Show of hands – who remembers how popular Chinese symbol tattoos were, or those ‘wicked’ tribal tattoos that were all the rage in the 90s and Naughties? If you weren’t around for ‘KTV Power Edition’ and the era before cell phones came along, then you’re probably too young to know about those types of tattoos but do not worry, as you will see, a fad ain't always so bad.
As a tattoo aficionado and tattoo shop owner, I have seen what feels like hundreds of tattoo trends come and go over the years and, to be honest, a lot of them have made us feel less like artists and more like photocopy machines.
And while there have been a lot of tattoo trends over the years that now come to produce a gag reflex for tattoo artists, I’ve realised how important some of those fads have been to the process of growing and honing my skills, and more importantly, how they mark a story about us as a collective. The origins of tattoos, in essence, were trends that became traditions and told stories of that time and are now a symbol of belonging.
Yes, as artists we pride ourselves on individualism and are generally averse to trends (like the hand and finger tattoos that people are living at the moment), but who says you can’t use that originality to take a trend and make it a work of art you can be proud of? We should be asking ourselves how amazing we can make this dissolving, disintegrating feather tattoo that the client is so unbelievably excited about, instead of spending so much time hating on the design.
Maybe this is just me climbing onto my soapbox here, but I’ve been in this game a while and I truly believe that the artistry of tattoos isn’t as black and white as we veteran tattooists often think. Trends change with each generation for complex reasons, and we have a front-row seat to what resonates with people across languages and cultures through symbolism.
For one thing, no matter how ridiculous a client’s tattoo idea might seem, the fact that they have entrusted YOU to etch and burn it into their skin is wild, right?
And who are we to say that the phrase or image we’re tattooing is total bullshit? I must admit that they’re at least a little more challenging to design and tattoo than their Chinese predecessors. And, luckily, our shop is now in the position to choose the type of tattoo art we want to do.
From sailors’ anchor tattoos to star signs, feathers and watercolour roses, every tattoo tells a story of a time in history, the way people thought and the stupid things they did when drunk. So, don’t be ashamed of the ancient Chinese symbol or proverb snaking its way from your butt crack onto your lower back – embrace it! Show it off and let people know which tattoo era you hail from.
And when you’re done with that, come see us. We’ll fix it up in a jiffy.