Nothing beats the weather, the good vibes or the holiday excitement that comes with the spring and summertime. From longer days and rounding on that end-of-year excitement to the flowers popping up and – you guessed it – showing off this summer with your tattoos.
Getting your fashion choices right is one thing. Getting them to work with your tattoos another altogether. Whether you got a tattoo for the world to see or for more personal reasons, figuring out what to wear with them can be tricky, especially with spring fashion season around the corner.
So, what are people wearing to complement their tattoos this spring and summer? And how do your fashion choices affect the artwork gracing your flesh? We find out what to wear this season with your tattoos and take a peek behind, well, the threads, to see how it all fits together.
Tattoos – The Ultimate Fashion Accessory
South African summers can be brutal. Whether it’s a highveld thunderstorm wrecking your braai, the baking heat of the Cape making you sweat, or Durban’s ceaseless humidity leading you to wonder why everyone in KZN isn’t a nudist, summertime at the end of Africa means carefully choosing what to wear while keeping clothing coverage to a minimum.
And this is great news for anyone rocking an epic tattoo.
Tattoos, like fashion, help us to express our individualism. The different patterns, colours and shapes allow us to stand out and be noticed. But tattoos won’t cover up your naughty bits or keep you warm when things get chilly. They’re there to look good and reflect who you are.
This is why tattoos are such great accessories, complimenting our style choices, and adding flair and coolness to how we present ourselves to the world. And what better time to dress them up than when the sun is in overdrive for a glorious couple of months?
Tattoo Meets Fashion 101
Tattoos and fashion go hand-in-hand. But, like any good fashion designer or tattoo artist will tell you, getting the balance right matters, and so too does nailing the fashion-tattoo mix. Add in those summer-related weather considerations, location choices and party vibes, and you have a veritable cocktail of fun in the sun with beautiful people and threads that scream, “Look at this awesome ink”.
Here are a couple of things you’ll need to think about before heading out to your local tattoo studio or fashion retail outlet.
New tattoos and clothing
What about new tattoos? Well, first up, summer isn't exactly the best time to get a tattoo. But, for those already with ink, what you wear over them matters, especially in the summertime. You see, new tattoos can’t stand the sun. Your fresh ink won’t do well when exposed to a UV bombardment, and your healing skin will take a beating if exposed to sunlight. Plus, clothing that’s too heavy, coarse or tight isn’t exactly good news for your new tattoo, especially when it’s rubbing up against tender, newly inked, healing skin.
Summer tattoos usually means short sleeves, skirts and shorts, leaving those arms and legs open to catching a lovely tan. But anyone thinking about getting freshly inked on arms and legs in time for Christmas should also consider that they’ll probably have to wear something to cover up their new flesh art for a couple of days at least.
To cover or to highlight?
When it comes to your summertime fashion choices, it may also be a good idea to think about what you want your tattoo clothes to do for your tattoo. Are you trying to highlight your tattoo in the hopes of attracting some envious looks and the eye of a potential summertime fling? Or will you be needing to keep your new ink under wraps lest you wreck the family get-together over an argument about whether you should’ve gone with colour or opted for a greyscale piece?
Either way, your clothing choices should match up with the plans you have for your tattoo. Some items are perfect for directing attention to certain tattoos, while others cleverly conceal them without you overheating and passing out.
Location, location, location!
That classic butt-cheek tattoo or one right around the groin isn’t going to be seen by many summer strangers. But the arm, chest, back or leg tattoos are. Picking your clothing options based on where your tattoos are on your body means choosing carefully or conservatively. But who wants to be ‘low-key’ when the sun’s out in all its glory?
Look at where your tattoos are and choose clothing that compliments their location. Consider avoiding items that half cover, half reveal your ink and be smart in how you can roll, fold, button or zip up your tattoo clothes to ensure your tattoo’s placement isn’t compromised.
Summer tattoo fashion ideas
Next, let’s look at some of the summer tattoo clothing items loved by tattoo-covered sunseekers across the Rainbow Nation.
Shirts & Tops
Tattoos: Arm, shoulder, chest, waist, ribs, back & stomach
Like your upper-body tattoo options, so too are the clothing choices endless here. Tattoos on your upper body are meant to be seen, but being smart with how your clothing accentuates your tattoos (or conceals them) means picking the right tattoo clothes to do the job.
Think about wearing summer T-shirts or tops that leave your tattoos exposed or cover them without a seam or hemline bisecting the artwork. Long-sleeve shirts that can be rolled up and vests which show off your arm ink are popular choices, while loose-fitting items are great for tattoos, too. Plus, you won’t overheat during the summer, either.
Pants, shorts & skirts
Tattoos: Hip, thigh, knee, shin & calf
Clothing: Cargos ∙ Hotpants ∙ PTs ∙ Denim shorts ∙ Miniskirts ∙ Dresses ∙ Sarongs
Nothing beats a pair of butt-hugging PTs to go with your favourite slops, and everyone loves hotpants when catching some rays in the sunlight. Summertime means shorts, dresses and skirts, and that’s great news for anyone sporting tattoos on hips and legs. So, whether you’re looking to show off your latest leg piece or leave things to the imagination ‘below the beltline’, summer tattoo coverings below the belly button can get tricky.
Guys rocking old-school running shorts, cargos or denims or girls wanting to get the most out of their hotpants, cool off in a sarong or break out a beautiful summer dress can get innovative with how they pair their threads with tattoos on the bottom half of the body. Remember to mix and match according to your tattoo’s size, shape and colour and try to avoid anything that’s too tight rubbing over your ink.
Socks, headgear & swimwear
Tattoos: Ankle, foot, hand, neck, face & anywhere else…
Clothing: Cargos ∙ Any socks ∙ Caps ∙ Hats ∙ Bikinis ∙ Boardshorts ∙ Thongs
Let’s not forget about all those other body parts that tattoo artists love but everyone else ignores. Yes, we’re talking about those spots that hurt the most to get inked - like finger tats - and are often the ones we whisper about but usually make for our favourite tattoo sites. Tattoos on the body’s extremities typically don’t need anything covering them up in spring fashion or summer season, but they can be enhanced with the right gear.
From socks that neatly border your ankle tattoo to a light scarf allowing the keen observer to spot your subtle neck ink or a cap that perfectly matches the tone and style of your high chest piece, choosing right can make your summer months good-looking ones to anyone watching.
And then there’s swimwear. While all speedos should be outlawed, the right bikini, full-body cozzie, boardies or swimming trunks can take your tattoos to the next level. Summertime is the ideal period to showcase your tattoo. So make the most of it by selecting swimwear that doesn’t cover too much up – including your cute bum art - or isn't the exact same colour as your piece.
Tips and hacks for your tattoo fashion this summer
Spring fashion periods and summertime are when we all love to get out and about. Whether you’re working up a sweat, getting in shape for that hot girl summer, are keen to hit the trail for some hiking, biking or running, or are heading for the golden sands of our magnificent beaches, every summer occasion calls for the right threads. Threads that work for you and your tattoo.
Here’s how to mix and match your clothes this summer tattoo season to get the most out of how they work with your ink.
- Styles & colours
While going bright and bold is always a great way to stand out from the crowd, remember to pick a style and colour spread that compliments your tattoo.
Technicoloured zig-zags and tie-died clothes aren’t exactly going to work with a geometric greyscale piece, while plain whites or blacks are probably going to help those colourful tats stand out. At the same time, a tattoo can easily get lost with a boring grey T-shirt identical to the shading used for it while half-covering the art.
Think about lines, shapes and colour tones in much the same way you’d consider your tattoo’s design and try to find the clothing options that complement your ink rather than conflict with it.
We’ve already talked about how course or rough materials can hurt tattoos, especially newer ones. Think about opting for softer, smoother fabrics and less likely to cause chafing.
Nylons, polyester and 100% cotton are your best bet here, over rough denim or tweed. Besides, it’s summer, and rough equals hot. Clothing that’s softer on the skin lets the air in, cooling things down for you while keeping your skin friction-free and smooth. Don't forget to level up your skincare routine before hitting the beach.
Invest in good swimwear. Cheaper nylon fabrics in bikinis and boardshorts are known to damage the skin, breed funky microorganisms if not dried correctly and rough up your tattooed skin like sandpaper if you’re not careful.
Get creative with jewellery, fashion extras and fun clothing. Just make sure it works for your tattoos.
A smartly positioned necklace can beautifully frame a torso tattoo, while different-sized armbands, bracelets and bangles can adorn your wrist or forearm tattoos like a fashionista. Don’t be shy about letting your accessories highlight your tattoos, either. After all, you paid for the work, went through the pain to get it done and have taken care of your body art ever since – why shouldn’t you accessorize to show off?
A quick scroll through some social media accounts will tell you everything you need to know about what’s hot and what’s not this summer. Don’t be afraid to experiment, and remember, it’s all about your ink.
- Dress for the occasion
Christmas lunch with the family or a New Year’s Eve all-night party? Consider picking the tattoo clothes that match your tattoos in line with who you’re with, where you are and what you’re doing this spring and summer.
Be careful not to annoy any hyper-conservative family members with your choices (unless you enjoy bringing drama to the family function), and dress for the occasion. Your tattoos are a part of who you are and, while we encourage freedom of expression wherever you are, if you want your summer fashion to rock along with your tattoos, dress to impress.
Shop True Blue Tattoo Studio’s Epic Merch Collection
At True Blue Professional Tattoo Studio, we don’t discuss fashion – we ARE fashion. That’s why we want you to dress with your tattoos rather than around them. Visit us and see for yourself. While we aren’t exactly a high-end fashion house, our artists get that clothes and tattoos are a match made in heaven – summertime heaven.
Our merchandise range speaks for itself. Slick, stylish and reflective of who we are at True Blue, you’d be hard-pressed to find something you don’t like.
So, before you rush over to that 50% off clothing sale, stop and think about what to wear with your tattoos this spring and summer. After all, tattoos are the clothes of the flesh.