Historically, tattoos have been associated with sailors, rogue bikers and the like. Criminals got tattooed in prisons, as a matter of pride, to signify the time they had done.
The Sailor who made tattoos fashionable
Then came the famous sailor who popularized the trend of tattoos. No, am not referring to Popeye. I was thinking of Sailor Jerry. He (Jerry Collins) brought in colour, cleanliness and safety with themes from places he had been to, like Asia for instance. He literally made the world of tattooing what it now is.
His work was phenomenal and his style, aped by most artists. There is every possibility that you have seen some of his work (at least influences) in your lifetime. You know that brand Ed Hardy? Yes, THAT Ed Hardy, was his protégé and his designs are emblazoned on the line of clothing that I wouldn’t recommend you touch with a 10 foot pole. Not even if you are going through a midlife crisis.
But eventually this changed and tattoos became, what I would call, mainstream. People began using their bodies as a representation of their beliefs, thoughts, love.
The tattoo trend (can I call it a trend, considering it has only gained more popularity over the years) became a means of self-expression. Men and women alike began expressing their individuality with their tattoos.
More recently, shows like Miami Ink and LA Ink brought about the revolution to your living room. Actors and models alike, who had to hide their tattoos for shoots were no longer subject to Photoshop cover ups. Look at most brands of late. The models are covered in tattoos if not for a couple of them on their bods. Think Levis, H&M (famous for the David Beckham line of innerwear) amongst others.
Celebrity tattoos, culture and personalization
Like products, tattoos got a much-needed stamp of approval when celebs like Johnny Depp, Beckham, Rihanna and Mark Wahlberg flaunted their artwork. I personally love the work that Nick Wooster has on his arms. That work, puts any full-sleeved shirt’s existence and purpose to question.
But that is only the glorious part of it all. In some countries and cultures, tattoos are looked down upon. Even if you look beyond it, in the corporate world especially, they might cost you a front-end job or the probability of being taken seriously. This too, is changing slowly but surely.
Then of course, like I was saying earlier, they became mainstream. People starved for ideas or concepts, search through the World Wide Web and if you have your personalized design out there, it no longer is unique. Somebody in some part of the globe has your tattoo. Yes sir.
The key to getting art etched on your body and not regretting it is picking a tattoo that you get designed from scratch. Tattoo artists these days can develop one for you specifically, if you describe what you have in mind. This goes a long way in making the tattoo symbolic of your personal taste and style.
Wait! It’s a trap!
Now for the tricky part. How do you team your tats with your outfits? Do you compartmentalize your style basis the tattoos you have? Singlets and buzz crops for people with swallow tattoos for instance? Leather jackets, bandanas and boots for those with eagle tattoos?
Also, with visible tattoos, do you lose out on your ability to dress the part in the boardroom?
I have a tattoo on my neck that peeks out even when am all buttoned up with a tie. Although initially faced with raised eyebrows I was able to pull off the work wear look by just ensuring my tattoo didn’t dictate what I wore.
The whole point is, to not get pigeonholed because of your tats. At my 9-5 desk job, I interviewed a candidate once. He was covered with tattoos (on his knuckles as well) and had a spacer in his ears. But when he came in for the interview, he was dressed in proper formal attire, tie and all that. I recruited him, basis his skill sets (and it was a good recruit, him being a brilliant resource).
If you are inspired (at any point in life) to get tattooed, go for it. But make sure you research the subject, the artist and don’t go for something that is cheap. You don’t negotiate with art. And remember, it is your body. And it is permanent. Get one, only when you know what it signifies to you. On a personal level.
A tattoo goes a long way in defining your style. And remember, girlfriends (or boyfriends for that matter) come and go. But a tattoo, it is forever.