Huffpost Fifty

Tattoo Designs Reflect Post 50 Trials, Triumphs And Identities (PHOTOS)

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Getting ink is no longer just a stamp of depravity or a mark of misguided youthful indiscretions. Tattoo professionals say they're seeing a slight increase in middle-aged clients coming into their shops for tattoos, bringing in tattoo designs that are more autobiographical than campy.

It seems more post 50s are letting go of the old stereotypes and stigmas around having a tattoo, says tattoo artist Wesley Brockman of Kansas City tattoo parlor, Mercy Seat. "Before you had a tattoo on your wrist or anywhere below your sleeve, it was a job stopper," Brockman explained. His father, upon seeing his son's first tattoo at 18, said, "only bikers, criminals and sailors get tattoos. He asked me which one I was. My mom wouldn't even look at me." Since then, Brockman told Huff/Post50, he gave his mom her first tattoo when she was in her 60s and his father has warmed up to the idea of getting one as well.

"Often people don't realize that there are fantastic stories behind people's tattoos," Huff/Post50 reader Sandy Scott wrote in an email (to see his tats, check out our slideshow). "When I was a young man in the United States Navy, they called us in for an assembly and lectured us about getting tattoos -- specifically about not getting any. I was rolling my eyes wondering why they were bothering to tell me about such nonsense; I [thought I] would never consider something as ridiculous as a tattoo.

"I got my first one in my 50s, and my most recent one at the age of 72!" he wrote.

But what's behind this uptick in post 50s wanting tattoos?

"With more acceptance of tattoos" in society over the last 15 years, "most [middle-aged adults] are probably not as concerned with what other people think," said Sailor Bill Johnson, vice president of the National Tattoo Association.

Huff/Post50 editor Shelley Emling, who listed getting a tattoo as one of the things she wanted to do for her 50th birthday, agreed. "I don't like the idea of 'not' being able to do something just because I'm 50," Emling said. "Why shouldn't one get a tattoo? I think everyone should do whatever makes them happy -- no matter what their age."

One in five adults in the U.S. have tattoos, according to a Harris Interactive survey. Though the people most likely to get tattoos are in their 30s, the survey found more people aged 50-64 were likely to say they had a tattoo in 2012 compared to 2008 (11 percent versus 8 percent). (There was a 4 percentage points drop to 5 percent between those same years for 65+ year olds.)

Many post 50s are using tattoo designs to express life's triumphs, personal battles and milestones. (One grandmother even got a scalp tattoo after losing her hair to alopecia.)

"No week goes by that I don't do something like that," Brockman of Kansas City's Mercy Seat said. "Someone in the family beat cancer or [is] struggling with it. I have a lot of recent divorces -- both guys and girls. Maybe they were with someone for a long time and they want to re-establish who they are or make a new identity."

Tattoos may not be for everyone, but for those considering one after 50, here's Sailor Bill Johnson's advice:

"No matter what age you are, get what you want, where you want it and enjoy it for life."

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