Tattoos were, once upon a time, a sign you belonged to the criminal underclass. Strange how much things can change in a few short decades - in 2016, it's almost edgier to maintain virginal, un-inked skin than to go under the needle, now that (almost) everyone and their grandma has come around to tattoos. As a result, the stigma permanent body art once carried has all but disappeared.

The evolution of North American attitudes toward tattoos reminds us of what's currently happening with marijuana: once a seedy, dangerous criminal activity, cannabis use is increasingly embraced as a lifestyle - and, as a result, the stigma is slowly receding.

Here are four celebrities who win bragging rights for getting on the trend before it was cool.

1. Justin Trudeau

A large, stylized raven adorns the Canadian Prime Minister's shoulder Justin Trudeau: the design, which he got just prior to becoming Liberal leader in 2013, is by celebrated Haida artist Robert Davidson. He tweeted the following explanation of the symbolism behind the tattoo back in 2012.

2. Rihanna

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Rihanna's 21-plus tattoos run from fairly conventional (music notes on her foot) to comparatively hardcore (full-hand ink inspired traditional Indian henna designs). She's been known to frequent Lower East Side tattoo-shop-to-the-stars Bang Bang for about 13 of those pieces. As for the story behind those striking hand tattoos: her right hand is a henna-style tribal dragon claw she got in New Zealand on her November 2008 tour. "It represents strength and love," she told reporters, adding that the traditional Maori-style ink "hurt like hell." Her right hand features the word "love" in a simple cursive down the side of her middle finger.

3. David Beckham

Beckham's tattoo of the Roman numerals VII (7) on his inner arm are a reminder of the former midfielder's shirt number when he played for Manchester United and England. The footballer has more than 40 tattoos, which also include the Latin for "So that I love and cherish" and "Spiritual perfection" on his right arm, the names of his children on his neck and back, and the number "99" on his little finger to commemorate the year he married Victoria Beckham.

4. The Rock

"[My tattoo] all comes down to three things," says Dwayne Johnson (The Rock), "which is my family, and protecting my family, and having a very aggressive warrior spirit that you can't hold down."

Can't decide on a tattoo that matches your personal history and character? Commitment-phobes can always pull a James Franco and invest in the temporary variety.

banner image: adifansnet / flickr