Yes, tats have been around for thousands of years. But it's been the Gen Y population that's responsible for the massive surge in popularity for the past several years. Millions of people who would have never considered getting a tat are now "inked".
It's just a matter of time before this fad is over, but unlike the Gen Xers who could shave their goatees and rid themselves of the Grunge look, or Baby Boomers who could take off the peace pendants and beads, a tat is permanent.
So what gives? Hip becomes unhip, very quickly in modern society. And the vast majority of recent tat recipients did it to be "Hip".
That''s why I think getting a tattoo should be a decision that's very well considered and the design you get should mean something to you. For instance- my brother has a maple leaf on his back and our family crest on his calf. Both are meaningful and not something he's likely to regret. Myself, I never thought I'd be able to settle on something I'd like forever until a friend of mine passed away. The memorial tattoo I have in honour of his life isn't a fad- it's a piece of him that I can carry with me forever. If anyone ever asks (and they do periodically) I can say without qualm what the tat means to me and if I ever have children, I would never feel uncomfortable explaining how I loved someone who died too young and this is how I keep his memory alive, how I keep him with me. If tattoos have meaning outside of the fad, I don't see anything wrong with them.
Some people will have regrettable tattoos, but those that got tattoos for personal reasons and not in an attempt to be "hip" will have the permanent reminder and art piece they desired.
My friend, a Harvard anthropologist, will have a beautiful reminder of the time she spent working alongside National Geographic in Indonesia and both the work she accomplished there and the people she met.
The girl I saw at the library with what I can only assume is her name in pink bubble letters will probably be disappointed.
Tattoos are far from a fad. Only certain designs, like when everyone was getting Chinese symbols. Lol. Those that do it for a reason other then to look cool will always outweigh the tools who get their impulse "cool" tats.
Some of them will always be cool, especially if it is clever, unique or personalized in some way. But to some extent we already have seen this begin to happen. I don't think tribal armband tattoos are very popular anymore, at least not from what I have seen.
I don't think something like tattoo's will ever really go out of style. Besides not everyone has one just as a fad. Some have real meaning that's why they have been around for so long. Also most likely in 20 -30 years, they will improve upon the process for removing even permanent tattoos. (without laser surgery) So it won't even matter latter on.