On Trend: Fashion’s Flirtation with Tattoos

We’ve been head’s down for the past week working on a new concept in region development, and the entire team has been heavily focused on getting our concept region up and running, leaving very little time for blog posts and other noncritical path efforts.

However! To make up for that, we’re sharing some thoughts about one of fashion’s hot topics, namely tattoo art.  We first were exposed to the wider world of tattoo art when we were at the University of Chicago, and we found an absolutely fabulous tome called ‘Bad Boys and Tough Tattoos’, by Samuel Steward.  BB&TT is a wandering, first person report of one man’s pursuit of the art of tattoo-ography to the point where he left his academic career as an English professor to pursue his true love of inking people’s bodies.  What we recall most vividly from this book were the anecdotes of some of the places people chose for their artwork, just how squalid the world of the tattoo artist was, and that his new choice of career, while personally fulfilling, was considered by his colleagues to be almost bordering on the perverse.

Since then, we’ve been watching the evolution of tattoo from being a racy, risqué form of body decoration to becoming not just an accepted but even a highly sought—after form of fashion embellishment.

Looking at the trends for the first decade of the new millennium, this permanent form of body art has moved well beyond the transgressive world of Bad Boys and Tough Tattoos into a world where body art is no longer a risqué right of passage for inebriated sailors on leave from long tours of duty who later hide their misbegotten ‘tatt’.  Now tattoos are proudly flaunted in everything from ink sleeves to full body ink.  No longer something limited to Hell’s Angels and other sketchy characters, tattoos have moved into the mainstream, with young girls getting ‘tramp stamped’ with colorful designs on various parts of their body. Even Barbie got in on the action, in 2009.  (And yes, we know, you have to be 18 and show ID to get tattooed in most states, but we’re just saying we’ve seen a lot of teens with tramp stamps here in NYC.)

As Fashion morphs and manipulates Trend, tattoos have been the source of inspiration for such apocryphal lines as the Ed Hardy brand , with the heavily black lined and vibrant colors used to create trendy accessories and apparel with a strong tattoo bias.

New and interesting trends, which are less permanent, are also being explored.  One we liked quite a lot, which incorporates the present craze for hand-created, slow design accessories, is for tatted tattoo art , which showed up recently on Trendhunter (Trendhunter called it knitted, but anyone with any experience with handwork would immediately recognize the artform as tatting). .   We’re not personally interested in obtaining a permanent memento of our brazen youth, since we’re not at all sure that much of this inked art is going to perform well with age.  Somehow a saggy butterfly or teddy bear just doesn’t seem terribly interesting to us.  Nor are we sure about how tattoo ink in large quantities is going to impact the body’s health as the wearer’s body ages and the tattoo ink is broken down by UV light and the body’s own natural processes.  But a tatted tattoo wearable could be just the right answer to those who want to explore this latest trend towards body embellishment.