25 Surprising Facts About Tattoos That You Probably Didn’t Know

Even though we’re living in one of the most progressive eras in history, in a world that has become increasingly more open to different cultures and trends than ever before, some people still associate tattoos with certain subcultures and underground lifestyles. Tattoos have been around for thousands of years, and depending on the place and period, haven’t always been viewed negatively. A simple look back will show you that tattoos have been found across the globe throughout history and in many cases have symbolized something sacred or honorable (you can Google it).

Nowadays, for all those who see tattoos as works of art or as a way to enhance one’s beauty, there are those who still see them in a dark light; in their minds, tattoos are associated with prison life, gangs, drug use, and racist organizations among other bad things. So in case you happen to be one of those people who want to get a tattoo but are skeptical, read the following 25 Surprising Facts About Tattoos That You Probably Didn’t Know and will also enlighten you enough to make the right decision.

Feature Image: de.wikipedia.org


The Iceman (3300–3200 BCE), whose physical remains are still intact, has the oldest tattoos that have been preserved. He has a black cross on the inside of his left knee, six straight lines on his lower back, and parallel lines on his ankles, legs, and wrists. When scientists X-rayed his body, they discovered joint disease under each tattoo, which makes them believe these tattoos were meant to relieve his pain.

cross tattoo

Source: The Tattoo History Source Book, Image: Wikipedia


Archaeologists have discovered tools in France, Portugal, and Scandinavia that were probably used for tattooing. These are at least twelve thousand years old, or from the time of the last ice age.


Source: The Tattoo History Source Book, Image: Wikipedia


The word tattoo derives from the Polynesian word ta, which describes the sound of a tattooing spike being hit against skin. The first recorded reference to the word tattoo is in the papers of Joseph Banks, a naturalist aboard Captain Cook’s ship. Europeans called tattoos “marks” or “prics” until then.

Joseph Banks

Source: The Tattoo History Source Book, Image: Wikipedia


Polynesian tattooing as it existed before the arrival of the Europeans in the South Pacific is considered to have been the most skillful.

Polynesian tattooing

Source: The Tattoo History Source Book, Image: Wikipedia


Ancient methods for tattoo removal include using scum from the bottom of a chamber pot mixed with “very strong vinegar” or pigeon feces mixed with vinegar and applied as a poultice “for a long time.”

tattoo removal

Source: The Tattoo History Source Book, Image: commons.wikimedia.org


With the advance of science and technology, however, these days laser surgery is considered the most effective and popular way to remove a tattoo. The laser penetrates the skin and breaks up the tattoo pigments so that they can be carried away naturally by the body’s immune system. Black is the easiest color to remove because it absorbs more laser waves. Green and yellow are more difficult to remove.

tattoo removal

Source: webmd.com, Image: Wikipedia


The Greeks learned tattooing from the Persians and used them to mark slaves and criminals so they could be identified if they escaped. The Romans learned it from the Greeks and would tattoo “fug” on the foreheads of slaves, for “fugitive.”


Source: The Tattoo History Source Book, Image: Wikipedia


It’s recorded that one of the craziest Roman emperors of all time, Caligula, amused himself by capriciously ordering members of his court to be tattooed.


Source: The Tattoo History Source Book, Image: Wikipedia


In 787, Pope Hadrian I banned tattooing of any kind, even on criminals and gladiators. From that point, tattooing was virtually unknown in most of Western Europe until the nineteenth century.


Source: The Tattoo History Source Book, Image: Wikipedia


Tattooing wasn’t viewed positively in Eastern Europe either, more specifically, in the Byzantine Empire. It has been reported that the Greek emperor Theophilus took revenge on two monks who had publicly criticized him by having eleven verses of obscene iambic pentameter tattooed on their foreheads.


Source: The Tattoo History Source Book, Image: Wikipedia


While designs that apparently represent tattoos are seen on paintings of both men and women in Egyptian art and statues, all the tattooed Egyptian mummies discovered to date are female. Egyptologists believe these designs were symbols of fertility, virginity, and/or rejuvenation.


Source: The Tattoo History Source Book, Image: Wikipedia


Rock star Tommy Lee grabbed a place in the Guinness Book of Records in 2007 when he became the first man to be tattooed in midair during a private flight to Miami.

tommy lee

Source: Guinness World Records, Image: Wikipedia


Speaking of Tommy Lee, his ex-wife Pamela Anderson was responsible for the rise in popularity of tattoo armbands in the late ’90’s since she was the first celebrity to bear one on Baywatch.

Pamela Anderson

Source: imdb.com, Image: Wikipedia


From the middle of the eighteenth century till the early twentieth, tattoos were particularly popular with English and Russian royalty. They were so expensive that only the rich could afford them. When tattoos became more affordable, they started to be deemed “trashy” until the tattoo renaissance in the mid-twentieth century.


Source: The Tattoo History Source Book, Image: Wikipedia


Even though most gang members will have an “honorable” tattoo of their affiliation somewhere on their body, the title for the most famous of all criminal tattoos goes to the Japanese mafia, the Yakuza. Its members wear intricate and traditional designs in a full-body suit that can be hidden entirely from view by clothes as a sign of their commitment to the gang.


Source: tattoodo.com, Image: Wikipedia


The man who invented tattoo machines in 1891 was a New York tattoo artist named Samuel O’Reilly. He based his design on the autographic printer, an engraving machine invented by Thomas Edison.


Source: The Tattoo History Source Book, Image: Wikipedia


Even though the official medical circles claim that HIV could hypothetically be spread by tattoo practices, there are no reported cases of the disease being transmitted via tattoo application.

tattoo needle

Source: cdc.gov/hiv/basics, Image: Wikipedia


Winston Churchill’s mother, Lady Randolph Churchill, had a tattoo of a snake around her wrist, which she covered with a diamond bracelet for formal occasions. In case you didn’t know, Churchill had an anchor on his forearm.

Lady Randolph Churchill

Source: The Tattoo History Source Book, Image: commons.wikimedia.org


In the United States, more women than men are tattooed (23% vs 19%), according to a 2012 survey. Women are twice as likely to get their tattoos removed than men.

woman with tattoos

Source: Oxygen Media (Survey), Image: commons.wikimedia.org


The Statistic Brain also reported that nearly 45 million Americans have at least one tattoo. Americans also spend more on tattoos than any other nationality, approximately $1.65 billion annually.


Source: Statistic Brain, Image: Wikipedia


After the Lindbergh kidnapping in 1932, many parents all over America became so worried that they had their children tattooed so they could be recognized in case they got lost or abducted.


Source: The Tattoo History Source Book, Image: Wikipedia


Recent studies have shown that adults with tattoos are more sexually active than those without. The same studies also show that adults who have tattoos are more likely to commit a crime.


Source: tattoodo.com, Image: Wikipedia


The most tattooed man in the world is Gregory Paul McLaren, also known as Lucky Diamond Rich. He is 100 percent tattooed, including the inside of his foreskin, mouth, and ears.

Gregory Paul McLaren

Source: tattoodo.com, Image: Wikipedia


George C. Reiger Jr., also known as the “Disney tattoo guy,” has over one thousand Disney tattoos, including all 101 Dalmatians. He had to get special permission from Disney because the images are copyrighted.


Source: articles.mcall.com, Image: YouTube


Finally, for all of you who are considering a tattoo anytime soon, keep in mind that your skin will be pierced from about 50 up to 3000 times per minute by the tattoo machine when you get a tattoo, depending the shape and size of the tattoo you want.

tattoo gun

Source: How Tattoos Work, Image: Wikipedia