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Hand Tattoos 2
The only part of the body in Western culture that carries more stigma and prejudice than getting tattooed on your face is getting a tattoo on your hands. There are a variety of exaggerated beliefs as well as purposeful plays on those beliefs that keep people some people getting their hands tattooed while others just continue to look on disapprovingly.
There's no specific religious or other societal rule against getting a tattoo on your hands, unlike in cultures that actually make hand tattooing part of the practice, so why is there such a stigma in the Western world over this part of the body? As near as I can tell, it's for the same reason that marks on the face are frowned upon, because any designs on your hands are difficult to impossible to conceal. Hands are used for all sorts of work, for eating and drinking, and we often extend them to people to shake when we first meet them.
It's this societal sense of disapproval that then caused fringe groups to embrace the practice, and effect that has led to the modern day custom of gang members having identifying tattoos on their hands. In this case, marks on hands (or faces or necks) are popular precisely because they are hard to hide. It let's members of one's own gang or rivals be identified at a glance.
Many of the Polynesian cultures did practice hand tattooing as did the Ainu people of Japan. In those instances, the markings were connected to signs of social status, family and career, in keeping with the other designs those tribes tattooed on their bodies. Frequently in these cultural groups, men were tattooed more heavily than the women, however the women were often tattooed on their hands. Sometimes the marks were of spiritual significance, or indicated adulthood, but with some tribes, women with tattoos were considered more beautiful than those who were not.
Placement of hand tattoos are found just about anywhere on the hand except for the palm. That is the least tattooed part of the hand as the skin in that area sloughs off much more than anywhere else on the body. As a result, tattoos placed there have a great tendency to fade dramatically, or even start to heal out over time. For as many stories as you will hear about how fingers can't be tattooed all the way around, you will find people who have full rings tattooed around their fingers. Some artist refuse to work on the underside or in-between fingers as they feel there are too many tendons or blood vessels that can be damaged.
To learn more about hand tattoos, you might like Tattoos From Paradise by Mark Blackburn
or, you might like Gangs And Their Tattoos: Identifying Gangbangers On The Street And In Prison by Bill Valentine and Robert Schober.
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