Tattoos change from a form of rebellion to self-expression

Tattoo culture in Fort Collins is relivant and thriving, although many of the old-timers believe that the idea and industry has lost a little bit of it's edge. "“Anything underground that becomes popular, yeah, well it loses some of the magic about it,” said John of La Familia Tattoo.
Tattoo culture in Fort Collins is relivant and thriving, although many of the old-timers believe that the idea and industry has lost a little bit of it’s edge. ““Anything underground that becomes popular, yeah, well it loses some of the magic about it,” said John of La Familia Tattoo.

She was tipsy, she felt inspired and a tattoo shop happened to be near — I think we all know where this story ends.

“She” could refer to a breadth of people who like both alcohol and body art, but in this case, it was junior wildlife and conservation biology major Megan Hewett.

“There was this quote that my grandma always said: ‘It takes courage and love and faith to go on.’ So I was drunk and said ‘Yeah! I’m getting that on me,’” Hewett said.

The next day she woke up, not regretting the meaning behind the fresh tattoo covering her back, but rather wishing she could understand the language it was written in.

“I looked at it and was like ‘Oh damn, this is cool, but why did I get it in Japanese?’”

But 10 years ago, Hewett’s story wouldn’t be nearly as common as it is now. Just in the past decade, tattooing has transformed from predominantly an act of rebellion to an increasingly popular act of self-expression.

Someone who has immersed himself into tattoo culture since its “underground” roots is CSU alumnus, former CSU professor and Fort Collins resident, Gus Mircos.

Mircos received his first tattoo — a ‘40s-style microphone on the back of his calf — when he was 17 — not because he was trying to fit in, but because he was trying to be left alone.

“Back then I was hanging out in tattoo shops and getting into punk rock culture. I got a tattoo for the opposite reason of why people get them now — I wanted people to not talk to me.”

Although he seems to have changed his mind about the reasoning, Mircos’ passion for the artistry and culture surrounding tattooing hasn’t faltered, and he’s not shy about his opinions on its transition.

“You can’t buy authentic coolness, and you definitely can’t just get it inked on your body,” he said.

And if anyone knows all about drawing on the “cool,” it’s the people actually wielding the ink, such as tattoo artist of 18 years and Fort Collins resident, John (who preferred not to give his last name) of La Familia Tattoo, located on S. College Avenue.

John, like Mircos, recognizes that tattoos have lost some of their edge since he first entered into tattooing over two decades ago.

“Anything underground that becomes popular, yeah, well it loses some of the magic about it,” John said. “Tattooing used to be illegal in New York City, but now you can walk into a shop and point to something on the wall and get a special on it.”

In John’s opinion, it’s T.V. shows like “L.A. Ink” that continue to bring tattooing up into the mainstream, but he says that hasn’t made him cynical toward the tattoo industry, or the increasing number of people who enter it.

“There’s more to tattooing than just tattoos, and some of the things, some of the reasons people get them, are just so personal,” he said.

Over the years, John has tattooed a breast cancer survivor who wanted ink flowers to help cover her scars. He’s tattooed people with severe body-image issues who, he said, learned to love their body after receiving a beautiful tattoo.

According to John, people get tattoos for an endless number of reasons, but in the end, he hopes his clients walk away with everything but regret.

“I want them to be happy with it forever, and not just, you know, because they’re in some fraternity and getting it on their a**,” he said.

“There are a lot of positives and negatives about tattooing’s increasing popularity. But I try to look at the good in it, just like with everything in life, you know?”