Underage ink: Students show off their tattoos

Hannah Harrison gets an autism tattoo in honor of her brother.

Courtesy of Hannah Harrison

Hannah Harrison gets an autism tattoo in honor of her brother.

Tattoos– a form of self expression that is regulated by many states, but this doesn’t stop minors from getting inked.

Illinois law requires that a person has to be 18 years or older [regardless of parental consent] to get a tattoo in the state of Illinois. Despite this legislation, many minors are still acquiring tattoos.

There are multiple ways to get an underage tattoo, and the most common is to travel to a state with more leinate tattoo laws. In Indiana a minor can get a tattoo as long as they have parental consent. Other teenagers try to find tattoo artists in Illinois that are willing to do their ink without proof that they are 18.

Senior Marina Mancione has gotten her three tattoos in three different states in order to poke her way through the Illinois regulations, getting her first tattoo two years earlier than the state allows.

“I got my first one in Indiana, I got my second one in California, and I got my third one here,” Mancione said. “I have 3 tattoos and I was about to turn 16 when I got my first one.”

Mancione is not the only DGS student who has traveled to obtain ink. Seniors Hannah Harrison and Tavish Kerr have done so as well. Both Harrison and Kerr got their first tattoos at 16.

“I had to go to Indiana for my first tattoo and then my second tattoo I got in Oklahoma,” Kerr said.

Harrison has continued to get tattoos over the course of two years and has begun a small collection.

“I was 16 years old when I got my first tattoo. I now have five tattoos,” Harrison said.

Because many teenagers have to go through untraditional lengths to get a tattoo, they face many possible complications. If a tattoo is done incorrectly, it can become infected. This not only causes irritation to the skin but it can also spread diseases if severe enough.

“I had to go to Indiana and talk to my mom’s friend that lives in Indiana and see where the trustworthy artists were. I was only able to get a tattoo in Indiana because in Illinois you can’t get one until you’re 18,” Harrison said.

Tattoos and other types of body modification, such as piercings, are considered an art of self expression. In the United States citizens spend $1.65 billion every year on tattoos. They are often described as addictive and according to the History of Tattoos, “70% of people with a tattoo have more than one.”

Senior Bella Oberg was barely able to wait until she turned 18 to get her first tattoo.

“I have wanted tattoos since I was 13, I want sleeves, I want to be covered in tattoos. I have been waiting for so long so I wanted to do it as soon as possible,” Oberg said.

Teagan Smith
Bella Oberg gets two tattoos to show her love for her mom.

Social studies teacher Jordan DeLay has used tattoos as a major form of self expression and has collected tattoos throughout his life.

“I started getting tattoos when I was 17. At this point I have about 60-65 hours worth of tattoos on my body…They became part of my identity in a way. For a variety of reasons they helped me through different phases of my life and they are representative of different things,” DeLay said.

A tattoo is considered a lifelong commitment, because although it is possible to remove them, the removal process is expensive and painful. The concept of a young person having a permanent body modification is the controversy of minors acquiring tattoos. Many people believe you should not be making a permanent decision at such a young age.

“[My tattoos] mean a lot to me now and it’s not like I’m getting random [images] on me. I am spending a lot of money on them… A lot of people were surprised when they found out I got tattoos because I am such a thoughtful person,” Oberg said.

Tattoos were considered unprofessional if visible in the workplace for a long period of time. This connotation has begun to shift as the amount of Americans with tattoos has increased. According to History Of Tattoos, “36% of Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 have at least one tattoo.”

“I think that tattoos have societally progressed a lot, as far as the mainstream aspect of them or just their acceptability. In the last 20 years or so a lot of things have changed as far as acceptability,” Delay said.