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Commencement 2004

UC Berkeley Web Feature

Body art: Are tattoos and piercings in or out? Are you pro or con?

– Although these days it's hard to remember which came first, low-rise jeans or the lower-back tattoos they reveal, there was once a time when every Peet's barista did not have a nose ring. Has body art (that's tattoos and non-earlobe piercings, for those of you who haven't left the house in 20 years) become just another fashion accessory? And if so, is it waning in popularity? We asked 10 Berkeley students and staff what they thought.

Uyen Le
'Body art is still in — so many celebrities have tattoos and piercings that it seems everywhere. In the future it's going to be more accepted in the business world: it has to be, what with all the young people who are getting tattoos that they won't be getting removed. I've always been attracted to body art. I have two tattoos: one that I've had for two years that's kind of a snapshot in time, it changes significance as my relationships change, and another that I've had for a year and a half that symbolizes my belief in activism, in fighting for a cause.'
—Uyen Le, third-year political science and mass communications major

'I don't know if it's "in" or out, but it's definitely becoming more discreet, fewer massive 20-gauge nose rings or huge bones in the ears. It took me a long time to even get my ears pierced — I thought it was way too much upkeep to do just for vanity — but now I have tattoos, piercings, and scars, and I like having them. Well, actually I kind of regret the tattoo on my back: I got it when I was only 18, but now I'm going to have it for the rest of my life. The thing is, you kind of get tired of explaining all of your stuff to random people.'
—Robin Finley, fourth-year political science major

'I saw more people with lots of piercings and tattoos a couple of years ago, when I was a younger student and the people I hung out with were more intensely radical. Now, I think we're trying to look more established.'
—Nicholas Klick, fourth-year interdisciplinary studies major

Christine Huang
'I think it's on the way out. I haven't seen as many in the last few months. It was definitely a big thing for a few years, but maybe people are realizing there are less permanent ways of expressing yourself.'
—Christine Huang, third-year biochemistry major

'They're on a downward slide, although not quite out yet. In another year or two I think some people will be regretting what they've had done. I don't regret my tattoo, exactly, but if I could go back in time I might not have gotten it. I'm not going to spend a lot of money to have it removed though.'
—Jason Hanrahan, third-year religious studies major
Jason Hanrahan

 Christine Hoff
'Regardless of whether it's in or out, I think that as long as people put a lot of thought into it first, they should do what they want.'
—Christine Hoff, second-year architecture major

'I say it's in, because I have a tattoo and I have my bellybutton pierced and my ears. I got my tattoo three years ago. I always wanted one, and one day my freshman year I just decided to do it. I had a break between classes and I went to Wicked and got a butterfly on my back. I might get one more; I'm still thinking about it.'
—Candice Elder, third-year political science major
Candice Elder

 Vi Nguyen
'I have several tattoos, and I'm glad I got all of them except for this one on my hand. It's a gang symbol. I got it when I was in the gang and now I'm not. Because of it, people in my old neighborhood are always asking what I did, and I don't want to talk about it. I'm going to have it removed. People should only get tattoos that mean something to them, that they're sure they won't regret.'
—Vi Nguyen, UC Berkeley staff member

'Piercings may be going out, but tattoos will always be around. I'm taking a historical approach: if it's been good enough for people like the Maoris for thousands of years, it's good enough for me. It did take me 20 years to decide what to get, but I have never regretted it for one second. I have the inscription from Tolkien's One Ring around my ankle, and I'm still in love with it. I've thought of getting another one, but there isn't a design that's blowing my hair back yet.'
—Jean Smith, assistant to the Associate Vice Chancellor, Public Affairs