I’m fairly extensively tattooed. Some pieces I love; some I wince at; some I forget about. I’ve had three girls’ names inked into my skin—one was removed by (painful) laser; another masked by a dense cover-up piece. So while I remain something of a tat addict, I’ve made my share of mistakes and have some ink-related regrets. Here are my (utterly subjective and somewhat tongue-in-cheek) tattoo dos and don’ts:
As a general rule of fashion, if soccer players are doing it, it’s over (see also: the fauxhawk). So tattoos in Sanskrit script—as sported by England’s David Beckham and Spanish superstar Fernando Torres—though exotic, are best avoided. Then again, Victoria Beckham, Katy Perry and Angelina Jolie also have Sanskrit tats, so they could be your excuse.
BE A MARKETING MARK
Big corporations make plenty of profit off of us and we really don’t need to become unpaid, walking billboards for them. So actually paying to have Nike swooshes, Adidas’ three leaves and other trademarked logos (I even saw a Crown Royal tat recently) pumped into your skin just makes you look like a shallow, brainwashed tool.
GET TRAMP STAMPED
Yes, those small-of-the-back pieces usually involving butterflies or some sort of “tribal” nonsense are a decidedly bad idea unless you want to endure lifelong ridicule/stereotyping, plan on a career in porn or are somehow able to spend the rest of your life on Spring Break at Lake Havasu.
A tattoo of a current pop culture image could age well . . . as a kinda time capsule or nostalgia trigger. But something that’s blatantly associated with a bygone era, especially during the decade or so immediately after that era, might date you in the worst possible way. I’m thinking about the guy with Beavis and Butt-head covering his entire chest.
Unless it’s a tiny piece which can be effectively removed or fixed/covered, there’s really no point in regretting a tattoo. If you think your body’s perfect, then maybe you simply don’t need tats. If your body-image is a little more realistic, then you can learn to live with most pieces, just as you do your lopsided smile or knobby knees.
Tattoo shops can be rather intimidating places, especially on first visit. But if you don’t like what the artist draws for you or its placement on your body, don’t be shy—speak up, diplomatically, before the ink hits the skin. It’s your body, not theirs, and the stakes are high. If need be, politely walk away.
HAVE A PLAN
If you treat each tattoo as a separate entity, but keep going back for more, you’ll soon be looking like Guy Pearce in Memento. So try to have a long-term vision of how you want your body to look and at least allow for some symmetry, shape and consistent style.
There are very few tattoos that you’ll absolutely love every day. But a design memorializing something you’re damn sure you’ll always want to be reminded of—the birth of a child; the passing of a loved one—ensures that, even if you go off the artwork, you’ll never regret the sentiment.
LOOK AFTER THEM
Like most things, tattoos require a little maintenance to look their best and even a fine piece can become faded over time. Particularly here in sunny SoCal, you should wear sun block over your tats (and over all other exposed skin, kids!) and, once in a while, have the fast-fading colors like oranges and yellows re-done. I did this with my half sleeves and everyone noticed.
If you plan to go back to a particular artist, tip them generously. Yes, tats are expensive enough already, but building goodwill with someone who’s effectively scarring you for life is money well spent.