From Sailors to Mainstream – Exploring the Evolution of Body Art

Last weekend I discovered two of my children were dead set on getting tattoos.

The problem was, it was only one of three things that I had insisted on them never doing (the other, in case you are interested, was getting addicted to drugs or smoking…basic parental requests, one might argue).

Tattoos were once the preserve of the likes of Popeye – now they're a statement by the masses. Picture: Paul Abbitt
Tattoos were once the preserve of the likes of Popeye – now they’re a statement by the masses. Picture: Paul Abbitt

Do not get me wrong. If you are a fan of body art, then I wish you the best. But I come from a family – and for that matter, an era – where tattoos weren’t the done thing.

The majority of people did not find them fashionable or cool.

These seemed reserved only for sailors or those who wanted to appear intimidating. Popeye comes to mind if you are trying to imagine an image that will tick both boxes.

I was surprised to learn how normal they’ve become in our modern age. In my youth, it was a big deal for a guy to get their ear pierced.

Maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised that my kids wanted to join this trend. At this point, it should be pointed out that ‘kids’ suggests they are misguided 14-year-olds. They are both in their 20s, and I can trust them to make well-considered decisions.

To tattoo or not to tattoo – that is the question
To tattoo or not to tattoo – that is the question.

As the craze spread, I often thought about getting one for myself. I usually do this when my common sense is temporarily thrown out the window after three drinks.

I think it reminds me a little of how I scribbled the names of my favorite bands onto my school bag back then. The bands were popular at the time. But would I have wanted to cover my arm with Carol Decker’s likeness circa 1987? Answer: Probably not.

Imagine I was a Rolf Harris hater with an enormous Rolfaroo tattooed onto my back. It would not be perfect.

These dangers pale insignificance if I have to pay to sit in a seat and be tortured by someone for however long it takes.

Granted, people paying for pain is probably a thing – but not for me, it isn’t.

Paying for pain? Our columnist isn't so sure
What about paying for pain? Our columnist disagrees

But I digress. In the last 25 years, tattoos have become a popular statement.

The desire of my children to break one of the three golden commands of their father is, at least, a lesser evil than the two other commandments (which I reminded them about and insisted on being non-negotiable as they told me of plans to run roughshod over each other).

Both have chosen small, discrete designs. At my age – and theirs, for that matter – I think we’ve passed the point where my view counts for all that much. Which is right.

If they’d told me they had ‘love’ and ‘hate’ tattooed across their knuckles, on the other hand, we may have had a falling out.

So they’ll no doubt get ‘inked,’ as they say, and I will, without question, still think they are both flawless.

There's no denying the talent of tattoo artists...but our columnist remains unconvinced. Picture: Joshua Atkins
Our columnist isn’t convinced. Picture: Joshua Atkins

And if they say it didn’t hurt too much, then maybe – just maybe – I might follow suit.

After all, my biggest fear – aside from the pain is what a tattoo would look like when I was an OAP. The truth is that I am getting closer and closer to the age when I will need a tattoo. So, maybe now is the right time. Maybe not.

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