Underground Credibility: Tattoos as Criminal Status and Symbolism

The tattoo is the mark of the criminal, as the criminal is a rebel from the norms that govern society. The tattoo proudly declares, I am different! The Tattoo screams, I am tough! The Tattoo may also say that the wearer is part of a gang; an underground criminal organisation. The psychology behind tattoos are fairly childish: the desire to be seen to be different; the mark of a warrior going into battle to be blooded; and the sign of the outsider who threatens the establishment. Underground credibility: tattoos as criminal status and symbolism are everywhere you look on the fringes of society.

Of course, many of those who sport tattoos are, mere, pretenders; not really dangerous people at all. The pretend tough guy or gal, wants to strut their stuff down the social boulevard and catch the attention of the good looking members of their sexual persuasion. For men, the fashion today is big muscles, visible tattoos and perhaps, a piercing or two. These men are pretending to be the archetypal warrior, ready to do battle with the dragon of material reality. The tattoo is a uniform for their particular place on the food chain; but for most it is an empty act, merely pretend.

When an infamous AFL star bared his torso to reveal the tattooed words “Such Is Life”, a comment made famous by outlaw Ned Kelly, it only further raised the indignation of the tat-tutters in our society. Sporting stars, especially male, because they make their living with the physical body, when the rest of us are engaged with technology to make a crust, it makes sense for them to play the warrior. Rugby League players are often displaying extreme machismo on and off the field; urinating on things and animals is a favourite pastime.

Underground credibility: tattoos as criminal status and symbolism are very big in Eastern Europe and Russia. Tattoos are like rap sheets worn on the body of the perpetrator in some bizarre reversal of order in prisons around the world. Tattoos have replaced secret handshakes and passwords; irrevocably etched into the skins of their overlords. Violent gangs of soccer hooligans sport tattoos to show their membership and status. Bikies are, also, famous for their gang member tattoos. The rebels of society wear their ink stains as one big ‘fuck you’ to the order of the establishment.