Superstitious sailors used to get tattoos of a pig on the left knee and a rooster (cock) on the right foot, which signified ‘Pig on the knee, safety at sea. A cock on the right, never lose a fight.’ Pigs and cockerels were kept on ships in crates: when ships sank, the crates floated, so the animals were associated with surviving shipwrecks.
The American Navy caused a tattooing boom in the Second World War. New recruits weren’t allowed to have obscene tattoos – usually of naked women. Consequently, tattoo artists got repeat custom from thousands of young men covering up their earlier work.
Sailors in the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic Wars would make their own tattoos with gunpowder. Typically they would pierce their own skin and then rub gunpowder or soot into the wounds.
It’s a myth that tattoos come from the Pacific Islands. They probably did become popular thanks to Western voyages to places like Tahiti, but medical tattoos date back 5,000 years.
A 3,000 year old Egyptian mummy has been found to have tattoos of flowers, cows, baboons and lots of eyes over her body.
Otzi the Iceman, a long-preserved corpse found in the Alps, has tattoos over his spine, right knee and ankles – and he had osteoarthritis in those joints.
Wear your heart on your skin in this life.
He had seen her painted sign by the road: Skin Illustration! Illustration instead of tattoo! Artistic!
Newspapers have been claiming that tattooing has finally gone mainstream since at least 1876.
Tattoos are more common among teachers (14%) than members of the armed forces (9%).
Russian criminals have their history and beliefs written in tattoos on their bodies and convicts without tattoos are looked down upon.
Bracelets tattooed on the wrists indicate more than five years served in prison. Crosses over the knuckles represent the number of trips to the 'zone' (either a prison or a camp). A tattoo of a multi-domed monastery surrounded by a wall, can be worn by a ‘bear hunter’ in Russian, jargon for a safecracker. The number of domes can denote the number of convictions and the lengths of custodial sentences. Eyes on the top of the chest mean 'I can see everything' and 'I am watching over you'. Matching eight-pointed stars tattooed on an inmate’s chest, just below the collarbones, indicate to other prisoners that the inmate is a professional criminal. Tattoos of saints and angels are mainly applied to the back and chest, and signify a devotion to the thieves’ traditions.
When you have a tattoo lasered off, you end up pooing it out. The beams of light heat the ink until it breaks down into tiny pieces, which are then absorbed into the blood and then excreted via the liver and digestive system.
Stieg Larsson based the central character in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo on what he thought Pippi Longstocking would be like as an adult.
The guide for US Marines who want to get a tattoo is 32 pages long. It includes a printable ruler to take to take along to the tattooist.
The Carrot Tattoo Lady, Michele Hewitt, from California is literally covered with the tattoos of carrots.
'Tattoo' comes from a Dutch word meaning 'turn the taps off'.
After the Battle of Hastings, Kings Harold's body was identified by his tattoo, which was the name of his lover - one Edith Swan-neck.
In South Korea, youngsters have been getting tattooed to deliberately avoid national service.