In a world where trends come and go in the blink of an eye, there is something poetic about the permanence of a tattoo.
When the art first came to the U.S. shores, it was Polynesian amateurs who imported their ancestor’s craft of tatau, which stood for “workmanlike” in the Samoan language. For years that term accurately described the clientele that body ink was associated with, starting with sailors and the working-class man. Over the past half-century or so, tattoos have transcended class or race, become more appealingly diverse, safely performed, and accepted by the current culture.
This evolution of customer has led to an evolution of the present-day tattoo artist. “The tools are mostly the same that we used two decades ago, but the level of artistry taking place now has improved exponentially,” says veteran tattooer Bang Bang. In conversation with the New York–based artist who’s inked celebrities and civilians alike, and penned this book, My Life In Ink, we discussed a few good reasons it’s time to get that tattoo you always wanted.
They Tell A Story
In Christopher Nolan’s iconic Memento, the protagonist Leonard, played by Guy Pearce, suffers from short-term memory loss and uses tattooing as a method to remember the loss of the wife that he seeks to avenge. Though many aren’t burdened with a disease as serious as that, a tattoo can be used to celebrate a person you love, or commemorate a person you’ve lost, which is more meaningful in this fast-paced day and age. “My favorite tattoo is a portrait of my daughter done by Todd Harris,” says Bang Bang.
They Last Longer
Ever been at the beach and seen that older gentleman with a blurry black smug that looks like it used to be a tattoo? If you do your part in the aftercare, there is no need to worry. “We’re able to craft them to age better,” he says. “We are able to accomplish incredibly intricate pieces that we would have never been able to do before. We can do hyper-realistic work that will hold up for years.”
They Are More Creative
“Two decades ago if you wanted to get cursive on you body, we were told to do 18-point Edwardian Script,” laments Bang Bang. “But now we have enough artists who are breaking the so-called rules that were passed down through the years. Getting a tattoo doesn’t mean you have to get this huge overwhelming piece. Now we can dilute the ink, to limit the pigments that get in your skin, creating a more elegant look.” The information age has also had an incredibly beneficial effect on the industry, allowing for breakthroughs in technique to travel worldwide.
They Are Welcome At Work
Having a tattoo used to be considered a certain kiss of death during a job interview, but studies show that that thought process is becoming outdated. While creative industries have always welcomed body ink, even more corporate companies like Bank Of America have sympathetic policies regarding tattoos. Considering that recent reports have 42 percent of Americans wearing some sort of ink, it’s probably a wise choice to have access to the best talent. “Recently I’ve been seen traditionally conservative companies who have booked me for my tattoos,” says model Dennis Klaffert, who got his first tattoo at age 15 with his father and now collects pieces from artists from the various places he travels for work.
They Can Attract
According to a new study published by Evolution & Human Behavior, in which 154 species of primates were observed, there is a science behind the attraction to people with tattoos. In the research scientists discovered that primates would use physical “ornaments” and “badges” to stand out to the opposite sex in high-density populations. There are a number of popular Instagram accounts supporting these findings, such as @beardsandtats and @tattooedboys, on which users scroll in envy and for inspiration.
They Can Be Covered Up
Happen to already have a piece of ink that you unfortunately regret, like the name of an ex or a quote misspelled? A cover-up refers to when an artist creates a new piece that uses darker inks and lays over the existing design. Bang Bang says that most of the clients he sees are actually people looking to beautify an ill-conceived piece. “I personally love doing cover-ups. It takes competence, but a good artist wants to be challenged.”
Unfortunately, getting a tattoo is just as painful as it was decades ago, but if it were easy, then everyone would have one. It seems like we’re already headed there.