Tattoos & Tribulations

In four years walking the halls at UTSA, each student you pass may look slightly different than the day before. New styles of shoes, shirts and accessories seem to come and go, and yet something more permanent has stuck with a new generation: tattoos.

“I think that now is a really interesting time for tattooing because it is on the verge of being accepted by the fine art establishment,” states David Alcantar, one of a few tattoo artists at one of San Antonio’s premier tattoo shops, Flesh Electric (2110 McCullough).

David knows that a future is coming where the art form will no longer be stigmatized — and it will be here soon. “I think that the greater cultural acceptance of tattoos and tattooed persons is a result of evolving attitudes as the societal exposure of tattoos and tattooed individuals increases,” states Alcantar, who is no stranger to the business of tattoos with nearly 18 years of experience in the field.

“As the ‘changing of the guard’ occurs, the individuals who got their tattoos while rebelling against the establishment are now in positions of power within that establishment at every level,” Alcantar explains.

Since the start of the new decade, the trend has steadily transcended its taboo past with the “millennial” generation, and is now accepted as its own work of art. An estimated 40 percent of “millennials” have a tattoo, according to a study done by the Pew Research Center in 2010.

Alcantar confirms these statistics as well. “I would estimate that 75 percent of our clientele are college-age young people,” he explains. “As for how many are specifically college enrolled students, I would estimate 33 percent.”

But there is still a certain stigma that tattoos put on a person, one that may seem unprofessional to businesses or organizations looking to hire someone with a cleaner look. Last September, the San Antonio Police Department began banning officers from having visible tattoos in an effort for them to appear more professional, echoing the ban placed on officers in Houston and Dallas.

Similar enforcements apply to professional jobs like teaching and appointed government positions, where there is a fear of being noticed for their tattoo and not for their years of study.

Alcantar doesn’t feel discouraged about getting work.

“Increasingly, tattoos are no longer viewed as ‘deal breakers’ for professional contexts, so we are hearing less people making statements indicating they are worried about how their place of employment will perceive their possession of a tattoo,” explains Alcantar.

“We are also meeting people who are getting tattoo sleeves, large back or thigh pieces who are doctors, police officers and university professors. Everyone.”