Judi Batchelor was appalled years ago when two of her sons got tattoos.
The 84-year-old retired educator grew up in a time when only rough characters had tattoos.
“People just didn’t get them. It was looked down upon,” said Batchelor, who lives in Satellite Beach.
But times are changing.
Just look at the tiny bird tattoo Batchelor now has near her ankle. She was inspired to get it when about 30 of her relatives got similar ones in honour of a deceased family member.
Satellite Beach tattoo artist Cash Combs inked Batchelor on her 84th birthday. The grandmother said she plans to get another piece of body art on her 85th birthday in April.
“I am proud of my tattoo,” Batchelor said. “When it’s not cold out, I wear flip-flops to show it off.”
In recent years, more people are getting tattoos, and more businesses are changing their policies regarding employees getting inked.
In 2012, about 21% of Americans had at least one tattoo. Compare that to 32% of Americans who were tatted in 2020, according to a survey conducted by Pew Research Center.
Gone are the days when people associated criminals or gangsters with the ones getting inked.
According to the Pew Research Center, 24% of people with tattoos have a bachelor’s degree, and 21% have a postgraduate degree. The study also showed that 31% of inked people are in middle-income households, and 21% are in upper-income households.
Combs, the tattoo artist who decorated Batchelor, estimates that 70% of his clientele are professionals, from engineers to doctors to professional athletes.
Companies also are relaxing their policies regarding employees and tattoos. Businesses like Disney, UPS and Virgin Atlantic have adjusted their dress policies, allowing employees to have some visible tattoos.
Mark Longenecker, owner of Endless Summer Tattoo in Cocoa Beach, has been a tattoo artist for 30 years. When he first started the business, it was illegal to get tattoos in some parts of the country.
“If you could open a shop, it was on the outskirts of town because it was seen in a bad light as criminal activity,” Longenecker said.
A shift took place once there were magazines dedicated to the tattoo industry. Longenecker said it was boosted when TV shows like Miami Ink hit the airwaves.
In 2014, Longenecker appeared as a contestant on the national TV show Ink Master. He finished in the top four out of 18 tattoo artists.
“It opened the eyes to many people and took that scary light off it,” Longenecker said. “It takes out the fear of tattoos and tattoo shops. People who were against it before, even if they were extremely judgmental, see there is a reason you are getting a tattoo, and it becomes more acceptable.”
Batchelor chuckled when thinking about how her views on tattoos have changed over the decades. Years ago, she would never have believed she would be celebrating birthdays in her 80s by getting tattoos.
“I already have my appointment booked for my 85th birthday,” she said. “I think I’m going to get a dolphin because I’ve always liked dolphins.”
The only debate Batchelor has about tattoos these days is where on her body she should get them.