Fashion, Inspiration, Licentiate Columns, Subculture

Licentiate Column 25/4/13: Thinking About Tattoos

I’ve been thinking a lot this week about various things. This is good because a) if I didn’t, then the space where this column usually goes would be occupied by a picture of me shrugging and b) if I didn’t have any brain activity, I would most likely be a dead person – and I’ve heard that’s not much fun.

This week’s thought space has been disproportionately concerned with tattoos. Tattoos have been around for thousands of years, existing in almost as many social contexts. Only recently has the tattoo been floated as a fashion statement, despite that fact that only clothes and tattoos are specifically designed to be worn on the body.

Is a tattoo a valid fashion statement? My first reaction is no. When it comes down to it, fashion is fleeting and temporary; it exists in a series of moments, preserved only when there is a pen or a camera around to capture it. A tattoo is much more personal – and much more permanent.

I’ve been thinking about getting one particular tattoo for about five years. It’s a book illustration, very small and very personal. I know where I want it to go. I know who I want to do it.

I can never find the motivation to book it.

People wear clothes to express who they are, but tattoos express the essence of a person. While an outfit says a lot about a person’s occupation, values, likes, dislikes and social status, the tattoo tells a story often burdened with feeling (I am now remembering, shamefully, asking a man I had just met what his tattoo meant, only to have him dissolve into tears over the death of a loved one).

A tattoo is a personal statement, not a fashion statement. It’s a shame that the underlying reason people give for not liking the tattoos on other people is because ‘it looks cheap’. It’s an amazing world we live in, when we are raised not to judge people on how they naturally look, but make blithe assumptions of a lack of class when we consider a change in look that a person has planned his or herself.

A tattoo is ownership. It is a person assuming autonomy over her body. Because tattoos are so personal, they transcend notions of class or taste. A tattoo belongs only to the person whose skin bear its marks. A person who passes judgement on the tattoos of others passes it in an invalid way. It won’t hold up in court.

A good friend of mine has been itching to get a tattoo on her chest. On first telling me this, my face immediately scrunched up into confusion and distaste. ‘Why would anyone want to do that?’ I wondered.

Then, of course, I realised that it didn’t really matter. Not my chest, not my place to stick my oar in. Ink will not change a person. The mark that can do that, you can’t see on the skin.

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One thought on “Licentiate Column 25/4/13: Thinking About Tattoos

  1. I’m pro-tattoos. My boss’s husband is getting his own tattoo gun and my friend has a home studio, so I’ve recently gotten a second tatt, but I think this isn’t the end. I do think there can such a significance placed on tattoos when sometimes, they just look really nice. It can be a whole lifestyle thing as well.. I say book it. (Pun intended eh?!)

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