An inked generation: Getting tattooed in college

Ashley Wollaston, from Ravenswood, Tattoo’s Jennifer Beese from the South Loop at the Pioneer Tattoo Studio.

By Olivia Deloian

Getting tattooed is an electric experience. Walking into the shop and hearing the buzzing of the tattoo guns by artists creating work that will last forever is an experience growing among individuals of all ages particularly with college students. 

According to a 2015 Harris Research Poll survey, 47 percent of Americans aged 18–29 have at least one tattoo.

Ashley Wollaston, a tattoo artist at Pioneer Tattoo, 3513 N. Lincoln Ave., has been tattooing for almost nine years and said college students are among the leaders in trendy tattoos.

“[College students] have always given us a little bit more freedom with creativity, maybe because of the [prominence in] online presence,” Wollaston said. “College kids have been tattooed forever, but the style of what you’re getting has evolved into something a little bit more fun or creative.”

Wollaston said she has noticed a growing trend for both floral and minimalist tattoos among college students in particular.

Sophomore photography major Parker Albin got his first minimalist-style tattoo in March at Chicago Tattoo & Piercing Co., 1017 W. Belmont Ave., and said he plans to get several more in the near future.

“I wanted my first tattoo to be a pride tattoo, as I came out a year before. I got five straight [rainbow] bars on my arm because I wanted the design to be simplistic and have a lot of meaning and background to me,” Albin said. “After I got the piece done, I was the most happy I’ve been in awhile because it turned out better than I could have expected.” 

Senior music business major Austin Thomas said he first started getting tattoos when he was 19 years old  and now has two full sleeves, equaling 20 tattoos.

Thomas said despite the amount of ink on his body, he has not faced any negative reactions or criticism.

“I haven’t had an instance where I felt like I was less than for having tattoos. It’s been mostly compliments, not anything negative,” Thomas said.

Wollaston said although the level of acceptance may differ in other cities, older generations are getting used to ink.

“People are getting really nice looking stuff now, so it’s easier for the older generation to think they’re beautiful even if they don’t want one,” Wollaston said.

Albin advised other students looking to get a tattoo to take the plunge and spend the extra money because it will be worth it.

“I know money’s always an issue, [but] if you’re looking to get a tattoo don’t look at the place that [is] cheapest,” Albin said.  “You want to make sure that no matter what size it is, you’re getting a high-quality piece of art on your body. Save up the money and make sure you can go to a well-known establishment because  it will last longer and look better over time.”