Twenty to thirty years ago tattoos were in fact quite common…. on sailors, prisoners, thieves and members of certain gangs. When the 21st century finally began tattoos were on the rise but were still seen with contempt by most of the globe. As the pop culture across the world developed so too did celebrities need new tools to break the clutter and assert their misguided sense of “individuality”. The time was therefore ripe for the tattoo to enter mainstream and by 2005 tattoos generally began to be accepted by most of the US which was the country that defined the globe’s pop culture.

Fast-forward to now and you’ll find that a fair proportion of all celebrities have tattoos. Tattoos have proliferated in certain sects of the pop culture such as in the music industry, the sports industry etc. 36% of young adults in America now have at-least one tattoo, more than 1/3rd of American adults!

It’s worth pointing out that a discussion of American tattoo trends shouldn’t be discussed on an article that at-least according to the title seems to be discussing Pakistan. My reason therefore is that almost every big pop culture trend in Pakistan has been adapted from the west and so it’s important to mention how tattoos have evolved in America. Fully evolved tattoo culture in the US is now representative of Pakistani tattoo culture now!

Before we move on to the current tattoo culture in Pakistan as it stands it’s worth discussing the pros and cons of adoring your body with tattoos. I’ll keep the pros a sentence long. A tattoo is a form of self-expression that can act as a gateway to a new community of people and apparently don’t actually go bad with age.

The list of cons however will be a bit longer though. The most obvious con is that it can be dangerous to get a tattoo since it involves piercing your skin albeit not a lot. The process can hurt especially if not done by an expert. Other cons include for one the fact that you now have an image imprinted on your body that can only be removed through expensive medical procedures. If you therefore pick something you won’t like in a year then too bad, because you’re stuck with it now. While getting a tattoo is dangerous in itself it can be risky to your health because of Pakistan’s failing standards of medical equipment. You’ll walk in to get a tattoo and could be leaving with HIV, not the best trade.

The Tattoo Microculture:

Just as in the western parts of the world, the tattoo culture was first introduced in Pakistan by our celebrities. Many musical personalities as well as movie stars proudly display their tattoos wherever they go. They now dress in ways to ensure that the one patch of skin where they have that one mark that proudly displays how deep they can be is always visible. This also tends to sometimes result in hilarious wardrobe malfunctions.

This trend was picked up by the younger generation of middle and upper-class families. There is a very specific reason that this particular class of people in Pakistan both brought this trend to Pakistan and then propagated it. The microculture of the Pakistani society which operates in and above middle-class level tries to actively shun all that the country has to culturally offer. The average Joe at this level wants to be just that, he wants to be Joe and not Jahangir. He wants to be Western and not Pakistani and so he will follow any and all western pop culture idiosyncrasies blindly. This me-too attitude is the sole reason behind the growing number of people getting tattoo’s in Pakistan.

However, while numbers are growing it’ll still take some time before this becomes mainstream in Pakistan. Just like other countries we too will have to work our way to making tattoos socially acceptable and in a collectivistic society like Pakistan this will take longer. For now, Pakistanis will have to settle with tattoos on parts of their bodies they would ideally show only to themselves so as to not incur the wrath of the society.

The Verdict

I tried to write this article from a neutral standpoint but I can tell a lot of my negativity did seep through into my words. Fact is I don’t like tattoos and I see no reason to get them. There was a time tattoos meant something which is why you’d only find them on intense personalities. A teardrop tattoo for instance meant that you had killed someone but now you can find teardrops tattooed on your regular teenager. Either we’ve all become murderers or this cultural tool has lost all meaning.

That alone isn’t the only reason why I’m against tattoos. The second and far more important reason is that tattoos in Pakistan is another me-too reality showcasing how Pakistani culture has stagnated and only grows in the direction the Western media takes us. We have all the tools to propagate our own culture but choose to rely on other people’s misguided decadent views. That fact alone is downright depressing and so are tattoos in Pakistan.


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