Some primitive tribes use tattooing as a rite of social status. The Maori, of New Zealand use tattooing primarily for this purpose. To the Maori, a person's Moko designs enhanced their prestige and show transition from one social status to another. At its highest level, Moko designs proclaimed the sacredness of chieftainship.
Many modern American tattooist will tell you, "When you should get a tattoo, the tattoo god will tell you that it is time." Check out this article on Hawaiian arm tattoos on the site. In the 1970's, American tattooing discovered primitive, tribal tattoos. People wanted simple designs with meaning and they began copying designs, primarily from the islands of the South Pacific.
Full tattoo time lapse from design to completed tattoo LA gangster girl.
Things with flowers designs, or turtles, dolphins. This trend of Hawaiian design has then met it's match with the whole tribal tattoo movement. Tribal tattoos have been the hottest thing in the tattoo world since sliced bread or the old school WWII era Hula dancer. You see these influences have been all around us for a long time my grandpa even has one of those Hula Girls tattoos still.