Think Before You Ink: A Man’s Guide to Getting a Tattoo

by Chris on June 13, 2011 · 207 comments

in Accessories, Dress & Grooming

“Show me a man with a tattoo and I’ll show you a man with an interesting past.” -Jack London

Tattoos. Few art forms have such a long history, and even fewer evoke such a broad spectrum of opinions. Revered by some as a sign of honor or distinction, by others as an outward expression of creativity and personality, and by others still as the mark of criminals and lowlifes, the perceptions of tattooing are vast indeed. Perhaps you are considering getting a tattoo in the near future. After all, most men have kicked around the idea at one point or another. While a great deal of information involving tattoos is subjective (design styles, coloring, size and visibility), one thing is certain: the better informed you are, the better your experience and final result will be. Let’s take a deeper look into the ancient art…

Tattoos Throughout History

Archaeological evidence from around the globe has confirmed tattooing to be one of the oldest forms of art and self-expression. Tattooing has been practiced either as decoration, as a mark of high station, or for healing or protective purposes throughout the history of mankind. From Neolithic ice men to Polynesian Maori warriors to the guy in front of you in line at the grocery store, tattoos have become a timeless art form that knows no cultural boundaries.

“Not one great country can be named, from the polar regions in the north to New Zealand in the south, in which the aborigines do not tattoo themselves.” -Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man

While many cultures throughout history are known for their prominent tattoos, such as the ancient Picts of modern day Scotland, the culture most widely associated with tattooing is the Maori of Polynesia. Indeed, the word “tattoo” originates from the Maori word “tatau,” meaning to mark. The Maori people practice two different yet easily confused forms of bodily modification, the tattoo as we know it, and another form of tattoo known as Tā moko. Unlike common tattooing, which repetitively punctures the skin while embedding ink for color, Tā moko involves the literal carving of the skin using a chisel known as uhi. This process leaves permanent grooves on the surface of the skin (usually the face, buttocks and upper legs), giving the tattoo a unique texture. Such marks were a sign of honor in pre-European Maori society, to the extent that those who did not have them were considered to be of a lower class.

“The marks in general are spirals drawn with great nicety and even elegance. One side corresponds with the other. The marks on the body resemble foliage in old chased ornaments, convolutions of filigree work, but in these they have such a luxury of forms that of a hundred which at first appeared exactly the same, no two were formed alike on close examination.” -Captain James Cook, on the Maori Tā moko

It was Maori influence that most likely led to the popularity of tattooing among sailors, which has continued well into modern times. Captain Cook’s men, like all travelers, were always on the lookout for artifacts and mementos of their travels. And what better way to bring home a bit of the exotic than by taking the marks of the native culture you had encountered on your trip? Tattoos blended well with the freewheeling culture aboard ship and the life of a sailor in those days, and the tradition quickly took hold.

“A sailor without a tattoo is like a ship without grog: not seaworthy.” -Samuel O’Reilly, tattooist

As the practice grew in popularity, tattooing among seamen took on its own unique characteristics. Whereas the Maori and other cultures used tattooing to signify one’s standing in society, sailors used the art form to mark various seafaring accomplishments and to invoke good fortune. For example, a tattoo of a turtle would mark a man who had sailed across the equator. A fully rigged ship represented a sailor who had made passage around the treacherous Cape Horn. The ever popular anchor represented a man who had sailed the Atlantic. Other tattoos, such as a pig on the top of one foot and a rooster on the top of the other, were said to protect the sailor from drowning; since neither animal can swim, they would help the sailor find dry land as quickly as possible.

Tattoo Taboo

Sailors historically had a reputation for being quite rough around the edges, and so the tattoo’s popularity with seafarers helped secure its reputation as something practiced by those on the fringes of society. This was true in other cultures as well.

Tattoos became so widely associated with criminal activity in 19th century Japan, for example, that the practice was outlawed completely and remained that way until the mid 20th century. This was a direct result of the popularity of tattoos among the Yakuza, Japan’s organized crime syndicate, who are clearly identified by prominent, often full body tattoos made in the traditional Japanese style known as Tebori. Unlike machine-drawn tattoos, Tebori involves the use of multiple large hand-held needles and a steady artist’s hand, resulting in more artist control of fading and coloring.

While tattooing has surged in popularity in American society over the last few decades, the art form is still considered taboo by many who continue to associate it with gang culture, prison life, and various off-putting subcultures. That being said, the negative connotation around tattooing is slowly fading as the idea of the human body as a canvas once again moves into the mainstream. In fact, tattoos have become so common–there are probably fewer celebrities and professional athletes who don’t have a tattoo than do–that for some, they have lost their appeal as marks of real rebellion.

Tattoos may now be much more mainstream, but they should never be something a man rushes into getting. So let’s take a look at just what you should know before you consider going under the needle, and what to expect when you do.

Think Before You Ink

We can skip the “it’ll be there foreeeeever” line that you have probably heard from most everyone you shared your tattoo plans with. You’re a big boy, and you can make this decision for yourself. The worst case scenario is that you will have a permanent reminder to make well informed and wise decisions in the future (in the form of barbed wire around your bicep). My recommendation to you regarding the choice to tattoo is this: If you’re going to get a tattoo, pick out your design, make sure it is original and has personal meaning, and then wait a year. Thank God I didn’t get some of the tattoos I wanted so badly in my late teens and early twenties. Usually, within a few months of having my heart set on a certain design, I was bored with it and had moved on to something else. When I finally found a design that I loved and knew I was comfortable with having on my body the rest of my life, I still sat on it for months before making my appointment to get it done. Remember, tattooing is a timeless art form. If you are in a hurry to get it done, you probably are not in the right frame of mind to get the most out of the experience.

As a more practical note, really consider where on your body the tattoo is going to go. Odds are, no matter how much you think to the contrary, you will want to cover your tattoo up at some point. Maybe it will be the first time you meet the father of the love of your life, or land a big job interview, or something else totally unexpected, but you will almost certainly want to have the option to cover it up. That being said, go ahead and rule out Mike Tyson-esque facial tattoos, and pretty much anything else you can’t cover up with your standard dress shirt and slacks.

Finding the Right Design

First, a thought on the design of your tattoo…BE ORIGINAL. There is nothing worse than unoriginal tattoos. With that in mind, avoid the flip boards full of tattoo ideas at all costs. They are nothing more than a compendium of tattoos that other people already have. The goal of tattooing (at least in modern Western society) is to express yourself. If the best expression of yourself is something you found on a flip board, you might want to do a little more soul searching before going under the needle. Of course, if your tattoo is signifying something important in your life, such as your unit in the military, you’ll likely want to stick to the design the others in your unit have as well.

An excellent example of originality blended with personal history is a tattoo a close friend of mine, Dave Forest, recently had done. Dave, who tragically lost two grandfathers to suicide in his childhood, wanted a tattoo that commemorated both the time he spent and the time he lost with them. After consulting with a local artist, he finalized a design which so clearly symbolizes his time with them cut short:

My own first tattoo had significant personal meaning as well. I knew that I wanted to get a tattoo done in Scotland, to commemorate the year I spent living there in graduate school. So for me, it is not only what the tattoo is, but where I got it that is significant. I designed a tattoo of the word “If” as a reminder of the Rudyard Kipling poem of the same name, in which Kipling invokes the virtue of stoicism and a “stiff upper lip” among men. Kipling’s words in “If” always struck a deep, resonant chord with me, and I wanted a permanent reminder that they were words to live by.

Doing Your Research

First of all, don’t even consider getting a tattoo anywhere except a clean, reputable tattoo shop. Remember, the tattoo you will get in some stranger’s basement will be permanent. So will the Hepatitis C you contract from his dirty equipment. A clean shop should have several sanitary measures in place to ensure a safe procedure. For example, artists should be gloved and needles should be new and taken out of a sealed package right in front of the client. Inks and any other equipment should also be new. All needles should be run through an autoclave, an equipment cleaning machine which utilizes steam and pressure to sterilize equipment. The work area will likely be separated from the shop and should be sanitized after every use.

Finding a good shop is just the beginning, however. Just as important to the quality of your tattoo is finding the right tattoo artist. Not all tattoo artists are alike. Most experienced artists will be capable of tattooing in multiple styles, but they will most likely have a specialization such as photorealistic work, vibrant coloration, or a certain cultural style. Make sure your artist understands exactly what you want and is capable of bringing it to life just like you imagined it.

Next, figure out what this is going to cost you. If you want a quality tattoo, you better be ready to pay for it. Depending on size and level of detail, tattoos can range from a 30 minute sit-down to several multi-hour sessions. Most artists will give you an upfront estimate, though this may need to be adjusted as the work progresses for larger tattoos. Remember that you are essentially hiring an artist to create a unique work of art for you, so be prepared to pay accordingly. A tattoo is not something you should bargain shop for. As the sign in one of my local shops notes, “Good tattoos aren’t cheap, and cheap tattoos aren’t good.” Also, it is customary to tip your artist, with a range of between 10-20% being a good standard depending on your satisfaction with their service.

Finally, find out what is included in the price. Will you be given a tattoo care kit, or will that have to be purchased separately? Most importantly and often overlooked, find out if touch-ups are included in the price. Often as a tattoo heals it will fade slightly, or uneven shading will appear during the healing process. Many shops will include free touch-ups down the road on any work they have done. It’s the tattoo equivalent of a powertrain warranty.

The Tattooing Process – What to Expect

We’ll offer just a brief outline of what to expect here, since the artist should orient you with the process in more detail before you get started.

The tattooing process involves several steps.

First, the artist may put what amounts to a temporary tattoo on you using a stencil made from transfer paper and a thermal printer. This will allow you to confirm the precise location and angle of your design, and will give the artist a basic template to work with. Now, let the tattooing commence.

The first needlework will be the outline, which will be done using a tattoo gun loaded with a liner needle and thin ink. Because a liner needle covers less surface area, this will be the sharpest pain you experience, particularly over sensitive or boney areas. Once the outline is completed, and following a soap and water rinse, the artist will begin to work on shading the tattoo. Depending on the design, the artist will likely use shading needles (multiple needles known as magnum needles) which deliver more ink to a larger surface area on contact. With the shading complete, any necessary color is added by way of shading needles as well.

With the tattoo completely inked, the area will be cleaned with soap and water, patted (not rubbed!) dry and covered with a sterile bandage. You can expect the tattoo to bleed slightly during and immediately after the process, so don’t be alarmed later when you remove the bandage and find a little blood or ink soaked into it. Over the next several days, you should apply a very small amount of antibacterial ointment to the tattoo to ward off infection and keep the area clean. You can expect redness, irritation, and a little swelling, but keep an eye out for more serious signs of infection. If there is any indication of infection, call a doctor without delay. Healing time will vary from person to person, but you should expect to wait about two weeks before exposing it to significant sun, salt water, or other abrasive elements.

Have a tattoo? Have twenty tattoos? Tell us about your experience in the comments below. Or better yet, show off your ink in the Tattoos Group in the AoM Community.

{ 207 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Kevin Daley June 13, 2011 at 6:57 pm

The advice I always heard was, “don’t get a tattoo where a judge can see it.” I’m sure many have heard that one already though.

2 Jake June 13, 2011 at 7:05 pm

Tattoo Machine…Not gun.

3 James June 13, 2011 at 7:11 pm

I feel like in the Marine Corps I stand out more because I don’t have a tatoo than I would if I had one.

4 Chop June 13, 2011 at 7:18 pm

+1 with Jake. There’s an old sign that used to float around tattoo shops (or get made and gifted), that stated:

To call one’s mother a ‘whore’ is a lesser crime than calling the sacred instrument of tattooing a ‘gun.’

5 Harr June 13, 2011 at 7:22 pm

When I earned my Eagle Scout, I thought a tattoo of that would be cool. August 3 will mark 10 years since then, and I’ve been thinking that would be a fitting time to finally do it. The only other one I have considered is the kanji for Isshinryu after I earn my black belt. Two things that took many years of deliberate effort and have had a major, permanent effect on my life.

6 AtomicBanana June 13, 2011 at 7:26 pm

Been under the needle four times now, don’t regret any of them, even the “spur of the moment” ones. In fact, the one I’m most proud of is on the inside of my left wrist, a pixel representation of Link from the Legend of Zelda. Not particularly original at all, and incredibly geeky, but the character reminds me of why I started along an artistic way of life, and when I’m feeling tense, looking at the clean lines and calming green ink serves as a way for me to remember my first impressions of the game, when life was full of opportunities and I could do anything with them.

It’s my opinion that a tattoo doesn’t need meaning to begin with, but will accrue many during its life.

7 Mr Writing III June 13, 2011 at 7:29 pm

You don’t put a bumper sticker on a Ferrari, which is why I won’t get a tattoo. : )

8 Miller Industries June 13, 2011 at 7:45 pm

I always wanted a tattoo, but I could never settle on an idea. And yet I know guys who get tattoos at a whim. And they’re not bad either! Even my wife has one! Should I just take a risk and go for it, or be forever second guessing myself?

9 Jersey Mike June 13, 2011 at 7:50 pm

Of the 4 sittings ive had in the last 10 years, 2 had purpose. One major is for my grandfather that raised me and a double tribal dragons to remind me to quell my temper in tough times. I dont regret the lessons or memories of the past as i look forward..

10 Edward Colunga June 13, 2011 at 7:53 pm

Before I went into the Military my Pop and I discussed this. He said ” You came into this world with no markings on your body you should leave the same way if at all possible. ” So I will.

11 bleh June 13, 2011 at 8:02 pm

ditto what jake said. and don’t patronize artists that insist on calling them ‘guns’.

12 Jake June 13, 2011 at 8:08 pm

@Miller Industries, Don’t rush it. When you find the right design you’ll know it.

13 MyBrightSpot June 13, 2011 at 8:13 pm

I JUST got a tattoo which is the beginning of a half sleeve. It combines the popular commemorative tattoo of the Sugar Skull and my child hood superhero, Batman. You can see it on my blog: http://www.confessionsfromthecenteroftheuniverse.wordpress.com

14 Jeremy June 13, 2011 at 8:14 pm

Right, because “machines” is so much more respectful and sophisticated than “guns.” Real artists don’t have chips on their shoulders.

15 chris June 13, 2011 at 8:24 pm

Excellent introduction to tattooing here. Lots of great advice, too.

I got my first tattoo* on my 25th birthday. It was an idea I was kicking around for awhile. I found the shop by asking for a recommendation from my most-heavily tattooed friend. Good tattoo that reminds me to keep my head right. When I was working as a barback [up until last week], I would get stopped by patrons at least a couple of times a week whenever a curious and/or inebriated person would catch a glimpse of my birds.

The noose and guillotine on my back were done in a home set-up. Not the best technical tattoos, but they were free and done in a sanitary fashion. But since they are on my back, I don’t see them often and sometimes even forget about them. There’s something to consider…

*It’s really a series of six, small tattoos: crows flying down my arm.

16 Marty June 13, 2011 at 8:48 pm

Sure, get one AFTER you have really thought about it. Just put it in a place where polite company will not have to stare at it.

And, I don’t hire wait staff with visible tatts. It just looks grungy.

17 Will Littell June 13, 2011 at 8:50 pm

I have a good friend who got a tattoo on his right shoulder blade as a memory for his best friend who was killed in a drunk driving accident. Even though it was a very reliable shop, and everything was sterilized, he got a staph infection had had to have surgery done for some complications it caused. What caused it was the chair he was sitting in after he was tattooed. Still turned out to be a pretty awesome looking tattoo.

18 Nick June 13, 2011 at 8:51 pm

“Show me a man with a tattoo, and I’ll show you a man with too much time on his hands and emotional issues.” – Nick

19 rob toast June 13, 2011 at 9:01 pm

“good work aint cheap and cheap work aint good” is alleged to be a quote by sailor jerry, a very manly dude, and a pioneer of the industry. the ‘hori smoku’ documentary about him is as entertaining as it is informative. a real american legend.

20 Words of Advice June 13, 2011 at 9:11 pm

“Think back 10 years – would you want what you drew then, on your body now?”
-Red vs. Blue
(Roosterteeth)

21 James McCarty June 13, 2011 at 9:13 pm

Of those men who get tattoos, there will be a certain number who eventually will want them removed. Many of these will be those who got their tattoos under the influence of alcohol. Others will be those who have changed girlfriends or (unlikely on this site) boyfriends. Thus, one more thing you should consider before you get a tattoo is what would be involved in getting rid of it.

These days, most tattoo removal is done with lasers. This is especially true of genital tattoos, where complete surgical removal of the tattooed area is inconvenient and disappointing. You should remember that the education and training of a doctor is much more expensive than that of a tattoo artist, and that lasers are much more expensive to buy and maintain than tattoo machines, so your tattoo will cost many times more to remove than it did to apply. Just as your medical insurance did not pay to have your tattoo put on, it will not pay to have it taken off, so don’t even ask. It will take numerous treatment sessions to remove your tattoo, and “remove” is a rather generous term, since it usually is impossible to get rid of the ink completely.

Because the doctor is attempting to disrupt the ink particles without damaging your skin, it is safest and most efficient to do laser tattoo removal when the ink is dark and the skin is light. That way, the ink will absorb the laser energy and the skin will not absorb very much. Darker skin or lighter ink colors, especially pastels, are very difficult to work with. If you are having an allergic reaction to the ink (most common with red inks containing cinnabar), laser removal is not an option.

Unfortunately, tattoo removal patients have a reputation for being unreliable about keeping their appointments and paying for them. Do not be surprised if you are required to pay for a certain number of treatments in advance, or if you are charged for missed appointments. If you expect the doctor to do his best while removing your tattoo, be prepared to do your part by showing up (sober) for your appointments, paying for them, and following your doctor’s instructions for care of the treated area.

I hope these facts will help you in considering whether or not to get a tattoo.

Disclosure: I am a board certified dermatologist with almost three decades of laser experience.

22 Michael Moore June 13, 2011 at 9:29 pm

“Show me a man with a tattoo and I’ll show you a man with an interesting past.” -Jack London

I think this might have been more true back in Jack London’s time when the social barrier to getting a tattoo meant that anyone getting one had already defied other social norms (part of being interesting, I think).

Many interesting people have tattoos, but most people I know who have them really don’t have interesting pasts. Well, unless you consider “It seemed like a good idea when I was in college” to be interesting.

These days I think the overlap between interesting people and people with tattoos is more incidental than not.

23 Robyn June 13, 2011 at 9:45 pm

I’m a chick, so I don’t know how much value my opinion has here, hahaha, but as the proud owner of 8 tattoos and someone who has worked in shops for awhile, I can tell you this:
All of what was written here is good advice, though the use of antibacterial ointment is a matter of debate. Yes, you want to stave off infection, but antibacterial ointment kills *good* bacteria (the bacteria that helps you heal), as well as bad bacteria. We always recommend a little bit of unscented, plain white lotion, or a product like Tattoo Goo.

Anyway, my experiences have ranged from awful to fabulous, but I don’t regret a single piece. My first tattoo was a basement job, and while I was damned lucky to avoid an infection, I ended up with a warped turtle that, 15 years later, is little more than a black blob. Every piece since has been professional, and I love them all.

I STRONGLY encourage anyone thinking about a tattoo to get something meaningful. It doesn’t have to be original (one of my fave pieces is a yin-yang/cherry blossom piece. Not original, but very meaningful to me), but I guarantee you will regret a tattoo that has no meaning. If you doubt me, talk to a dude with a barbed wire armband or a chick with Tinkerbell on her boob.

24 Marshall June 13, 2011 at 9:47 pm

Hi everyone,

I’ve been thinking about this for quite some time and I thought about getting on the inside of my arms. This tatto would be a simple , plain arrow pointing to my hand much like those you would see on road signs or something. These would have a lot of meaning for me as I am drummer and a hockey player and my arms “drive” these passions. Yet I wonder about the simplicity of these tattos, is it too simple ? It’ll be original for sure, but maybe too orignal ? These arrows would be totally black (understand not black outlines and grey filling ; COMPLETELY black), not too thick, about 2-3 inches wide. The lenghts would be so that the tip ends just under my wrist (it would be invisible when I wear a shirt) and the start would be just before the elbow.
Advice on the price, the pain , the originality , or anything will be much appreciated. Thank You!

25 Kelly June 13, 2011 at 9:59 pm

Nick says:
“Show me a man with a tattoo, and I’ll show you a man with too much time on his hands and emotional issues.” – Nick

Thanks for showing me what an “insecure boy who comes up with on-the-whim quotes to cite himself on an internet blog” looks like. Now go away.

26 Matt June 13, 2011 at 10:01 pm

The shading needles hurt far worse than the liner needles.

27 Vince June 13, 2011 at 10:02 pm

In my culture getting a tattoo is a very serious thing, a man has to earn every tattoo he gets, and if he gets one without permission or without having earned it, he’s likely to have it cut off with a razor if he’s lucky, or be killed if he’s unlucky.
Rules like that kind of make it easier to decide what/where/when to get one.

28 K June 13, 2011 at 10:05 pm

Vince: What culture are you from/referring to? I’m genuinely interested.

29 Vince June 13, 2011 at 10:06 pm

Southern Italian.

30 KenMonster June 13, 2011 at 10:19 pm

My dad gave me some really good advice. If you’re going to get a tattoo, make sure you get it somewhere you won’t have to look at it every day.
I have two now, one across my shoulders that reminds me to never, ever admit defeat, and one on my lat, which is covered by my tricep whenever I have my arms at my sides, that commemorates my little brother.

Like some people have said, they oughta have some meaning. AtomicBanana makes a good point when he says that they accrue character. Get something clean, simple, and evocative, and you won’t regret it.

31 Eric Granata June 13, 2011 at 10:32 pm

Getting something original is some of the best advice here. If you’re going to spend that much time and money on an act of self expression, you should pay an artist to come up with something original. Also, I’d encourage you to find an artist whose portfolio you like and, if you can muster up the trust, let him or her take some license with the design. They know the medium best and will be able to tell you what works and what doesn’t.

Also, for aftercare, I recommend pure lanolin. It’s all natural and every tattoo of my own that I’ve treated with it still looks vibrant and sharp. Be careful, though, it’ll stain your cloths.

Also, may I suggest artist and fellow AoM reader David Bruehl for all you Oklahomans itching for ink. He’s the best artist I’ve found since tattooing was legalized here a few years ago. http://brhltattoos.com/home.html

32 Johnny June 13, 2011 at 11:10 pm

I can say that I find most of what was said here to be true. I get a tattoo five days ago after two years of consideration and revisions. I realize I’m much younger than most readers, seeing as I have just graduated high school, but the amount if thought I put into it was, I think, about right. I designed a cross myself, with my initials, and the words “Live Third” on either side of the cross. This holds great meaning to me, as it is the philosophy I strive to live by. One peice of advice I can offer that hasn’t been offered yet, make sure that the place you get it is not influenced by the pain of the desired location. I got mine on my ribs, which is one of the most painful spots, because I knew that is where I truly wanted it and that I would regret getting it elsewhere, regardless of the pain. The way I see it, anything worth having is worth sacrificing for. Get it where you want it, not where it will hurt the least.

33 Bill the Jarhead June 13, 2011 at 11:22 pm

Yeah, my tattoo is a totally unoriginal USMC flash, out of an Oceanside book of stencils, but it’s just like my dad’s. Yeah, I would totally put a Marine Corps bumper sticker on a Ferrari, too. We’re Marines, the sticker or tattoo is a warning, the only one you get. And the idea of an Isshin-Ryu kanji tattoo after I get my black belt? Awesome, bro. It’s been a long road for me too, but absolutely worth the journey. Oh yeah, and I’m 50. Got my first ink in 1981. Tattoos, Isshin-Ryu, and Dress Blues, baby. I never wanted things to be easy. I wanted them to matter.

34 Hrolfr June 14, 2011 at 12:26 am

Tattoos and scars are different things………….

35 Matt Powell June 14, 2011 at 12:45 am

I am so incredibly impressed with the artistic ability so many tattoo artists have… I think it often gets neglected as an art. It troubles me sometimes that just because their means and medium are different they aren’t appreciated as the artists that they obviously are… Great post here as always.

36 Al June 14, 2011 at 12:56 am

I have 3 tatts my first was considered by some a little offensive for my line of work and had it covered with a beautiful original tribal heart, next came my Ying|Yang sun to remind me of balance in life and the last was my little boys name. I am saving now for a nice one which I have spent many a year promising to get.

37 Peter June 14, 2011 at 1:34 am

Thinking about getting a kanji tattoo but don’t read Japanese or Chinese? As a Japanese-English translator I’ve seen more than a few westerners (always outside Asia) proudly sporting a kanji tat that doesn’t precisely mean what they think it does. One can usually guess at the intended meaning (love, honor, gratitude, etc) — but the nuance is wrong or usage incorrect enough to produce stifled smirks from native speakers. (Rather like sign I once saw on an entrance door to a city hall in rural Japan that said, in English, “Heave forward” when they meant “push.”) You probably don’t want the same kind of charmingly incorrect kanji on your skin for life. To avoid this, you may want to check out: http://www.amazon.com/Designing-Kanji-Japanese-Character-Surface/dp/1880656795/ref=sr_1_4?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1308027774&sr=1-4
(Full disclosure: I know the authors and remember when they first noticed the problem and wrote the book, but I have no financial interest in this project – except to say they know whereof they speak).

38 Artimus June 14, 2011 at 2:50 am

Neither of mine are extremely original, however, they both have a lot of meaning. My first was done by a friend (don’t worry, he was an actual tattoo artist). It’s his own variation of the Sacred Heart on my bicep (easily covered, even with short sleeves). On it, there is a ribbon with my mother’s name. I’m pretty certain that I’ll never need that removed.
My second is of Hunter S Thompson’s famous “Gonzo Fist”. It was only after many years of being a fan and reading most of his work (my favorite being his ESPN piece, post 9/11) that I decided to go through with it. It’s on the side of leg, which is easily covered with pants. Most professions frown upon wearing shorts, so I shouldn’t frighten anyone off with it. And having been a fan for as long as I have, I shouldn’t have any regrets in the years to come.
Beyond that, I’ve thrown around many ideas, but I’ve never felt strongly enough about any of them to get them done. I’m sure I’ll eventually decide on another, but I’m in no hurry.

39 Library Desk Graffiti June 14, 2011 at 3:01 am

@Marshall

awesome idea, seriously. that’ll look good and most importantly it’ll look good when you’re 70 years old with a beard and a Harley.

i have three stripes around my upper forearm just below the elbow: black, red, blue and the simplicity is what makes it worthwhile. meaning can wear off over time so as long as the design isn’t too tethered to any potential meaning you’ll be happy.

40 Artifact June 14, 2011 at 3:58 am

Great article.
I think you failed to mention a particular importance of tattoos and the Naval Tradition. Bodies of sailors were often only identifiable by their tattoos.
I have one tattoo. After my backpacking days I’d learned a lot about what it was to be Australian and had a local artist design a kangaroo motif which went on my shoulder. Unfortunately soon after my tattoo, the race riots happened in Sydney and suddenly patriotism; flags, Kangaroos, Eureka Stockade and southern crosses started showing up (or I became aware of) on people who I do not like to associate myself with, but what can you do.

I particularly dislike tattoos that are culturally significant on people with zero connection to that culture. Unless you’re Japanese, have some connection to Japan (like someone else posted, about to get your black belt,) don’t get Kanji characters the artist assures you means “wisdom” (and not “noodles” yes it happens). Same goes for tribal tattoos.
Also, be careful when assigning meaning to your tatts. I worked with a guy who got a tiger and dragon in mortal combat on his forearm. He showed me and told me they represented strength and wisdom to which I replied “so why are strength and wisdom locked in mortal combat?” He literally hadn’t thought about that.

41 Mark Gill June 14, 2011 at 4:55 am

Personally I’ve never been a fan and on women less so. I always like this quote.

“I always look for a woman who has a tattoo. I see a woman with a tattoo, and I’m thinking, okay, here’s a gal who’s capable of making a decision she’ll regret in the future.” ~Richard Jeni

42 Sebastian June 14, 2011 at 5:54 am

Couple of points: Needles should really be single use, thrown into a sharps container after being used. New customers – new needles. Atleast that’s how my tattoo artist runs his shop, and I for one am glad for it. Also, while you mentioned salt water, my artist advices not to swim or bathe at all while it’s healing. Followed this religiously, and my tattoos look good for it.

43 erica June 14, 2011 at 6:29 am

Tattoos are what I think of as ‘purchased notoriety’.
I’d rather look at a man by his deeds and ability, not by the ink he bought.
Sorry, guys… tats are lame.

44 Stephen June 14, 2011 at 7:03 am

I don’t think my will to live can survive getting into what is a real artist debate on the Internet but the very least a professional artist doing a job everyday for years as their source of income should know is what the thing they do it with is called. I’d say someone who doesn’t say “hey, what is this thing called?” and google it by at least year 5 seems to lack natural curiosity. Whether that makes them a real artist or not is probably secondary to if you should give them money to potentially get a blood-borne disease and a drawing (call it art if it’s good) on your body that will practically never go away.

45 Joe A. June 14, 2011 at 7:38 am

As a tattooer myself, I think you’ve done a really good job at guiding people through the experience of getting a first tattoo. You certainly nailed the history, sterility and shop portions. I’d like to offer another opinion though, on choosing a design. I see people who hold on to designs for so long that they lose all the fun in it. Waiting a year and a day to get a tattoo can be a great exercise in patience (which one should always have when trying to get a tattoo), but it can also mean that it’s been over analyzed to the point that you may never really be happy with it. Remember that tattoos are FUN! It’s okay to go to the flash boards if you choose! They’re there for a reason! In our shop we have flash boards that date as far back as the 1920′s! Every design on those pages is truly historical Americana and exceedingly manly to boot! Any good artist will be able to draw a design for you in any style whether you have an image ready or not whether its the size of playing card or a half-sleeve. We practice that every day and are honoured when asked to create something for you. Those images on the flash boards however, can spark an idea that you may not have thought about. They can all be altered to suit you.
It’s also okay to get a tattoo just because it’s cool!!! I’m not suggesting that the decision be taken lightly, just that it doesn’t HAVE to encapsulate your life to this point in one image or even have a particularly deep meaning. You’re already making a statement simply by getting tattooed. Being spontaneous and confident is an equally valuable trait to patience. We will certainly walk you through it if that’s your desire. If you do decide to just pull the trigger, make sure the design is strong and will stand up to the statement you’re making! We have fun tattooing and we want you to have fun too. Leave the worrying up to us to keep you safe and healthy.

46 Oren Truitt June 14, 2011 at 7:46 am

While I do appreciate the artistry in a well done tattoo, the vast majority are poorly done. What was once a mark of individualism has become a sign of conformity in today’s society. I am so sick of seeing lovely young women with a ‘bitch stamp’ in the small of their back or a butterfly or unicorn on their shoulder. A rose on their breast, oh COME ON! And men with barbed wire or so-called tribal tattoos around their upper arm, ENOUGH IS ENOUGH! If you can’t be original and do something with MEANING why bother? If you feel the need, make it original, personal, and artistic. Children’s names, runes, hieroglyphics or Chinese ideograms are NOT artistic. And DO NOT ask a tattoo artist to decorate your body in a language you do not read! How do you know what you are getting says what you want it to say?

I am an Eagle Scout, a Freemason, a Shriner, hold 2 college degrees, am a gunsmith, have a wonderful wife and 2 great children but I don’t feel the need to advertise any of these wonderful things on my skin.

47 Joe A. June 14, 2011 at 7:47 am

@erica just another note. what’s truly lame is that attitude toward something you don’t understand. remember that we’ve all got deeds and abilities under our belts as well and shouldn’t be judged by you at all, let alone for a stylistic choice that we’ve made. we go home to our families at night just like everyone else. maybe think a little bit before you generalize or assume that stereotypes are true.

48 Oren Truitt June 14, 2011 at 7:50 am

@erica. Thank you for your comment. Well said. I am glad to see someone who agrees it is not necessary to advertise your accomplishments on your skin.

49 Chris June 14, 2011 at 7:55 am

What’s lame is calling tattoos, “tats”. That’s a sure sign of someone with one or two tattoos. As someone who is heavily tattooed, I can tell you nothing is lamer than when someone with a handful of small, shitty tattoos wants to discuss their tattoo ideas.

50 Trailer Park June 14, 2011 at 8:08 am

Tatoos were manly at one time. Not anymore!! At one time you had to earn it or it was a right of passage. Thanks to the feminization of men over the last 50 years, ink instead of deeds are PURCHASED. Go shank someone in prison to earn one or go whaling in a skiff. Today, if you ride a fixed gear bike and wear Buddy Holly glasses with sleeve tats you are cool? Way to dilute and destroy a time honored tradition. Love to see the tribal tats on middle class fraternity duoches. Yeah, what tribe are you from? When I was young, you had a resepctful fear of someone with a tattoo. Now I laugh. Impress me by taking them off with 80 grit sandpaper or actually enlist and see some combat.

51 Jeff June 14, 2011 at 8:16 am

My wife’s uncle (now deceased) was pretty heavily tattooed. He had this advice: never get a tattoo of anyone’s name, except your parents’ or your kids’. Seems wise to me.

52 Dan June 14, 2011 at 8:48 am

“Show me a man with a tattoo and I’ll show you a man with an interesting past.” -Jack London

People keep commenting here about how this quote is no longer accurate, due to tattoos becoming more and more mainstream. What do you think could be the equivalent today of what a tattoo was in Jack London’s era?

53 K2 June 14, 2011 at 9:32 am

A man with scars has an interesting past, this day and age. You can’t fake those.

54 Trailer Park June 14, 2011 at 9:34 am

Amen K2!!!!!!

55 Mark June 14, 2011 at 9:43 am

Good read. I personally don’t like tattoos, but this is a good article regardless.

56 cocktailsfor2 June 14, 2011 at 9:58 am

A good primer, overall, on tattoos.
I would add, under the “Doing Your Research” section, to get REFERRALS !! If you have a friend that has a tattoo that you like, ask him where he got it. And be willing to travel to get a good one – you don’t HAVE to get inked in the first tattoo shop you see.

A good shop will often let you watch someone getting work done (as long as it’s not in a body spot that requires privacy) – sit and watch for 1/2 an hour, see how the artist works, whether they put the client at ease, etc.

Also agree with others about having names inked – before I got my first tattoo, I asked a co-worker why he had his daughter’s name underneath his design, rather than his wife’s name. His reply – “My wife may not always be my wife, but my daughter will ALWAYS be my daughter!” stood me in good stead, and I wisely feigned “soreness” after getting my first one without putting “her” name underneath it. We split up 5 months later.

Both of my tattoos have personal significance (actually 3 – one is a coverup), are unique designs, and I’m glad I got them. Mine date back more than 20 years, so I was part of the “cool before it’s cool” crowd. Which, of course, means nothing.

Last advice: realize that ALL tattoos fade over time, and even though there have been improvements in inks over the years, tattoos that have large sections of “black” will become “blue” and faded, and probably not look very good.
Sorry to take up so much space, but the thoughts kept coming.

57 Richard G. Williams, Jr. June 14, 2011 at 10:04 am

Sorry, no appeal whatsoever. The only ones I respect are on old sailors and marines. Now, every teeny-bopper pounding your local mall has a butterfly where she shouldn’t. Real men don’t need tattoos.

58 Hilton June 14, 2011 at 10:05 am

Tattoos are for chavs. Be a rebel and don’t participate in the mania. Why would one want artwork from someone else on their body?

59 Simon June 14, 2011 at 10:21 am

Way too much drama surrounding tattoos, too many opinions, too many misconceptions. Some look good, some have meaning, but most are shit house. They have lost all sense of pride and honor that’s supposed to come with them. It’s become a stupid, expensive fad that needs to be reserved for people who truly earn them. Not every teeny-popper douche bag who thinks he’s SO CASH.

60 Mr Rui June 14, 2011 at 10:22 am

Someone explained how to do a tatoo, from art class. It was a trend for kids, who don’t discuss it with grown-ups, before playing with it. Very naive. After that, it’s back into being bored, but funny.

Tatau could be onomatopeya, a warning about the pain, reminding me of local tautau, slap. Those who can take the pain, bring up that it won’t work as redemption anymore.

Being an academic art student, I should be turned down as tatto artist, because I don’t use it. There’s a feel of what else could those people do for a living, because of their own tattoos.

61 erica June 14, 2011 at 10:23 am

@Joe A …
Good job whipping out the teenage comebacks…
>’you don’t understand’ and
>’judged by you all’ and
>’think a little bit’.

I expressed my personal taste, you are welcome to yours.

@ Oren… you sound like a Man :-)

62 Chris Carignan June 14, 2011 at 10:33 am

I am a regular reader of this blog, as well as the comments on the blog entries. I was pleased to read this particular blog post, and I am grateful that it is here.

However… that being said…

I don’t think I’ve ever been more disappointed in the AoM community than I am right now, after reading some of the opinions written here. We still have a long way to go in accepting each other as fellow men, brothers, if this is where we currently stand.

Think before you ink? Yes. And while we’re at it: how about think before you hold on so tightly to your preconceived notions rooted in snap judgments or ingrained stereotypes?

63 Joe A. June 14, 2011 at 10:39 am

@ Oren Truitt I guess you feel the need to tell everyone about your “wonderful accomplishments” in a public comment stream online! I guess in studying for your two dergees you never learned about humility. I thought they surely would’ve taught you about that in Boy Scouts.

@erica Well I’m clearly dealing with a teeenager. I’m just pointing out facts. You clearly do not understand. You did generalize and make a judgement. And I suppose I did simply opine that you need to think a bit, but that’s really entirely your call. now everyone knows how shallow you are! congrats!

Look, tattoos don’t define who you are any more than the shirt you wear does. Some of us who have been around it for a long time (before television started to misrepresent our industry and craft) put great stock in the classicism and romanticism that this art form holds. If you don’t like it, don’t get one! This a stream about tattoos, not about not liking tattoos. One of my favorite tattoo shop signs: “IF YOU DON’T BELONG, DON’T BE LONG.”

64 Nathan Pozderac June 14, 2011 at 10:44 am

@Hilton – because I’m a terrible drawer…therefore, someone else’s artwork far exceeds the quality of my own…also I think they are attractive. My right arm sleeve was designed by me, in stick figure/”looks-like-my-3-year-old-drew-it” form, then my tattooer fleshed it out. And, it’s beautiful now.

@AoM – some tattoo artists don’t appreciate their tools being called guns. Many tattooers are somewhat passive, or nonviolent, straight-edge etc, and would oppose the label of a gun. Tattoo machine is more appropriate, in some instances.

65 Thomas June 14, 2011 at 10:58 am

Chris,

Though I have no tattoos and little interest in getting one, I enjoyed your article a great deal.

For those who are interested, I thought I’d recommend my favorite short story prominently featuring tattooing: “Parker’s Back,” by Flannery O’Connor.

http://www.waukesha.uwc.edu/Faculty—Staff/Directory/Faculty-Staff-A-C/Greg-Ahrenhoerster/276-Syllabus/Parker-s-Back.aspx

66 icecycle66 June 14, 2011 at 11:01 am

I have a few tattoo’s special to me, but nothing super awesome.

THe coolest tattoo I’ve seen was years ago while stationed in California. A Marine I met had an open scroll on his forearm. He had each place the Marines had stationed tattooed down the scroll. He plan was to ink every place the Marines sent him, at that place, and close the scroll when he retired.

67 B. Hill June 14, 2011 at 11:05 am

My college roommate and best man at my wedding gave me the best tattoo advice I’ve ever heard. “Never get a tattoo you can live without.” (paraphrased) The idea was that once you found something actually worth putting on you, (proper design, significance, etc) you would never be happy until you got it. If you could be happy without it, then odds are at some point you would regret it.

68 drew June 14, 2011 at 11:15 am

i swore i would never get a tattoo. there is no point, it looks trashy, why would you want something permanent that you can’t change?
then my wife and i loss our first child in the womb at 26 weeks. all i ever wanted in this life was to be a father. i claimed to be a father already because there was a child in my wife’s womb. then he was gone. still birth. the hardest thing i could have ever imagined having to deal with. as i wipe tears away from my eyes even now i know i have not come to grips with my loss even though it’s been nearly three years.
we now have the most amazing daughter. after she was born on that father’s day i went and got a tattoo on my chest. it’s a symbol i created that represents from womb to God. below it is his name and middle name, Anderson Perry. i got it so that i he’ll always be near my heart and when someone asks me about it… i get to talk about my son. i’ll never regret getting it and find warmth in the fact that it is permanent.
most tattoos don’t have the meaning that mine does, but there are some out there that do. some.

69 Gatesy from Oz June 14, 2011 at 11:19 am

HI, guys!

I am a webmaster of an Australian private school Rugby website. We have players right from under 10 through to under 18. I have long been an admirer of your website, and, indeed had a link to it on our site. Unfortunately, when you published the article on tattooing, I thought that the moms (we call them mums) would definitely not appreciate an article extolling the virtues (if any) of tattooing. So, reluctantly, I took the link down.

What a shame, because this is such a wonderful site, and, actually, the sort of thing that young blokes should see, as I think that they will question their dads (and mums) on many of the issues that are published here….the things that just don’t get talked about around dinner tables, any more……I absolutely loved the article on opening doors for women!!

I do realise that your website is designed for a more mature audience, and I certainly don’t wish to be too critical…… it first came to my attention after you published an article on the virtues of Rugby (found it through a Google Alert) and I have been an unabashed fan ever since.

When that (tattooing) article finally disappears from general view, I will re-link your site, but for the time being, I have to be cognisant of what the school may, or may not, approve of.

I hope that you will take this in the right spirit, but just remember, that while you are having fun with the older guys, you can also be doing a lot of good with the younger ones (at least those intelligent enough to go to our school!!).

Thanks – maybe this gives a perspective that you may not have considered.

Keep up the great work – I certainly haven’t stopped reading!

Gatesy

70 Kyle June 14, 2011 at 11:27 am

Hori Smoku is definitely worth your time to watch if you’re interested in the history and evolution of Tattooing.

I think the idea behind the London quotation is constantly evolving, but it seems obvious that tattoos are less distinguishing now than they once were when tattoos indicated traveling a wide world that was less connected than the one we internet commenters inhabit. I think it’s simply a fact, rather than a tragedy to bemoan.

Lastly, I don’t see how anyone can make generalizations about the quality or merits of tattoos. Such comments are like someone making a generalization about paintings or architecture; there’s no way to express a summary opinion (positive or negative) about the whole breadth without revealing your own ignorance. There are folks with living beauties and others with works ill-conceived and unfit for ink-on-paper. There are deliberate commemorations and works of alcoholic whimsy. There is such thing as a bad Tattoo, but if you follow Brett’s advice, you’re much less likely to end up with one.

71 Josh Walker June 14, 2011 at 11:32 am

Why is this still such a touchy subject? People get tattoos for their own reasons. If you chose to have one, great! If you chose not to, great! And if you don’t want one and don’t like them, then please express it as “I don’t like them and don’t want one”, rather than “people that do that are stupid and insecure.” If you know someone that did it for that reason, then it’s true of that person, but please don’t apply that hasty generalization to the rest of the world. If someone else chose to get a tattoo or not, it’s none of your business. So please keep the disparaging comments to yourself. It’s called an ad hominem fallacy, and it’s not an argument, it’s an error. If you have constructive criticism to offer someone that is seeking it, then by all means, but if you want to point fingers and call names or mess around in someone else’s affairs for any reason, then please don’t.

On tattoos themselves, I have a tattoo of my children’s birthdates in roman numerals on my arm. Their mother also has the dates in a slightly different style. My generic advice would be, as the title of the article indicates, don’t get a tattoo lightly. It took me several months of introspection to make sure I would not regret getting, even something as meaningful as a representation of my children, permanently emblazoned on my skin. If you’re not sure, wait a year, or two even, to make sure you’ll still want the tattoo later.

72 Chris Carignan June 14, 2011 at 11:41 am

@Josh Walker: very well stated. I agree wholeheartedly, and I thank you for your comments here.

73 to whom it may concern June 14, 2011 at 11:43 am

@Gatesy
i’m sure you do not talk about the horrors of Nazism there at your school. i’m sure there are no sexual education classes as well. God forbid you teach your kids about the tough issues. you should be glorifying AoM for posting this article. do you think that not talking about tattoos will keep your students from getting them after it is legal and they are on their own? you can tell them that tattoos are despicable and try to brain wash them not to get one just like religions do with all sorts of things. however when they realize that it is an option and that it is available to them, they will only have your nanny nanny boo boo argument as whether to get one or not.
this article gives great insight as to what tattooing is and will persuade people not to get tattoos more than it will talk them into it. such a shame you would deprive your students of all the great insight on this site because of such a cosmetic issue that is tattooing. i hope you don’t take other blind eyes to tough issues. give them the facts. they will eventually make a decision with or without you. best to educate them while you can.

74 Tommy Warshaw June 14, 2011 at 12:14 pm

An excellent article. I just got my first one (at age 30) back in March. While I didn’t have this article to read, I thankfully had buddy with a few tattoos that pretty much gave me the same advice.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/virginia_southern/5647139532/

75 Jonathan June 14, 2011 at 12:56 pm

Kudos to AoM, as always, for being unafraid to discuss the polarizing topics. I have two tattoos as well as some pretty impressive scars; all speak to interesting things. Both tattoos are easily concealed with business or formal attire, so I get to choose who sees them. At the same time that I let the viewer decide what to think of the artwork, I also don’t particularly care what the viewer thinks of me as a result.

76 Steve Floyd June 14, 2011 at 1:00 pm

Every tattoo I’ve had done is intensely symbolic and personal, but I would also recommend that you have a tattoo artist design the actual artwork, unless you are extremely talented as an artist. My most recent ink is a quiver of arrows on my back with the initials of each of my kids on the arrows’ feathers. I took my sketch to the studio & they drew a true piece of art from my idea.

77 Luke Charley June 14, 2011 at 1:40 pm

Gosh, thank you for putting this up. Some people these days do not think before they ink. This is wonderful. Keep it up.

78 Dan F June 14, 2011 at 3:44 pm

Great article!

I’ve been thinking about getting one for some time, but I’m still kicking around the design ideas. I’ve got a bicep and deltoid already reserved for The Fraternity and the other arm for my career. I whole-heartedly agree with waiting a not insignificant amount of time before inking. One of my best friends has a co-worker who got a free tattoo from a radio station promo (their choosing)… from what he told me it was a very grotesque rendition of genitalia … there’s no such thing as a “free” tattoo.

Anyway, at some point and time I’ll have to start nailing down designs and contacting an artist.

79 Eric Granata June 14, 2011 at 4:24 pm

+1 Chris Carignan on comment 62.

80 Matt June 14, 2011 at 4:29 pm

An article full of good suggestions.

I saw a lot of tattoos amongst the sailors and Marines with whom I served. Some of those tattoos were were born of questionable decision-making — just as they are with the tattoos by civvies that we all see today — but many were very personal…and I never begrudge a man’s personal decisions when he is putting himself in harm’s way.

To echo the protests of others: Of course we can’t pigeonhole all tattoo bearers. Not all of them are man-children who are focused on superficial affectation, rather than men focused on principled deeds and living. Of course they aren’t all emotionally-stunted males wearing the permanent equivalent of a Tapout t-shirt. But it definitely can create that impression, especially because in many instances those are, in fact, the case. That’s why you if you decide on a tattoo, it should be one that can be hidden.

Same goes for women and tattoos, of course. It’s easy to think they’re all like the granddaughter on Gran Torino, or like the skank that hangs out at the dive on the cornor, but…well, maybe they are…

81 erica June 14, 2011 at 6:34 pm

@joe a … “Well I’m clearly dealing with a teeenager”…
Yeah, put downs seem to be your stock in trade.
Can’t handle a woman having different taste than you, eh?
Good luck to you selling your ink, joe.
I’m moving on to better things …

82 JM June 14, 2011 at 7:24 pm

I would warn people to beware if overstepping cultural boundaries. I’m a rugby coach and have been fortunate to work with Polynesian players with some awesome ink. One of them had his done with a hammer and quill when he was only fifteen. My guys are always disappointed when they see shoulders or arm bands that tell stories of a family other than the owner.

83 Peter June 14, 2011 at 7:34 pm

@K2: Right. Scars are tattoos with more interesting stories.

84 Eric June 14, 2011 at 7:40 pm

I have 14 tattoos myself. My advice might best be summed up thusly:

1. Never tattoo a girlfriend/wifes name on your body. EVER
2. My friend and tattoo great Walt Daly Jr. once told me to never get a tattoo below the elbow, or above the neck. Unless you have what he called “Fuck you money”.
3. Definitely wait a while to get something done. If I had a nickel for everytime I’ve seen a Tasmanian devil tattoo on a man, or a rose on a woman’s breast, I’d have an assload of nickels. And yes, tribal/barbed wire is horribly overdone.
4. Take advice from tattooed friends or people with good looking work in regards to selecting an artist. Ask for that person by name. It also never hurts to name drop. And for god sakes, DO NOT agree to a tattoo that does not fit what you want 100%.
Hit me up, I know a few good people in Seattle.

85 Gary June 14, 2011 at 7:41 pm

If you want to have a message tattooed, by all means check your grammar and spelling before the artists starts! As demonstrated by the website below, there are way too many tattoos that confuse “your” with “you’re”, “there” with “their” or “they’re”, misspell “judgment” (there is no ‘e’ after the g), don’t realize “a lot” is two words, and put apostrophes to indicate a plural (i.e.-”dog’s” when referring to a pack of canines, not a possessive like “a dog’s life.”

There will be people in your life who will judge you by the way you present yourself, and a misspelling in a tattoo may cost you in ways you cannot imagine.

http://ugliesttattoos.failblog.org/

86 Julian June 14, 2011 at 8:18 pm

Tattoos have lost their value and symbolism with every tom, dick, and harry having it. Men using it just as decoration betray the importance of earning your tattoos in various groups such as the sailors, prisoners, gangsters, the military, murderers, etc. It seems to be a lower class association that has come into prominence only with the erase of class boundaries in the West and therefore we end up with the lowest common denominator.
Read this for some enlightenment:
http://www.newcriterion.com/articles.cfm/demello-dalrymple-2647

87 Joe A June 14, 2011 at 8:24 pm

@erica. You do realize that the stream shows that you’re the one who started any name calling. I was trying to contribute in a relevant fashion to the article and the comments. I’m finished.

88 Chris Carignan June 14, 2011 at 9:10 pm

You know, Julian, evidence suggests that some of the first pants were worn by horseback riders. But I guess that, since every tom, dick and harry wears pants nowadays, the symbolism and connection with horseback riding have been lost.

Men using pants as decoration betrays the importance of needing pants to prevent chaffing of the inner thighs while riding horseback. But with the erase of fashion boundaries in the West, pants can now be worn by anyone with the money to buy a pair.

So, for the sake of preserving the custom, value, and appreciation that is due to those who have earned the right to not have their thighs rubbed raw (i.e. horseback riders)… we should all give up our right to buy and wear pants if we’re not going to be riding horses.

89 PJ June 14, 2011 at 9:14 pm

Tattoos should, I believe, be a very personal decision. I knew I wanted one. Took me about 10 years to figure out what I really wanted inked on my shoulder for the rest of my life. It has meaning for me, at least.

Now I know I want another. I’ll probably spend another five years figuring out what it will be.

Good advice and interesting article. Thanks.

90 Eric June 14, 2011 at 9:49 pm

Wow, there are several harsh indictments here. If you don’t like tattoos, DON’T get one. Leave me and mine alone. They have found body modifications on even the earliest examples of man. Jewelry, branding, tattoos, and other adornments date back to flint tools. I have been a cowboy, marine, musician, and semi professional fighter. I DIDN’T get tattoos to impress you or your girlfriend. Sailors used to pierce thier ears to denote surviving a ship wreck, retired business people get gold watches and tie tacks, cub scouts get patches showing they accomplished a task. Hell

91 Moldy June 14, 2011 at 10:52 pm

Am I missing something?
Why do people get tattoos to commemorate an event? If it was of any significance wouldn’t you remember it forever?

92 Jake June 15, 2011 at 12:16 am

Can we stop pretending? Tattoos are external. All those events or people you wish to commemorate don’t need to be on display for you to remember them. You were already there, you already met those people, you already know everything you could possibly tattoo on yourself. You’re getting them to get the attention of other people. If you want to get it, fine, but at least stop kidding yourself into thinking its more than it is.

93 Chris Carignan June 15, 2011 at 12:33 am

Jake, that is one of the most severely close-minded things I have read recently. You don’t understand it, fine… but at least stop judging those who do.

Why do we take photographs of important events in our lives? If we already know everything we could possibly take a picture of, then any outward manifestation of capturing that moment in time is obviously vain and a sad cry for attention.

94 James B. June 15, 2011 at 1:02 am

Never have I seen so many negative comments on an AoM post. But, I can’t say that I’m overwhelmingly shocked by it because tattoo stereotypes go both ways: for those with being unfortunate, unoriginal, attention-seekers; and those without being unfortunate, also unoriginal, wet blankets.

So, it appears we’ve come to a stand off on one of our favorite blogs. How are we to settle it? My suggestion, take a few cues from many of the other articles posted on this amazing gift from Brett and Kate and act like a best man (or woman) you can muster. It’s almost embarrassing to read most of these comments and think that the quality of the readership has really tanked.

That being said, being judged by your tattoos is an unfortunate part of having them, but comes with the territory. Accept that. And, being a judge with sayings like “they’re not original anymore” and “they’re for teeny-boppers blah blah” is such a childish rant, get off your high horse. To the wet blankets who say you don’t need memories or achievements painted on your body to remember them are missing the point, and probably should refrain from using devices like cameras for fear of sounding too hypocritical.

As always, stay manly.

95 Sparrow June 15, 2011 at 4:54 am

All of my designs originated elsewhere, but I chose to re-draw them before having them inked. They’re not perfect. I prefer them that way. (No, I really do. Life is messy.)

I have:

bracelets from a symbol that I originally saw in a comic book, but then later saw a photo of on a centenarian native fisherwoman, which was definitely not the artist’s inspiration, as nobody had ever photographed her before that article… (ideas never really go away)

wings on the tops of my feet, based on tribal butterfly wings I found on the shop walls and then modified as I stood there in the store (as a virgo my ruling planet is mercury, mercury had wings on his feet…)

the crescent moon and triangle Douglas Fairbanks Sr sports in Thief of Baghdad (I run a film festival in honor of his birthday every year, it’s just an outline now, I think I’ll have it filled in when I hit the ten year mark)

…and the logo for the Spacing Guild from Dune, it’s in the film for all of thirty seconds, my best friend and I got it on our inside left wrists at the same time in two different cities (it represents folding space, or being in two places at once)

96 Don E. Chute June 15, 2011 at 6:33 am

At 52 and inkless, I have been entertaining a tattoo. Running many original ideas through my mind. I will always remember as a small tot sitting on my Dad’s lap and tracing his tat with my fingers well before I could even read.

Till one day when I could, and I said to Dad…”Dad who’s “Marie”? My Moms name was ‘Clara’!

He was a Merchant Seaman which now explains everything.

Aloha From Sunny South Florida!

97 sean June 15, 2011 at 7:49 am

wow! such a touchy subject,name calling,finger pointing,just the reason i got my first tattoo @ the ripe age of 17 & never regretted it.now @ the age of 42 i am adding to my collection constantly.bottom line in my opinion if ya don’t like it don’t look,but please keep yer pie hole closed don’t tell me about being a sinner,jailbird,gangsta,whatever its my body,my hard earned $$ not yours.thanks the the great site.
Sean

98 Richard Smith June 15, 2011 at 9:57 am

Why would anyone want to put ugly pictures on their bodies?

99 Chris June 15, 2011 at 10:30 am

Choose your tattoo artist wisely. You may end up having to tattoo a squiggly red line under a spelling mistake.

http://ugliesttattoos.failblog.org/page/185/

100 Mike June 15, 2011 at 10:39 am

A little before my daughter’s first birthday I decided to get a tattoo to remind me of her as a baby. While I had seen people with tattoos of their kids’ foot and handprints I noticed that they were all monocolored and one dimensional. To be different I decided to make a photocopy of my daughter’s right hand and have the tattoo artist draw that with her name above it.

He had never heard of anyone doing a shaded portrait of their kid’s hand and loved it. My wife loved the tattoo as well, and now I’ve determined to do the same with every subsequent child.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post:

Site Meter