The world of tattooing has seen many changes over the last several decades. Advancement in technology, inks, techniques, equipment, and styles have all helped to radically change the world of tattoos and bring it out of the back room shops and into the glorious limelight. We are rapidly approaching the high water mark where NOT having a tattoo if you are between the ages of 18-40 will make you stand out - imagine that. As tattoo technology has lept forward and made styles like hyper-realism, watercolor, and photo realism a possibility, a new sub-trend has emerged... The Crap Tattoo.
Of course crap tattoos have been around as long as tattoos themselves. Wherever there is a guy (or gal) with a low end machine (or needle), no skills, and waaay too much optimism, there is a sucker...ahem... client willing to roll the dice and hope that their $20 tattoo of a lion will resemble a lion and not a Mr. Potato Head. We have all seen the tattoo fails abound on TV and internet, and we collectively shake our heads at those poor fools who believed you could get something really great for cheap - because you always get what you pay for. But what if you are paying for poorly done tattoos - and paying top dollar?!
As tattoos have become more and more mainstream over the last 10 years, certain celebrity teens and twenty-somethings have embarked on their own personal tattoo journeys in full view of their adoring public. Stars like Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus, and Harry Styles began acquiring ink at a rapid clip and spawning copycat tattoos amongst their legions of fans even faster. I can't prove it, but Miley Cyrus might be the Typhoid Mary of the cheesy dreamcatcher tattoo now seen as a requirement for girls of a certain age and mindset. I have personally seen a few stunning dreamcatchers expertly done and placed, and they are lovely, BUT Miley's is crappy. Why? Why did someone with her wealth and notoriety go to a subpar artist when she could have easily afforded the best?
Next culprit? Justin Bieber, who has made a personal mission of acquiring every single stereotypical tattoo that a guy can have. Quality of said tattoos? Poor again. Case in point? That Indian Head profile. If you are going to load up on old school or American heritage flash, good on ya, but at least go to an artist that understands that style and can execute it well. Bieber's partner in boy band crime? Harry Styles. Same hodge podge of sailor flash done in the same low quality style.
Now before everyone cries snobbism, let me make a point. Tattoos are personal and hopefully each one you collect is part of your story in your own unique way. Most tattooed people have a couple of tattoos that are not well executed, but remind them of a period in their life and/or hold sentimental value, and that is awesome. Every tattoo you get doesn't need to be a perfect work of art by the best of the best. And the rich tapestry of a longtime tattoo collector covered with a variety of ideas, concepts, and quality collected over a lifetime makes that person a walking storybook and a wonder to behold. Lyle Tuttle, Don Ed Hardy, and Sailor Jerry all come to mind.
A lifetime of tattoo collecting will give you a tattooed body of work that will span many styles, skill levels, and concepts, and that is completely legitimate in my book. So why am I ragging on the kids? Because they are intentionally having their tattoos done poorly as a trend. Like somehow a crap tattoo gives your more street cred. Having a poor quality tattoo usually is part of your tattoo story about when you were first starting out and didn't know any better - or couldn't afford any better. Your bad tattoos are your starting point and as you became more discriminating and hopefully more able to spend some money, the quality of your work improved. These celebs and their legions of followers are not learning from their tattooed mistakes. They are doubling down on collecting poor work and ironically, those celebs pay top dollar for it. Suddenly it is cool to have a shitty tattoo. Don't believe me? Check out this clip from Zoolander 2 that essentially nails the crap tattoo trend in under two minutes.
Still debating? Then brace yourself for the unleashing of Harley Quinn - the murderous and insanely fun anti-heroine of this summer's anticipated release of Suicide Squad. She wields a tattoo machine with the same lack of concern and murderous glee as she does her weapons (with very similiar results), although it was heartening to see they gloved her for the movie. If they are going to make scratchers look so freakin' awesome, then you can bet this trend will continue on for a while. There will always be the collectors who insist on quality and professionalism no matter what style they collect or what the current trend demands (Roman numerals? Book quotes? Micro tattoos? What's next?). And for those trend hungry teens and twenty-somethings who didn't think before they inked? There will always be laser removal or cover ups - because with tattoos you can get a second chance.