person with short blond hair and face tattoos

Face Tattoos Are The New Normal

You may or may not have noticed, either on Instagram or in real life, that an increasing number of young people have face tattoos. As more and more gen-Z’ers are getting their faces inked with tiny tattoos, it begs the question: Where did this trend come from, and when did face tattoos become mainstream? To figure that out, we need to go back to the beginning.

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The History Of Face Tattoos

Face tattoos – and tattoos in general – haven’t always been something seen on everyone, from the hard-core biker dude to your 10th-grade math teacher. Their origins, however, vary depending on where in the world you are from. Ancient Greece, Japan, and China used them to denote either criminals and the crimes they committed or to tag slaves and who they belonged to. (1

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For centuries in some cultures and tribes, tattoos have been a way to express religion, spirituality, and woman or manhood. The Maori people of New Zealand tattoo their faces and bodies to signify certain aspects of themselves and their spirituality. (1) Other tribes in India and the Inuit tattoo their faces in order to be recognized after death so they can transition into the spirit world. For other cultures, tattoos symbolize coming-of-age. (2)

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More recently, tattoos (specifically, face tattoos) were a way to denote gang affiliation, time done in prison, or other dangerous and otherwise taboo life choices. (3) So how and when did getting inked become something that even middle to upper-class white women take part in, and even more so, when did they creep up the neck and onto the face?

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Read: I Drilled a Hole in My Own Skull to Stay High Forever

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How Face Tattoos Became Mainstream

We have the music industry, particularly the rap and hip hop genre, to thank for the slow but steady popularization and then (almost) gentrified face tattoo trend. Though rockstars, rappers, and punk musicians have been getting tatted for years, most never dared to touch the face. Then rapper Lil Wayne came along and changed that rhetoric. (1)

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Small tattoos such as teardrops and crosses began appearing on his face and other rappers of his generation. This act inspired a new generation of rappers to start inking their faces – and act no longer just of defiance or for “shock” value, but one that actually helps them build their presence and their brand. (3)

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This generation of young “Soundcloud rappers” using both that platform and Instagram have brought face tattoos from something allocated only to murders, criminals, and gangs into the mainstream. Rapper Post Malone has the words “Always Tired” inscribed underneath each of his eyes, among others. 21 Savage has a knife etched into his forehead. Even pop star Justin Bieber now has the word “grace” tattooed in tiny, cursive lettering above his right eyebrow. (1)

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No Longer Just Rappers

Instagram and the normalization of face tattoos have opened the floodgates for non-famous or mega-stars to join the trend. Kids as young as 13 are posting images on Instagram of their new ink. (1) You won’t yet find face tattoos in the 9-5 office world, but this could soon change. After all, it wasn’t long ago that any tattoos barred you from jobs anywhere outside the bar industry. Now even your average office worker likely has something inked somewhere on their body.

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With our future professionals getting face tattoos, perhaps one day lawyers will be just adorned with ink just as much as anyone else. Maybe face tattoos in a job interview will be a talking piece rather than an automatic “next candidate, please”. One thing is certain: Inking your face is becoming increasingly popular and likely isn’t going anywhere for quite some time.

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Keep Reading: Has Social Media Has Created a Generation of Narcissists?

Sources

  1. Stormzy just collaborated with Ghanaian rappers Yaw Tog and Kwesi Arthur.” I-D. Frankie Dunn. March 5, 2021.
  2. FROM CHARLES MANSON TO POST MALONE: A BRIEF HISTORY OF FACE TATTOOS.” Daze Digital. Oliver Lunn. January 18, 2019.
  3. Face Value.” Vox. Kaitlyn Tiffany. February 28, 2019.
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