Philadelphia Tattoo Arts Convention is a big draw, but is ink still taboo in the mainstream? – Bucks County Courier Times

Posted in Tattooing on Sep 04, 2021

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Cole Johnson, Bucks County Courier Times

Tattoo collectors, fans and artists alike have a mantra in common: Love the skin you're in.

And that old adage will come into vibrant focus as the Philadelphia Tattoo Arts Convention comes to the region this month, bringing with it thousands of tattoo aficionados and dozens of tattooists over the three-day convention that starts Sept. 10.

"I will be there and I plan on having a booth there as well," said Joe Thomas, owner and lead artist of Philly Joe Tattoo Studio in Bensalem. "It will be extraordinary to see all the people that have tattoos and want tattoos."

As trendy and fashionable as tattoos have become, the ink-on-skin subculture still has many obstacles in the business world and academia to overcome before it can enjoy mainstream acceptance.

Ivona Hideg, associate professor andAnn Brown chair in organization studies at the internationally top-rated Schulich School of Business at York University, said overall, tattoos are embraced more in some fields and less in others.

"Mainstream society has indeed become more accepting of tattoos and thats especially true in some industries such as more creative industries and arts where tattoos may be seen as a sign of ones creative identity," Hideg said. "Moreover, tattoos are more common and more accepted in blue collar versuswhite-collar jobs.

"As such, tattoos are still not widely accepted in particular in white collar professional jobs and occupations," Hideg added."White collar professions are also more conservative and in more conservative spaces tattoos are less accepted."

The sporting of tattoos was and is generally regarded as habits of counterculture expressionism, and perhaps as such,the exhibiting of tattoos has never gained much of a foothold in the business world.

Now tattooing professionally for six years and operating his shop at 2339 Bristol Road for the previous three, Thomas said he has tattooed individuals from a wide range of professions, including nurses, teachers and law enforcement officers.

For him, the professional and mainstream worlds are slowly embracing employees with tattoos.

"It is now a new era and a new world that continues to get more advanced and grow. So it isn't thathaving tattoos are 'OK,' it's just became more acceptable," Thomas said. "If I were [before] a judge and walked in with a tattoo on my neck, I know what it does and looks likefor me, especially to older.

"But there's not many [instances] like that anymore; now, people are more open to tattoos because of style, character and one's own free will."

Fellow tattooistDon "Don Juan" Salleroli, the owner and lead artists of Floating World Tattoos in Philadelphia, agrees, but adds that tattoos that display hate and criminal activity are and should be considered taboo.

"Mainstream society has certainly become more accepting of tattoos in general, but there are some narrow-minded people that look down upon them, not realizing that a tattoo is not going to change your work performance in any way shape or form," Salleroli said. "Obviously if you're wearing something lewd or some kind of blatant anti-Semitic tattoo, that would be a case where I as an employer wouldnt hire you, but as for artistic tattooing, I believe you should be able to have it with no judgement by anyone."

Still, the lingering stereotype applied to tattooed individuals is hard to shake, especially when tattoo collectors are now embracing bolder designs and getting inked on parts of the body such as the face, forehead and on a bald head that were once off-limits to all except those in thehardest of hardcore tattoo circles.

Salleroli, a veteran artist who has dozens of tattoos and has inked thousands of clients from his shop on South Street, said he still has to deal with the shock, awkward glances and second looks he receives.

"I think you will always have people that associate tattooing with criminals or sailors or a million other stereotypes.Ive had people clutch their purses when I get on an elevator or walk by them on the street, and Ive been followed in stores by security guards," Salleroli said. "But I just laugh to myself and think how narrow-minded people can be.

"I chose to tattoo myself so Im willing to deal with narrow minds, and quite frankly I just try and be a normal courteous person and not really let it bother me."

Helping the cause, Salleroli said, is that pop culture has embraced tattooing by literally "bringing it into your living room" with several television shows and reality TVprograms that focus on the word of tattoos.

"Tattooing used to be mystical and almost magical and dangerous to me growing up;when I got into tattooing it certainly wasnt mainstream at all," Salleroli said. "And Ive watched it change over the years, and its definitely not mystical or dangerousanymore, but I still find it to be magical and amazing."

Hideg and other leaders ofbusiness programs say more students with tattoos are enrolling in business and law programs, but those fields aren'tnecessarily pivoting towardtattoo acceptanceat the rate of society on the whole.

Andrew R. Timming, professor of human resource management and interim director of theDepartment of Management, International Business, and Entrepreneurship at RMIT University, said he is noticing a loosening of societal norms regarding tattoos.

"Universities are seeing more and more students with visible tattoos, although these tend to be concealablewith a long sleeved shirt," Timming said."It is rare, but not unheard of, to see students with tattoos on the face and hands. Generally speaking, there is an increase of visible ink at both universities and within the workforce."

Angela Hall, associate professor of theSchool of Human Resources andLabor Relations at Michigan State University'sCollege of Social Science, saidin some of theprofessions in which tattoos were historically taboo, like law enforcement, "we are increasingly seeing more" workers with visible tattoos.

"I believe that the reason is two-fold. First, we are seeing more millennials in the workforce. In fact, millennials are now the largest age demographic in the U.S. workforce," Hall said."This generation does not share the same attitudes toward tattoos as those from previous generations. Second, there has been more of an overall societal acceptance of tattoos."

Hall though, noted thestigma of tattoos is hard to break, especially when they are judged by older eyes or looked at through the scopeof illegal behavior.

"Having the wrong type and/or excessive tattoos can be associated with the stereotypes of being from a lower class and/or being related to criminal activity," she said.

Timming mostly agreed, but added the caveat that the world of tattooing itself has counterculture roots.

"Even front-line retail employees can display tattoos these days. However, there will always be certain genres of tattoos, including those with explicit sexual or offensive imagery, that will always be frowned upon," Timming said. "Tattoos still signal a risk-taking and anti-social personality, but these perceptions are changing rapidly. Gone are the days when tattoos were only displayed by delinquents and deviants."

Jonathan Warnerworks as a paralegal in Philadelphia and has "more than a dozen" tattoos. Hesaid the general workforce doesn't mind tattoos, but that in his arena of law and jurisprudence, tattoos can telegraph a sense of negatively and lawlessness.

"My tattoos never get in the way, but I often cover them up with a long-sleeved button-down. And that works for me, since in my job I never wear short sleeves. I also have a tattoo on my neck that I cover. I know what I bring and my worth, but I don't want a client or my bosses to get the wrong idea or impression," Warner said. "I guess there has to be a line; one can express themself, but I'd give pause before getting a tattoo on my face or on a shaved part of my head.

"But I will never knock anyone who does decide to get that [type of work] done; just that if you are getting those types of tattoos, you have to accept what comes with it, including the reaction from so-called mainstream society."

The Philadelphia Tattoo Arts Convention, now in its 23rd year, runs Sept. 10-12 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, where it is expected toe bring in thousands of patrons, dozens of tattoo artists doing on-the-spot tattoos (reservation required formost) and a handful of special appearances by renown tattoo aficionados.

Renown tattoo artists joining host Villian Arts Tattoo for the three-day affair will be"Skizzy" Scott Barker, Vegas Dixon/Ladies of Ink Tour, Aaron Diaz,Aaron Reyes Antonio, Ali Kat, Alicia Thomas and many others.

Friday's session will feature performances and appearances byMagic Brian,James Maltman, theSnow Cone Burlesque, Captain and Maybelle Sideshow and will close with a performance by burlesque performer and instructorAngelica Lavalier.

Saturday's lineup includesMagic Brian,James Maltman,Captain and Maybelle Sideshow,Magic Brian,James Maltman, Snow Cone Burlesque,Captain and Maybelle and closes once again with Angelica Lavalier.

Magic Brian,James Maltman andCaptain and Maybelle will close out the convention on Sunday. There will also be various tattoo prizes award for tattoo of the day.

"I am looking forward to attending this convention in particular, because I started attending just as a fan of tattoos and culture," said Jacob Stallion, and independent tattoo artist from Bensalem. "There is always something for everyone. Not everyone likes burlesque, but everyone there likes tattoos, and it will be good to see other artists and talk with them and exchange ideas."

Stallion said newbies are welcomed at the convention, but should be prepared for some possible sensory overload.

"It can be intimidating for a first-timer to absorb the sights and sounds; it is a little 'in your face,'" Stallion said. "But everyone there will be on the vibe. It will be a glorious time for our world."

Pandemic precautions will be in place, including astate-of-the-art automated escalator handrail sanitation system and a touch-free bathroom system and an upgraded HVAC system that goes well beyond industry standards at the convention center, said Kelvin Moore, the regional general manager for ASM Global,the agency contracted for the general management of the convention center.

"We worked closely with the Philadelphia Convention and VisitorsBureauin developing a plan to think ahead as best as anyone could for what the building would need to have to welcome people back and make them feel safe," Moore said, noting that the convention center has already hosted several high-profile events, including the ballot count for the most recent presidential election and various Grand Jury seatings. "During the shutdown, we were able to demonstrate our capabilities to the local health department, and the Department of Health reviewed our plan andtrusted our plan...we have hospital-grade health and safety protocols, and we feel very confident in our infrastructure and capital improvements."

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Philadelphia Tattoo Arts Convention is a big draw, but is ink still taboo in the mainstream? - Bucks County Courier Times

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