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The Tattoo Industry in a COVID-19 World

On July 6th, New York City officially entered Phase 3 of their reopening process due to the Coronavirus Pandemic. With this new stage comes the reopening of nail salons, tanning beds, and tattoo parlors, all of which had been previously closed since March 21st. The impact of COVID-19 on the tattoo industry is unknown as parlors have been losing thousands of dollars each day. However, it is clear that now that the shops are open, people will be rushing to stores to heed their tattoo fix.

Ironically, according to the GQ, with tattoo parlors having been closed for the past three months, the interest and desire for tattoos has drastically up-ticked. This makes sense as we often want things that we cannot have. People who have been thinking of getting tattoos for years but ‘chicken out’ or put it off, now are most likely in a situation where they want one even more than previously. It will be interesting to see if that surge in interest actually follows through, yet it is hard to determine. This is in addition to the already booming tattoo industry, in which its popularity had never been more popular. According to Refinery29, at least 30% of Americans have tattoos, with 50% of Millennials adding to the $2 billion industry.

Due to the ongoing pandemic, despite allowing tattoo shops to open, there are still various restrictions that will determine when clients will actually be able to ink their bodies and how many clients tattoo artists can take in a day. Tattoo parlors have always been clean and highly regulated, especially since most times, tattoos take up multiple hours to complete.

Tattoo artists take the steps necessary to sterilize all instruments before and after use. Sterilization is not the only step that must be taken now. These extra measures include wearing a mask, sanitizing hands, temperature checks before every shift. In terms of the clientele, all surfaces must be cleaned and sterilized after every client. And finally, which can be the most harmful to the industry, limiting how many clients can be taken every day to align with social distancing guidelines. One tattoo shop in New York City, First Class Tattoo, will be following all of these regulations, plus enforcing that clients cannot bring friends and family to the shop that would normally support them.

Will the tattoo industry survive the pandemic? The short answer is yes. Obviously it will take months to recover from the destruction of COVID-19, however those who were going to get tattoos are going to get them. Tattoos are also seen as a form of therapy to some. Ink therapy is actually a form of maintaining mental health. The art form is a different experience for each person, ranging from remembering a loved one, to trauma, to really anything that has extreme meaning. Even for those who aren’t getting tattooed for therapeutic reasons, most hold some level of value to the individual. At the same time, people are using COVID-19 as a concept for their new ink. Some tattoo a personified version of the virus, some tattoo the beer not the virus. One that stands out is “Coronavirus Survivor” which also includes toilet paper, a valuable resource during these times.

While the COVID-19 Pandemic has hurt many industries, including tattoo parlors, as the world begins to reopen so will the many industries that were forced to close their doors. For tattoo artists, this means a slow start with many precautions put in place: extra sterilization, extended times in between clients, etc. Yet this will not stop the booming industry. Instead, possibly, the pandemic will inspire so many others to get that tattoo that they’ve wanted for years. Because if you don’t get it now, what is going to stop you in the future.

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