The Great Tattoo Debate: Body Art Or Body Graffiti?

There is little doubt that tattoos have become mainstream in today’s society. From pop stars like Rihanna and Christina Perri, to heavily inked rockers like Slash and Tommy Lee, it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that tattoos are popular in the celebrity world. Tattoo reality shows like Miami Ink and LA Ink have showcased some truly brilliant works of art and have made stars out of their talented artists, Kat Von D, Ami James and Nikko Hurtado to name a few.

But it’s not just celebrities; us mere mortals are also becoming bigger fans of body art, with Britain taking the title of most tattooed nation. What was once the preserve of sailors and bikers are now sported by accountants and lawyers, and it appears as though more people than not have at least one tattoo adorning their body. However, there are still some people that see tattoos as ‘tacky’ and ‘vulgar’, and in more extreme cases they are viewed as a symbol of ‘low class’, creating a class debate in the process. That old British obsession, eh?

Having four tattoos myself, and the intention to get many more in the future, I am definitely a fan of permanent inkings and feel that they can truly enhance someone’s appearance. Portraits, in particular, can look absolutely stunning if done by a competent artist, and are a devoted way of showing your appreciation for someone, be they family, friend or famous. Other tattoo styles, such as biomechanical, Japanese and photorealistic, are also true works of art if inked properly.

But despite the many fantastic inkings out there, there are a lot of tattoos that are, to put it bluntly, pretty terrible. The best examples of these are done by people known in the tattoo community as ‘scratchers’: people with no licence and little artistic merit who work from their homes for a cheap fee. As with many things, higher quality comes with a higher price, and tattoos are no exception. After all, a tattoo if for life; you can’t scrub it off if you get bored with it, and getting it removed is a lengthy, painful and expensive process.

Recently, philanthropist Katie Piper presented a show on Channel 4 entitled ‘Bodyshockers: My Tattoo Hell’, where three people underwent laser removal to get rid of their unwanted tats. However, the one thing that stood out from this was that all three had got tattoos that were both badly done and not thought through; instead, they were acts of rebellion and mischief. In this instance, ‘graffiti’ would be a fairly acceptable word to use to describe them, not because they were tattoos, but because of the WAY they had been done.

Last year, on ITV’s ‘This Morning’, former Apprentice contestant and newly labelled ‘Britain’s most hated woman’, Katie Hopkins, declared that people with tattoos ‘will never be high achievers’. She then went on to slate opponent Katie Waissel’s tattoos, which were dedications to her grandad and husband, in her typically blunt and self-assured way. However, she was quickly shouted down, and a poll at the end of the programme revealed that over 80% of the viewers believed that she was completely wrong about body art. Does this mean, then, that people are finally starting to warm to tattoos, even if they wouldn’t choose to get one themselves? Or were people simply not keen to be seen as sharing Katie Hopkins’ view? To be fair, either view is likely!

One thing is for sure, though: body modification is here to stay. It’s very rare for people not to return for another tattoo after their first, and other forms of modification such as piercings can also prove very addictive. Frankly, arguments such as ‘you’ll regret it when you’re older’ and ‘what if it prevents you getting a job’ do little to change many young peoples’ minds, and, whether they’re gotten during a drunken holiday abroad or after months of careful planning, tattoos will undoubtedly remain popular. Whether they will be completely accepted within society, however, remains to be seen.


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