Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Name

Sociology (Criminology Option)

Department or School/College

Department of Sociology

Committee Chair

Celia Winkler

Commitee Members

Daniel Doyle, Frank Rosenzweig


University of Montana

Subject Categories

Other Sociology | Sociology of Culture


Sociological research treats all individuals with more than zero tattoos as being part of the tattooed population. This type of categorization fails to capture the significant differences between tattooed individuals. For example, a gang member with a criminal insignia tattooed on his or her neck would be part of the same research population as long term tattoo artists with their entire body covered in tattoos or even a middle aged man with a single tattoo on his bicep. By interviewing tattoo artists, this thesis details the unique nature of tattooing as an occupation, the changing nature of the modern tattooing world, and how tattoo artists describe the variation within their clientele. The most significant variation described by interviewees was how the clients interacted with the tattoo artists and how that interaction affected their tattooing process. Two main types of clients emerged: core clients and casual clients. Core clients interact with the tattooing process in a more involved and long-term way, whereas casual clients are less involved and more likely to consume tattoos as a commodity rather than involve the tattooing process as an ongoing part of their life. Due to the increasing acceptance of tattooing by the mainstream and the increasing professionalization of tattoo shops, both core clients and casual clients are likely to receive high quality tattoos and a positive experience with tattoo artists though casual clients are at a slightly higher risk to receive the opposite. This difference in interaction with the tattooing process highlights one significant difference between individuals with more than zero tattoos. Such variation should be considered when conducting research on tattooed individuals.



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