MENU

Tattoos: The permanent ink that has become a hit with millennials and gen z

Tattoo story

Tattoos have gained popularity among younger generations. This moon and sun tattoo belongs to 19-year-old sophomore Jenee Hensley. 

Tattoos are in the mainstream more than ever. A 2015 poll by The Harris Poll found that nearly half of all millennials have tattoos, compared to just 13 percent of baby boomers. Of the people that have tattoos, 7 in 10 also said that they had more than one. It’s not just the increase in numbers that’s catching our eye, it’s the reason that people are getting tattoos. 

Tramp stamps and butterflies on ankles are in decline, and they are getting outnumbered by unique designs that young people use to signify something specific to them. 

Jenee tattoos

Jenee Hensley's tattoos of a pinkly promise, a sun and moon and a wave. 

Jenee Hensley, a 19-year-old sophomore from Kansas City, Missouri, majoring in pre-med at the University of Kansas, has a tattoo on her upper arm showing a human hand and a skeletal hand engaging in a ‘pinky promise.’ She said that last September she was hit by a vehicle while she was on a motorcycle traveling at 45 miles per hour.  

“Statistically, I should have died that night,” Hensley says. “That tattoo represents how precious life is and how it’s basically a promise to live life to the fullest.” 

On the same arm, Hensley also has tattoos of the sun and moon, because she says that she feels a spiritual connection with them, as well as a small tattoo of a wave because she is a swimmer. 

Hensley is certainly not alone when it comes to her motivations for getting tattoos. A study led by a psychologist in South Africa found that the primary reason that people choose to get tattoos today is to represent something personal about themselves. Another top reason mentioned for getting a tattoo is not just to represent something unique about ourselves, but to remember and honor those who we love. 

Michelle Torres, 27, is an independent tattoo artist in Kansas City, Missouri, who works from a home studio. Torres says the emotional meaning behind tattoos is what got her into being an artist. “I noticed when my friends or families would get tattoos, they were always so happy to show them off and explain why they chose that one,” Torres says. “I eventually decided I wanted to help people get these special marks on their body so I could be the reason that someone went to their friends to show themselves off.”

Torres says that names and bible verses are usually the most popular tattoos, but creative ones such as landscapes and characters from video games and movies have been quite popular as well. She says that video game characters, in particular, are quite popular amongst the under-30 demographic. 

Libby Brungardt, 21, is a chemical engineering major at the University from Baldwin City, who recently got her first tattoo. Unlike the more metaphoric and artistic nature of Hensley’s tattoos, Brungardt has a small tattoo on her leg that reads “I love you” in her mother’s handwriting. 

Libby tattoo

Libby Brungardt's tattoo reads "I love you" in her mother's handwriting.

“We always said we would get matching tattoos one day,” Brungardt says, “but we had a hard time trying to find something unique.” 

She says her mother has always been very supportive of her, so she felt it was important that she got a personal tattoo with her not only for the fun memories now, but to remember her when she’s gone. Eventually, she had a eureka moment when she decided they could both get tattoos of the phrase “I love you” in each other's handwriting. 

“The term is obviously powerful in its own right,” Brugardt says, “but in our family especially, it’s a phrase we would never go a day without saying. 

She added that her mother has very bubbly and distinct handwriting that echoes with her personality and makes it more memorable.

In some ways, the rise in popularity of tattoos, especially among the younger generations, has led to a change of heart about what is acceptable in the workplace. For instance, the same poll that found that nearly half of millennials have a tattoo also found that 7 in 10 parents are OK with visible tattoos on their child's primary school teacher or pediatrician. The change in tolerance of tattoos is moving a bit slower in the world of big business, especially in the fields of healthcare and finance. It seems that many large businesses would prefer their employees to have no visible tattoos, while others draw the line with whether or not a tattoo becomes a distraction. 

It looks like if you are contemplating getting a tattoo, you aren’t alone. Tattoos are now popular ways to express yourself and become a bit of a permanent fashion accessory to your look, and with more millennials having tattoos than owning homes, you certainly won’t be an outsider by sporting some ink of something that speaks to you. 

Person 1: This song slaps.

Person 2: Your mom slaps.

Person 1: Thank you, my mom is a kind and wonderful lady.


 Person 1: I’m so sick of alcohol.

Person 2: I don’t know, I’m getting stronger every day. I love it.


Person 1: Do you do the vegan wrap here?

Person 2: We can do the chicken wrap with no cheese?

Person 1: I’ll take the Beyond Burger please. 


Person 1: Oh my God! I feel like I know you somehow…

Person 2: Yeah, we went to high school together. 

Person 1: Oh! *walks off*


Guy 1: Is the black market even real? Has anyone ever been on it?

Guy 2: I tried once but I couldn’t figure out how to get on.


Guy 1: I stayed up until 2 am watching Disney plus

Guy 2: I told my girlfriend I fell asleep but I was actually watching the Mandalorian.


Girl 1: How long have you guys been dating?

Girl 2: Since the summer, well actually for like two years but it’s a long story.


Girl 1: Who are you looking for?

Girl 2: This guy, wait I found him. Fanny pack boy. He flipped off my professor after a test and ran out of the classroom.


Girl 1: How did you choose KU? 

Girl 2: Honestly, I flipped a coin. 


Boy 1: Did I tell you? I think I had a threesome this weekend.

Boy 2: Woah, hold up. You think?


Boy 1: I was born a Phi Delt.

Boy 2: Please don’t ever say that again.


Girl 1: How do you get your boobs to look like that?

Girl 2: I don’t ever wear a bra? I don’t know. 


Girl 1: I just really want a guy to bend me over you know?

Girl 2: How do you know? You’re a virgin!


Guy: Sometimes I wish I could just be a dog and sleep all day. 

Girl: You wake up at like three every day. 

Guy: I know.

Girl: So…

Guy: So does that make me a dog or something?


Girl 1: I wish I was a little bit taller.

Girl 2: I wish I was balder.

Girl 1: I wish I had a...wait, wait, wait balder?


Guy 1: Let’s slap dicks

Guy 2: You ever pee and it feels like throwing up?


Woman 1: *holding baby* He would have been safer at the Hawk

Woman 2: Oh absolutely.


Girl 1: I would never date that guy.

Girl 2: Well, it depends how much money he has.


Girl 1: I’m going to the doctor to see if I have bronchitis before I hook up with him again.

Girl 2: Yeah that’s smart so you don’t give it to anyone else. 

Girl 1: No I mean I want to make sure I infect him.


Guy 1: I'm cutting some of my unnecessary costs, starting with Juuling.

Guy 2: Ight man, good luck.

Guy 1: Actually I might just start chewing


Guy 1: How was work?

Guy 2: My manager was chastising me for not dressing up in a Halloween costume, she doesn’t understand I’m strictly here to get paid.


Guy 1: I am so tired of this week, man

Guy 2: Dude it’s Monday

Guy 1: I know


Person#1: I want to be on the first ship to mars

Person#2: Not me, I doubt they have Wi-Fi

Perons#1: Yeah but at least they’re evolving up there. We’re all just devolving.


Girl 1: Um, I don’t eat pig.

Girl 2: You eat bacon all the time, bitch.


Guy 1: You better get going. 

Guy 2: Yeah, see ya. I’m off to get some Adderall.


Girl 1: Are you home right now?

Girl 2: Yeah, why?

Girl 1: I bought a cat


Girl 1: I just don't understand what fishing is for.

Girl 2: I don't know. Food, maybe?


Guy: I’m just gonna have to like carry an entire box of spiders up the hill tomorrow.

Girl: What?

Guy: Yeah, just like a hundred spiders in a box.


Guy 1: Sometimes ya just gotta give yourself a haircut.

Guy 2: Dude, you shaved half your head. That’s not a haircut, that’s a mess.


Girl 1: Can you eat fruit raw?

Girl 2: How else are you supposed to eat it?


Girl: That class is killing us. ​But they say rest is for the dead.

Guy: Well, at least we'll be rested.


Girl: She's not in class this semester

Guy: Maybe she's dead

Girl: Or studying abroad