Top 10 Creative Tattoo Influencers on Instagram
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The explosion of tattooists showcasing their work on Instagram has also paved the way for brands to tap into a younger, “edgier” demographic by partnering with these tattoo influencers who captivate millions of fans with their unique skill set.
A shift in tattoo perception over the years
Tattoo art and body modification is nothing new. In fact, it’s one of humankind’s most ancient traditions, with some body art dating back as far as 3,000 BCE.
The public perception of tattoos, however, has changed drastically throughout the course of the 20th Century. What was once a niche aesthetic shared by a select few in the 1900s has now shifted to become commonplace and accepted in virtually all circles.
Here is a quick look at how tattoo culture has changed in recent decades:
1910s, ‘20s, and ‘30s:
Tattoos were generally viewed with contempt at the turn of the century. The practice was most commonly associated with circus performers and prison inmates, and rarely found among the general population. Tattoos were also common among sailors to mark various nautical milestones.
The culture expanded in the “Roarin’ 20s” to include women who wanted to replicate expensive Hollywood makeup trends with cosmetic tattoos like fake eyebrows, blush, and lip contour.
When the U.S. government introduced social security numbers in the 1930s, some people got them tattooed on their bodies as a way to remember their digits. While tattoos were still viewed as unacceptable to most, social security tattoos were often given a pass since they were done out of necessity.
1940s and ‘50s:
Tattoo perception began to shift in a positive direction in the 1940s as World War II inspired many Americans to go under the needle for patriotic ink. This movement paved the way for the skill set to start to be viewed as a true art form
Tattoos morphed into a symbol of masculinity during the 1950s. They also began to trickle into popular culture, with the iconic “Marlboro Man” even sporting some ink on his cigarette hand.
1960s and ‘70s:
Patriotic tattoos were dead by the ‘60s and the practice seeped back underground for most of the general public. Tattoos did however begin to appear on more and more celebrities who had access to the work of artists like Lyle Tuttle, one of the most famous tattoers of the decade.
Tattoos continued to increase in popularity in the ‘70s thanks in part to Janis Joplin — one of Tuttle’s most famous clients — and her appearance on Rolling Stone Magazine. Joplin’s cover shoot sent many people flocking to parlors around the world to replicate the singer’s iconic bracelet tattoo.
1980s and ‘90s:
Tattoos as we know them today were taking shape in the 1980s as the art grew larger in size and became much more personalized. By the ‘90s, tattoos were everywhere. The boom even led Cher to get all 16 of her tattoos removed. “I had my first tattoo at 27, and at that time it was a statement,” she said. “Now, just about everyone has one, and it’s boring.
2000s and beyond:
Tattoo de-stigmatization vaulted to another level as the 21st Century gave rise to popular television shows like Inked in 2005 and numerous popular spinoffs. Tattoo enthusiasts began to emerge from all walks of life and artists started to notice more and more clients requesting tattoos in places where they wouldn’t be able to hide them. And while the stigma of tattoos in the workplace didn’t disappear completely, just 4% of people surveyed by AIMS Education in 2015 said they felt like they had actually faced discrimination at work because of their tattoos.
Tattoo popularity has continued its rise over the past several years. According to a 2019 survey by Statista, well over a quarter of the U.S. population over the age of 18 have at least one tattoo. In fact, just 34% of those surveyed said they would not even consider getting a tattoo at some point in their life.
The shift in tattoo perception over the years is clear when broken down by generation. A Harris Poll concluded that nearly half of millennials have at least one tattoo. The number dips to 36% in Gen Xers, 13% in Baby Boomers, and just 10% in Matures.
Tattoos don’t discriminate by gender, either. Of those surveyed with at least one tattoo, a Dalia Poll concluded an even 46% men and 46% women.
Tattoo-centric television shows
Numerous tattoo-centric shows have been featured on national television and streaming platforms since Inked set the stage in 2005. The rise in the shows’ popularity has played a major role in the positive shift in tattoo perception in the 21st Century.
Some of the more popular tattoo shows include:
- Inked (2005)
- Miami Ink (2005)
- London Ink (2007)
- Ink Master* (2012)
- Black Ink Crew* (2013)
- Tattoo Fixers (2015)
- Tattoo Redo* (2021)
*Shows currently streaming on Netflix.
Types of content that works for the tattoo industry
Social media is the perfect arena for tattoo artists to grow their following, showcase their work, and ultimately gain more clients. Instagram and Pinterest are especially valuable platforms since they cater toward a more visual audience. Some tattoo artists have even taken to Youtube to provide more long-form content and give their audience a more authentic look at what the experience is like in the tattoo chair for those sitting under the needle.
In 2019, CNBC reported that many artists estimated that more than 70% of their clients, if not more, came from Instagram. There are also more than 50 million Instagram posts associated with the #tattoos hashtag, which indicates that people from all walks of life, not just tattoo enthusiasts, are engaging with and absorbing tattoo content.
How brands can take advantage Instagram’s visual elements
Instagram is a highly visual medium, so it’s perfect for displaying body art. IGTV also allows people to get to know tattoo artists as individuals, so audiences feel more comfortable going in to get inked.
The challenges to the tattoo industry during COVID-19
The tattoo industry is still recovering from its long lockdown hiatus. With the Delta variant still posing a danger, people are less likely to want to risk their health for a cosmetic procedure like a tattoo.
But social media allows tattoo artists to continue to reach a larger audience online during this time, and allows them to connect with future customers.
Tattoo parlors and brands connected to the body art modification world can leverage tattoo influencers to reach this target market. For example, more “edgy” clothing brands and brands targeting a younger demographic could leverage tattoo influencers to reach those audiences.
While brands might find success reaching an “edgier” demographic with tattoo influencers, it doesn’t have to stop there. Because such a large percentage of the population is getting tattoos nowadays, brands are finding interest in tattoo influencers and tattoo-related content in nearly any niche market.
This gives companies a perfect opportunity to zero in on branding and make sure their content is tailored to fit their ideal buyer persona. An artist’s work that pairs best with leather jackets and motorcycles might not speak to the younger, “wanderlust” travel brand of tattoo influencers that have become so popular across social media, particularly instagram. Brands should be sure to find tattoo influencers that fall in line with their vision to make sure the content stays as authentic as possible and speaks to their target audience in a language they understand.
Top 10 Instagram tattoo influencers to follow in 2021
Miryam Lumpini is a Swedish-born tattooer who calls herself “The Witchdoctor.” She runs a private studio in Los Angeles where she specializes in “color and bringing out the magical vibes in pictures.”
Lumpini has a long list of celebrity clientele including DJ Skrillex, rapper Swae Lee, and singer Jhene Aiko.
Originally from Seoul, South Korea, Mr. K is one of the most in-demand tattoo artists in the United States. Mr. K says growing up he always tried to find the finest pen possible for his art projects, which led him to his specialized micro- and single needle-style tattoos.
Mr. K graduated from Parsons and started his professional career as a graphic designer. He then worked in the fashion industry for nearly a decade and launched his own streetwear brand, K47. Mr. K started tattooing in 2015 and is now a resident tattoo artist at Manhattan’s renown Bang Bang studio.
Ukrainian tattoo artist Rita “Rit Kit” Zolotukhina has an approach to her art unlike any other name on our list. Instead of using traditional stencil methods like sketches or photographs to outline her work, Rit Kit uses live plants as her artistic guide. As a result, she specializes in tattoos that appear to have been transferred directly from earth to skin.
Rit Kit spends most of her time traveling the world. She currently lives in Bali where she is researching and writing a book about plants.
Katherine “Kat” Flores, known professionally as Tatu Baby, became a household name in the tattoo industry in 2012 after her appearance on the second season of Ink Master. Flores has since opened up her own tattoo shop based in Miami called Till The End Tattoos where she and her team specialize in realistic black-and-grey work.
Flores has tattooed a number of celebrities including singer Jason Derulo, rapper Rick Ross, and professional boxer Canelo Alvarez.
Recently, Flores has carved out a niche in the boxing industry and featured sponsored content on her Instagram account from BOXR boxing studios and helped promote the recent Jake Paul versus Tyron Woodley fight.
Less is more when it comes to the work of Mattia “Mambo” Calvi. This Italian artist coined the tattoo style “destrutturato,” which roughly translates to “destructured” in English. With his unique pop-art aesthetic, Mambo preserves the bold outline of an ordinary figure and warps its coloring to give each piece a concrete, yet pleasantly abstract feel.
Mambo got his start creating flyers and graphic designs for nightclubs. He now owns his own tattoo shop in Meda, Italy.
Doreen Garner is a New York-based sculptor and performance artist who started tattooing in 2017. She got into the industry because of its lack of Black representation, telling Inkbox in a Lifted Voices interview, “There’s a community that really wants to see Blackness and Black history and the Black experience expressed through tattoo images. Oftentimes, that hasn’t really been seen.”
The Philly-born artist now runs a private studio in New York City. In the past, she has been known for hosting pop-up tattoo parlors in Brooklyn where she gave free tattoos to people of color. She has also used her Instagram account to run promotions from major brands like Reebok.
Anthony Michales is an Arizona-based artist and winner of season 7 of Spike TV’s Ink Master. As a fan favorite on the show, Michaels appeared as a coach for contestants on subsequent seasons of the show.
Tattooing intrigued Michaels from an early age and was known to draw pictures for the walls of local tattoo shops when he was a kid. Michaels left the ink world for a short time to pursue his basketball dreams and had a brief stint with Mexico’s Volcanes de Toluca professional basketball team. This tattoo influencer now owns Twenty Five Twelve Collective in Tucson, Arizona, where he specializes in photo-realism, portrait, and script tattoos.
Corey Divine is a self-taught tattoo artist currently based in Los Angeles. He is best known for his meticulously crafted sacred geometry designs. While his work occasionally involves spots of color, Divine operates primarily in black and dot work.
Divine prides himself on etching his work onto people from all over the world and collaborating with other talented tattoo artists on specialty pieces.
Susanne “Suflanda” König is a German artist who brings fairytales to life in her tattoos. She uses line and dot work to produce whimsical landscapes in which animals are generally the stars.
Suflanda currently resides in the United Kingdom. She recently co-founded Hello Big Hug with friend and fashion designer Verena Lehner. Suflanda also has a children’s book series titled Babies Love Animals that is expected to be released in early 2022.
Woojin “Oozy” Choi has always been interested in death and birth, both of which bleed into his work. Since tattoos are illegal in his home city of Seoul, South Korea, Oozy spends most of his time traveling to bring his dark, anime-inspired inkings to the world.
Oozy’s surrealist style generally consists of a series of fine lines and a very rare use of color. This tattoo influencer recently started a Youtube channel where viewers can get a behind-the-scenes look at his creative process.
The popularity of tattoos has risen at an exponential rate over the past several decades. What was once found on the more outcasted members of society has been thrust into the mainstream and is now considered a legitimate art form and means of self expression.
Now that tattoos have become commonplace with people from all walks of life, and embraced in the vast majority of social circles, brands can confidently partner with tattoo influencers and run little risk of alienating their audience. Now is the perfect time to collaborate with tattoo influencers and leverage their content to help tell your brand’s story.
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