Tattoo Culture As A Subculture

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This research article poses the question: can the current popular phenomenon of tattoo culture in Cape Town be described as a subculture, with its own stylistic characteristics and its own subcultures? Before we discuss the history of tattooing, one needs to understand what a tattoo is. In simple terms, a tattoo is created by “the insertion of colored materials beneath the skins’ surface or epidermis” (Tattoo Temple 2016: online). Tattoo culture is a form of counter-cultural production. Therefore it is grouped under the larger postmodern umbrella term ‘subculture’. Subculture, put simply, is a cultural group found within a larger group, but people part of a subculture generally have things in common that are different to those of the rest in the larger group. Within the frame of tattoo subcultures, Ken Gelder states that tattooing was “a ‘vogue’ among the English aristocracy in the late eighteenth century, influenced by exoticised indigenous figures from other places” (Gelder. K. 2007:130). By saying that it was a vogue it means that it was its own culture amongst a culture of people who have a very demanding and respectable career, like “doctors and lawyers, for example, and other examples of the ‘ruling classes’” (Gelder. K. 2007:130). Even though it plays a significant role in youth subcultures today, tattoos and tattoo culture, is not a new phenomenon. “The etymological origin of the word ‘tattoo’ is believed to have two major derivations; the first is from the

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