Inked in Harrisonburg

By: Mike McNeill Email
By: Mike McNeill Email

The tattoo culture in the Valley is thriving. Even white collar executives, volunteers, and television personalities are joining the trend.

You might expect to see tattoos on rock stars, bikers, and guys who just really really love their mom. You might associate them with those wishing to make anti-social statements such as Edward Norton's swastika -tattooed chest when he played a neo-Nazi in American History X.

No matter what assumptions you make about those that get tattoos, you might still be surprised to learn the guy in the cubical next to you is hiding more than just a spare tire under that collared and pressed shirt and tie.

Annie Holloob spends a lot of her time reading to kids and arts crafts from crocheting, cross stitch and needlepoint. She also has several tattoos.

She says, "There are tons of people who have incredible jobs who are giving back to their communities."

One such person is Ashley McCoy who is a mom and the assistant director for the Arts Council of the Valley.

She says, "It's just a form of self expression for me. I love art. I love body art. There are experiences in my life I have documented by it and why not?"

Holloob and McCoy are part of what the Canadian Sociology and Anthropology Association call North America's tattoo renaissance. Some sociologists believe tattoos provide a way for a generation, of whom several members have had very little stability in life, to create a permanent reminder of a time they feel is worth remembering.

WHSV Meteorologist Leigh Abraham recently got a tattoo.

He says, "I just got my meteorology certificate, and I have been thinking about this for two and a half years, almost three year, and it's a life changing experience I am getting on my arm."

His body art is a satellite image of a storm. But it's not just any storm. It's the storm that made Abraham want to be a weather man done in ink, forever his arm, as a reminder.

In the winter issue of "Context Magazine," sociologists Miliann Kang and Katherine Jones go as far as to say that tattoos have become for many a rite of passage into adulthood for many. But what happens when that passage demands a mortgage, health insurance or a career?

Pennsylvania State University professor and sociologist Dr. Nick Rowland says that tattoos certainly have grown more popular. However, they have not necessarily become more accepted in corporate America.

Rowland says, "Clearly the rise in Human Resources regulations concerning the display of tattooing and piercing suggest it is not as normal, at least normal to the professional world as it is more popular."

McCoy learned this from a simple handshake that turned into a discussion of her tattoos.

"I shook hands and I have a tattoo on my wrist and it popped out," says McCoy. "Things led to why would you ever want to do that to yourself, what do you do, and what kind of job do you have that you could ever get away with that? I explained myself and by it, I felt pretty good."

So whether it is to help remember an event or simply a way to express ones individuality, nearly everyone seems to agree on what a tattoo is.

Abraham says, "This literally is an extension of who I am."

One other thing that you might find interesting, the owner of Alley Cat Tattoo in BurgVegas says the impetuous college students won't be seen at the tattoo parlor.
The artists are quick to say that most of the tattoos they do are planned days, sometimes even weeks, in advance, and they aren't often spur of the moment decisions. is happy to provide a forum for commenting and discussion. Please respect and abide by the house rules:

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