pierced parts, public and personal, made 2D bod mods seem tame by comparison.

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Zoë Kravitz has over 50 tattoos, including one on her upper arm misspelling “Mississippi.”

Lady Gaga, is gaga over tattoos having over twenty, including a trumpet designed by her friend Tony Bennett, who is a visual as well as a vocal artist.

Justin and Hailey Bieber got tatted with matching peaches to celebrate his new album “Peaches.” Hailey and her cousin Ireland Baldwin have synched ink spelling the name “Baldwin on their middle fingers.

Scarlett Johansson has six tattoos including a rose vine climbing up her back, a horseshoe and “Lucky You” on one side of her ribs, and an eagle on the other side.



Hip-hop heavy-weight, DaBaby, has a whopping 32 tattoos.


Are tattoos mainstream enough that a candidate with blatant body art can win a major political office?  Not just yet, but one day soon, yes.  A Harris Poll conducted in 2015 found 74% of adults didn’t think tattoos had any correlation to respectability or intelligence.  Dr. Michael T. French, of the University of Miami, and his team’s 2018 study reported men and women with tattoos were just as likely to be employed as their non-tattooed peers, and earned about the same income.  Surprisingly, tattooed men were more likely to be employed than non-tatted men.  Dr. French concluded tattoos, even highly visible ones won’t hurt your job prospects.

Sen. Barry Goldwater is the only major-party presidential candidate known to have a tattoo.  The small tattoo on his left hand designated membership in the Smoki Tribe, a faux Native American group. Unsubstantiated rumors claim Presidents Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, James K. Polk, Andrew Jackson, and Dwight D. Eisenhower were inked, but if so, never showed any tattoos in public or in photographs.

While a number of Congressmen, mostly military veterans, have them, former Rep. Mary Bono Mack is the only known female member of Congress with a tattoo. She got her tattoo of a cross after the 9/11 attacks as a reflection of her strong Christian faith.

PHOTO CREDIT: Financial Times

Other mainstream office-seekers  include Pennsylvania 2022 US Senate candidate and current Lt. Governor John Fetterman who has his hometown of Braddock’s Zip Code tattooed on his left forearm. His right arm lists the dates of all nine murders that occurred while he was mayor there.





Former West Virginia State Senator Richard Ojeda has 36 tattoos. His run for the Democratic US Senate seat fell slightly short of winning. Tattoos did not seem to be a factor with voters.


MJ Hegar a combat veteran and mother of two, had a conservative super-PAC is use an image of her tattoos in an attack ad that described her as “radical”.  Hegar said her cherry blossom tattoos covered up her shrapnel wounds received when her helicopter was shot down in Afghanistan.

Other countries don’t seem concerned about electing inked individuals to office.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s left arm is decorated with a picture of “planet Earth inside a Haida raven.”


New Zealand’s Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta was elected to parliament in spite of, or maybe because of, her “moko.”  A moko is a traditional Māori tattoo that reflects a person’s family history and status.

However, Czech voters may have thought Vladimir Franz’s full face and 90% body tattoos to be a bit much as he only received 6.84% of the presidential vote.

Inked hides have lost much of their stigma in the last few decades.  Elite epidermidis on celebrities and politicians are displayed more often and more prominently and unless they contain offensive words or images, or are deface a face, don’t raise many eyebrows.  With the American electorate undergoing a generational change you can’t rule out a future President Post Malone, Halsey, or Amanda Bynes.

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