Let’s face it: tattoos are in. You’re not about to make a shocking counter-culture statement with a Sailor Jerry swallow on your forearm. But that’s not to say you shouldn’t get one – tats are part of the modern zeitgeist. The long journey of body mods (which can easily become your internet rabbit-hole for the day) goes from ritual, to exotic, to deviant, to mainstream, and has culminated in this glorious blank canvas of possibility for the current generation of Millennials to splatter their lives all over. As I reflect on the myriad journal entries scrawled over my entire body, I’m struck with some thoughts for those contemplating taking the plunge. Before you punch your tattoo v-card, consider these three main options: a) don’t get a tattoo at all, b) get a really nice tattoo, c) go slapdash.
Spoiler alert: option C is my favorite.
A) The Case For Abstinence:
Express yourself by refusing to express yourself. Everyone and their mother has a tattoo these days and if you eavesdrop on coffee shop banter for a while you’re likely to hear someone say “Really? You don’t have ANY tattoos?” The commonness of body art has made a pristine dermis something to talk about. Sometimes the most powerful statement is the one that is not made. To those of you who are left out there with no tats, you are now the mysterious ones. Think about it.
B) Doing It Right:
THERE IS NO HALF-ASSING A GREAT TATTOO. It’s going to cost you money. Like, a lot of money. I’m not exactly an authority on good tattoos (When people say “Where did you get your ink?” I reply “Why? You want THIS?”) but I’ve hung around enough parlors and friends’ basements to know that if you want a really, truly good work of art on you bod for keeps, think of it as an investment. When you go looking for a tattoo shop, don’t settle for good enough. Ask questions. A lot of artists are fucking dicks and should be kicked to the curb if what you want is a unique masterpiece.
Also, it should be noted that there is nothing wrong with stereotypical designs (aren’t they all blasé by now?) Just accept that it is stereotypical and cool at the same time. If you want to, check out some solid flash-art (ready-mades) to get your mind going…I recommend searching for some of these: Sailor Jerry, Americana, Biomech, sacred geometry, tribal. And if you want a portrait, take out a loan.
Getting a big custom piece drawn up by an artist: 200 dollars.
Time spent under the tattoo gun: 600 dollars.
20 percent tip: 120 dollars.
A skull tattoo that actually makes people go “Whoa”: priceless.
Look, I’m partial to this option. I consider myself an activist for the legitimacy of bad tattooing. Every bad tattoo has a good story. You can’t get 6 inches across my skin without tripping on a half-assed stick-n-poke squiggle from high-school and I like it that way. The thing about getting ill-thought-out ink is that, once you make that initial commitment, you have to run with it. You GET to run with it. Freedom. If you have one tattoo and it sucks, I’m sorry. If you have 30 tattoos and they all suck, now you’ve got a theme; now it doesn’t matter what you do, it’s all just pages of the book.
I’m of the opinion that our skin is a story-board, a journal, a canvas, a place where I want the coroner to stop and say “Damn, I wonder what their life was like…” Whatever you decide to do with your skin, own it. Think hard about it. Or don’t. Either way, it’s a story.