While I can’t answer the OP’s question directly, I do have a theory about tattoos, and I base it mainly on observation. I think the current “mainstreaming” of tattoos is primarily a generational thing.
Going back at least 70 years, you had diverse groups of people who grew up with major things in common: the Depression and WWII. No matter where you lived, if you survived, you had that in common—it was a shared experience. It tied you to someone else. Next, the baby boomers had rock ‘n’ roll, the Beatles, Flower Power, etc. up to disco. Again, shared experiences.
Then Gen X had new wave and other music from the 80s, Reaganomics, Wall Street, Ferris Buehler, and other trappings of yuppiedom.
I started seeing the current trend of tattoos cropping up in the mid-90s, when the kids born in the mid-70s were in their 20s. With the internet and incredibly realistic game platforms, people didn’t grow up as “together” as other generations. In other words, kids didn’t have the shared experiences that their parents or grandparents had. The cold war was over, and the major war was in the Balkans. There was peace (for the most part, certainly compared to the 1940s or during Viet Nam), and life was good. But society was in a sense, splitting apart and going in many different directions.
Technology was, in a way, keeping people from seeing each other as often as they had previously. You occasionally hear complaints that kids spend too much time playing video games instead of playing outside, or they’re on the computer for hours at a time talking to people instead of actually talking face to face.
Obviously people still talk to face to face, and kids play outside, etc. but they’re more isolated than before the web, cell phones, video games and other technology.
So they started getting tattoos to tie their generation together in a way they couldn’t otherwise. In a way, tats ID one member of the generation to another.
Humans are social animals. Laugh if you want, say I’m full of shit, but I think the latest generation (call them Millenials or Gen X or Gen Y or whatever you want) has less in common (i.e. fewer shared experiences as a generation) than previous generations, so they use tats to tie them together as a generation; as a “club” so to speak.
I’ve also noticed somewhat older people getting tats, so my generational theory isn’t necessarily hard and fast, or as I’ve heard it put: no one does anything for just one reason. It’s also (I think) a way to show you’re young. There’s such a fascination with staying young (cougars going after younger men don’t like to be thought of as old), women (and men) getting Botox and plastic surgery, etc. So a person in his/her 40s getting tattooed is a way to say, “Hey! I’m not getting old! And even if I have to grow old, I don’t have to grow up!”