September 12, 2002

Body Modification

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F rom Popeye to DC Comics’ Tattooed Man, from a famous Ray Bradbury collection of fiction to circus sideshows, the tattoo has long lived in the American subconscious as one of the most easily recognized forms of permanent body modification. For many, the art is clearly public display, a form of blatant non-verbal communication. For others, the hidden tattoo (or piercing) is strictly a matter of personal style, a sensual and hidden secret. Still others simply seem to love the look.

For many, the tattoo has become the ultimate fashion statement. That said, the body modification market (including piercings) is prime feeding ground for people hungry to make just such a statement. And who, may I ask, is hungrier to make a statement than a college student?

Indeed, Dawn Stiehl, co-owner and operator of Stiehl’s Body Modification says that the vast majority of their business comes from Cornell, Ithaca College, TC3 and Cortland Community College.

“We get a lot of kids in from the colleges,” said Stiehl, “They’re always coming in and looking, trying to decide if they should do it [get a tattoo or piercing] or not.”


Stiehl’s tattoo artist Kent McKnight says, “We see them [customers] at around 18 and again at their midlife crisis.”

McKnight, who has been in the business for around 8 years, also went on to comment on the current trends in the tattoo business stating, “It’s like clothing and ties: wide ties are in, then narrow lapels are in