Do I look beautiful or ugly?

Pretty or ugly? Tattoos and piercings

Tattoos and piercings have been around for a long time. The oldest evidence is around 7,000 years old and was found on a tattooed mummy.

Christian tattoos were common in the European Middle Ages. In some countries they should prevent converting to Islam. The word "tattoo" comes from the Tahitian language. It means "a drawing on the skin". Today this body jewelry is more a symbol of beauty and self-expression.

Tattoos and piercings have a ritual purpose. It consists in wanting to distance oneself from other people and groups. A piercing can also mark important phases in life, for example the birth of the first child or the first animal hunted. In India, many women wear a piercing in their nose along with several earrings. Hippies wore ear and nose rings in the 1960s, often after traveling around India. In the western world, earrings were only accepted by women or carpenters until the early 1970s. Today around one in five people between the ages of 14 and 24 in Germany has a piercing, tattooing or both.

Symbolic meaning

Tattoos and piercings can have very different meanings. They are often a sign of belonging to a certain group or a ritual symbol. Certain social groups (e.g. punks) express their protest against society with tattoos and piercings. In the past, tattoos were used among inmates as a mark of the crimes committed. Sailors and seafarers wore symbols such as anchors, hearts or stars to show their affiliation. Nowadays, body jewelry is more used to represent yourself and your exclusivity and to make you feel beautiful.

Kimia Zarifi © Unsplash

Fashion, jewelry and celebrities

Tattoos and piercings have been part of youth culture since the 1990s. They have also been an integral part of adult culture since 2000 at the latest. Famous personalities from music, film and sports contribute to this popularity. The German handball player Stefan Kretzschmar, for example, wears a nose piercing and several tattoos. One tattoo is dedicated to his daughter.

Still in trend

Body modifications such as tattoos and piercings remain in trend in Germany. Young people are much more likely to wear these forms of body jewelry. Men are more likely to get tattoos and women are more likely to wear piercings. According to surveys, one in five Germans today has a tattoo, and almost one in two of the 20 to 29-year-olds has a tattoo. Around a third of women between the ages of 14 and 34 have a piercing, and around 15 percent of men. Popular places for a piercing are the belly, nose and ear.

Decorating the body - an interview with an expert

Dirk Hofmeister is a qualified psychologist at the University of Leipzig. He deals with the subject of body modifications. These are changes that a person makes to their body, such as tattoos and piercings. We asked the scientist a few questions about this.

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Mr. Hofmeister, why do many young people want tattoos and piercings?

Young people want to differentiate themselves from adults and to mark that they are adults. When you come home today with a tattoo, it is no longer as bad as it was 20 or 30 years ago. But a teenager up to the age of 18 is still in the development process. A tattoo needs to be carefully considered. There are many reasons why people get a tattoo or piercing. A tattoo or a piercing is "chic" or "hip". Or the wearer wants to express his or her individuality. From the age of 20, tattooed people often want to mark important phases in their life with their motif. With a symbol, a name or a date, for example. Another aspect is that with a tattoo you want to show that you belong to a group, like the punks for example.

Why do people want tattoos?

Which motifs are particularly popular in tattoos?
Nowadays there is no longer a single popular motif. It is more that the motifs are thought out themselves. More and more larger motifs are being engraved. The tattoos are more colorful and therefore more eye-catching. Also, tattoos on forearms, hands and neck are becoming increasingly popular. Ten years ago these were still exceptions because it is clearly visible.

Which motifs are popular?

Are there any medical risks?
Skin irritation occurs in 96 percent of the newly tattooed. Most of the time these will heal after a week or two. Long-term problems can occur at six to ten percent. For example, a purulent wound or an allergy to the colors. A trial stitch should first be made so that the correct tattoo can only be made after a week. Since 2009 there has been a new guideline for tattoos in Germany that bans dangerous colors. Nevertheless, heavy metals, iron oxides or even aluminum are found again and again in some colors. Piercings have the advantage that they can be removed if they become infected.

Tattoos - yes or no?

Some people love tattoos, others would never get one. We asked the Leipzig students Brigitte and Philipp about their reasons, why they wear a tattoo and why not.

© Birgit Raddatz

No tattoo for eternity

I don't have a tattoo because a tattoo lasts forever or lasts until it is removed. I think that one is still changing. That's why I don't want to do something that I don't know whether I'll still be convinced of in the future. In the course of life, the skin also changes. For example, when you get pregnant, it expands. As you get old, your skin wrinkles. Then when I have a tattoo, it may not look so nice anymore.
Brigitte, 20 years

Brigitte says why she doesn't have a tattoo.

Symbol for a section of my life

I have a tattoo because it symbolizes a certain period in my life. This also makes it an expression of my personality. Many always ask: “Don't you regret that you stabbed yourself?” And then I always ask: “Why should I regret it when it stands for a certain part of my life?” I don't need to be embarrassed. I don't even have to consider having it removed. It just belongs to me.
Philipp, 20 years

Philipp explains why his tattoo belongs to him.

Author: Birgit Raddatz