As he sat in the Highway 90 Whataburger eating his patty melt, Roger Schaffer, 59, didn’t attract a single glance or look. Not one person paid him any mind. Though, we would expect it given the fact that his arms are covered in tattoos.

Roughly 20 years ago, getting tattoos became something you did to rebel. Now, it is not such a shocking thing to have.

“There used to be a stigma,” Schaffer said. “You were either a drunk, bum or sailor.”

Schaffer has more than 100 tattoos on his arms, chest and some on his legs. Schaffer recalled his first tattoo.

“Back in 1972, I remember coming home to my mother’s house and my grandfather being there,” Schaffer said. “He was 72 at the time, and he really liked my eagle on my arm. It was cool to have an older person encourage me and not judge. I hope it becomes less of a stigma in the future.”

According to the Pew Research Center, $1.65 billion is spent annually on Americans who purchase tattoos. Ironically, older Americans outnumber the younger generation when it comes to tattoos as 36 percent of those with body are between the ages of 18 and 25 while 40 percent are between the ages of 26 and 40.

But even the older generation delves into inking their body.

Bob Link, 49, is a retired Marine and the director of MMA Jujitsu in Pace.

Link patiently waited in Bill’s Tattoo Shop on Highway 90, waiting to add another military piece to arm. He said it’s not about what people think.
“It’s about getting something that represents who you are as a person,” Link said. “I don’t even think about covering them up when I am going to the store or out with friends.”

Link waited for hours to get the military piece prepped to have on his forearm. When the button clicked to turn on the needle, it didn’t produce any sound.

“Well that’s a first,” Link said. “Not only has the popularity increased but so has the technology. I’ve never been tattooed silently before.”

Even the U.S. Army will allow certain tattoos.

Kathleen Welker is the public affairs officer for the Army. Welker said it just really depends on what you have.

“Each tattoo has to be individually examined,” Welker said. “Everyone who has a tattoo has to be evaluated on what the tattoo is and what it means to them.”

Policies on tattoos will always be changing as we grow into the new century. With new technology and the forever American desire for expression, tattooing and other body art will continue to grow in the years to come.