This symbol, which became famous thanks to the actress Jessica Alba, even now at the start of 2019 remains an effective antidote to mass conformity. Let’s see why.

Let’s retrace our steps for a moment. The first time it was flaunted before spectators worldwide was when the Hollywood actress Jessica Alba played the part of Max Guevara in a post-atomic Seattle in the cult series ‘Dark Angel’ which was aired on Fox at the start of the millennium from 2000 to 2002.

Rabbit Acid, Recycle Tattoo, Phu Nhuan, Vietnam
Rabbit Acid, Recycle Tattoo, Phu Nhuan, Vietnam

Alba, whose code name in ‘Dark Angel’ was X5-452, had this tattoo in the shape of a bar code on the back of her neck.

This was the start of a trend which became increasingly popular from 2000 onwards. Although it must be said that some world renowned tattooists refused to bow to the consumer demand for a subject which during the 90s, in the wake of cyberpunk, had been chosen for far different reasons.

Iuliana Erhan, Savage INK Tattoo Studio, Marrakesh, Morocco
Iuliana Erhan, Savage INK Tattoo Studio, Marrakesh, Morocco

First and foremost, we’re dealing with a highly subjective tattoo, seeing as how the barcode is often used to encode a name, some important date or a series of numbers which are meaningful to the wearer.

Then, clearly, there is the whole issue of counterculture, of protest and rebellion which this subject fortunately still represents. Usually done on the back of the neck or on the wrist, in the 90s, this tattoo was and still is an accusation directed at our social culture which sees us as part of a vast “warehouse”, mere goods identified by a bar code. A product and nothing more.

Sagé W. Falls, Private Studio, Portland, USA
Sagé W. Falls, Private Studio, Portland, USA

That is why even in 2019 this simple symbol, strictly monochrome (though some artists have also given it a fresh twist as a cartoon or in colour), has to continue to be a sort of peaceful protest against a culture where everyone – maybe – wears the same clothes, listens to the same music and uses the exact same technological devices.

All the more reason why this tattoo, severe and exacting as no other, remains a clear declaration of protest against consumer culture as well as an undeniable symbol of diversity. A celebration of the diversity and uniqueness of the person who chooses to ink it onto their skin.

Baam, Private Studio, Seul, South Korea