A Fashion Question about Tattoos

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What’s the dividing line between fashionable and unfashionable tattoos?


Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. So is fashion.

Being neither beautiful nor fashionable, I have a burning question:  At what point do tattoos go from being fashionably attractive to being unfashionably ugly?

I need to know in case I ever decide to join the tattoo trend.

It wasn’t an important question a long time ago during my boyhood, when tattoos in my working-class neighborhood were small and confined to a bicep.  Popular ones were an American flag, or a heart with a girlfriend’s name inside, the word “Army,” or an anchor signifying service in the United States Navy.

The question grew in importance at the dawn of the twenty-first century, when tattoos became larger, spread to other parts of the body, began to be displayed by women, and migrated from the working class to the middle class and beyond.

Sleeve tattoos completely covering forearms became popular.  So did tattoos on calves.  From there they spread to hands, to thighs, to ankles, to backs, to chests, and now to necks and even faces.

At about the same time that tattoos began spreading, other bodily accouterments became popular, such as ear saucers, rings in noses, and studs in lips, noses, and cheeks.  Blue and green hair also became popular.

I’m not going to ask if nose rings are fashionable and beautiful, because even if they are, I’m not going to wear one, for two reasons:  one, I don’t want to call attention to my large Roman nose; and two, I wouldn’t know how to blow my nose with a nose ring dangling in front.  Granted, my dog might like me to wear one, because he could fantasize about hooking a leash to it and taking me for a walk.

Neck tattoos must be attractive.  What else would explain celebrities and athletes who make a hundred million dollars or more a year having them?  Clearly, they are not a turnoff to their fans.

Take the host of “My Lottery Dream House,” a popular show on HGTV.  He epitomizes the trend of tattoos propagating like kudzu.  His began small and then spread across his arms and torso.  Now, having run out of space, they have climbed like a vine to his neck.

Are people like him still deemed attractive and hip?  If not, where did his tattoos cross the line and go from stylish to unstylish?

Then there is a health question:  Is it healthy to inject ink into your skin?  I ask that as someone who used to work for a company that made ink in addition to other chemical products.  Concerned that ink was carcinogenic, the company took precautions to protect workers.

Given that many patrons of Whole Foods are tattooed, tattoos must be completely safe. After all, people shop at Whole Foods because they don’t want chemicals in their food. They certainly wouldn’t inject a chemical into their skin if it were harmful.

It sure seems as if the U.S. went into a nose dive culturally, politically, economically, and morally about the same time that tattoos began their ascent. No doubt, that’s just a coincidence and not evidence of cause and effect. Nothing for me to worry about.

I do worry, however, about not being fashionable and hip, so I’m asking you for fashion advice.  Should I get tattoos, and if so, at what point in terms of numbers, size, and location on my body would they become unfashionable and unhip?  Is there any limit?



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