Why Do We Really Get Tattoos?
Pain. Even the hardened psychopathic death row inmates on Lock-Up—because I am not wasting time in tat parlors, I am able to watch endless episodes of this incredible MSNBC docu-series about life in America’s prisons—admit that it hurts. Among the tattoo-related highlights on this must-see show: two blokes who tattoo the whites of each other’s eyes and, even more shockingly, some dude who proudly flaunts the word FRESNO across his throat in gothic script.
Given tattooing’s many compelling downsides—given that it wastes time and money, given that it hurts, and given that it is potentially injurious to your health—one cannot help but marvel at this new tsunami of ink. Could there be dark forces at work?
Here is my theory: Tattooing is no longer just tattooing. It’s a culturally sanctioned form of delicate cutting. Participants, i.e. everyone on Earth apart from me, are seeking an antidote to the numbed feelings and detachment that result from their idiotically screen-centered lives. If you look at Facebook, play video games and online Scrabble, and/or scour Slate 24 hours a day, you will eventually reach a freaky plateau of desensitized unreality. You will crave the enlivening, awakening, back-to-reality release which comes from the jabbing pain of a tattoo needle. Before you know it you will be begging some dude with a pierced tongue and a shaky hand to emblazon your chest with rutting unicorns and a lunar landscape.
The reason that I have not fallen down the rabbit hole and paid thousands of dollars to have the word SCRANTON writ large across my botty, is because I do not lead a screen-centered life. I barely know how to turn on my computer, and I carry my phone only when I am expecting bad news.
Photo by Jonathan Skow.
Though I have many reasons for remaining untatted, the principal one is the irrevocable nature of the whole enterprise. A pal refers to them as “permanent bell-bottoms.” This brilliant observation inspired me to seek out an impermanent solution. Et voila! I bought an Ed Hardy T-shirt, thereby combining sun-protection with an on-trend presentation of tats.
At the end of the day I can take it off and throw it in the laundry basket. Try doing that with your hide, Mr. Beckham.
A word of caution: Many people have an irrational horror of Ed Hardy. Though Ed Hardy designs are authentic—Ed was a real person, a California artist who is credited with integrating the Asian aesthetic into Western tats in the last century—they are most often associated with inebriated, herpes-riddled reality-show contestants who loll about in hot tubs. To wear an Ed Hardy T-shirt will, as a result, expose you to the disdain of fashion insiders: “Been nice knowing you,” said designer Prabal Gurung when I ran into him in a restaurant while wearing my Ed Hardy. “You’re kidding, right?” said designer Joseph Altuzarra, upon spying my new garment.
Those of you who are intrigued by my insta-tat solution and are prepared to brave the slings and arrows of disdain—maybe, like me you rather enjoy the delicate cut of a disdainful arrow!—might wish to check out the vivacious selection at edhardyshop.com. I highly recommend the kids Ts. They are cheaper and fit better. A boys’ size large is a men’s small.
Death before dishonor!
Simon Doonan is an author, fashion commentator, and creative ambassador for Barneys New York.(Photo by Roxanne Lowit.)