This paper does three things. It describes the nature of tattooing from a historical and cross-cultural perspective. It argues that in the West tattooing has moved from the margins of society to the core of the middle class and it examines some of the politics and the economics of tattooing. Finally, the paper links the socio–cultural and economic aspects of tattooing with its symbolic and communicative functions. Throughout the paper, the question is raised of the relevance of a tattooing practice and aesthetic to the postmodern or postbourgeois anthropological and humanistic perspective.