Tattoos, Ed Hardy and Bad Journalism

I don’t have any tattoos. But I respect their meaning to people who do,  and don’t support writing crap articles like the one Simon Doonan wrote for Slate, HERE.

The headline is wrong: it should be, “Why Do YOU Get Tattoos,” since the premise is that Doonan would never condescend to such an act. The article only uses facts to support the statistics convenient to support the recent spike in tattoos, but he found them unnecessary when presenting his case that, ya know, they’re icky:

In the past there was one reason, and one reason only, to ink up: A tattoo confirmed your status as a scary outsider rebel carny outlaw sociopath. “Don’t mess with me because I am insane,” was the intended message. And it worked. Remember Robert Mitchum in Night of The Hunter? When he cuts Shelley Winters’ throat we are hardly surprised: We knew trouble was on the horizon as soon as we saw the words LOVE and HATE inked across his knuckles. Tattoos meant mayhem.

Cut to today: Having a tattoo has lost its original meaning. Having a tattoo now has no meaning. Having a tattoo means that you have a tattoo.”

This was an intriguing premise for a story, and could have been done well. He could have found some actual facts to support his arguments. But instead, the tenets of basic journalism evaporated as soon as he made his opening statement– the tattooed freaks are EVERYWHERE!– and the rest consisted of Doonan’s ribald contempt for not just extreme tattoos, but ANY tattoo.

Probably the only enjoyable aspect of this vapid tripe is the cropped mug shot on the second page, of Doonan wearing an ED HARDY t-shirt. In a flabbergasting lack of irony, he chooses to wear this brand to accompany a story in which he berates the tattooed masses for becoming cliche.

Tell me Doonan, what does wearing Ed Hardy t-shirts MEAN to you? Especially when you used cost as argument against tattooing– because everyone knows that Ed Hardy apparel has nothing to do with fashion. The Ed Hardy brand is worn to indicate STATUS. I once worked with a guy who wore matching Ed Hardy shirts and baseball caps with rhinestones, constantly. He was regarded as a d-bag, and acted like one.

Yes, there are some badly done tattoos out there. There are some that were gotten on impulse, or because they were trendy. So what?

Many more tattoos are rich with symbolism, meticulously designed and planned. They may be simple, grand, grotesque or striking.

People save up to get them, and enjoy the investment.  They bond with the tattoo artist, and often do a lot of research about the studio’s reputation or get the referral from someone who will vouch for the skill and sanitation standards of the artist and studio. If it really goes well, the individual and artist begin an on-going collaborative relationship– which can last for years and become a full-fledged friendship.

Is that superficial?

Since I tend to befriend creative types, many of my friends have tattoos. They consider their ink to be an integral aspect of their identity, and I love hearing their explanations.  Sometimes getting inked is a ritual to mark a milestone of triumph or loss, and a person who never planned on getting a tattoo is compelled to get one by said milestone. It could be a bonding experience with a friend– either getting the same tattoo, or just going together to the same shop on the same day to share the experience while getting different individual ones.

I remember my junior year of college. I had sworn I’d never get a piercing. But a girl on my floor wanted to get one, and asked me to go with her. It was only $40 to get an eyebrow piercing, and I thought it would look hot on me– I have good eyebrows. So I got my right eyebrow done, and she had some part of her ear cartilidge done that was very painful for her and bled profusely.

“We got a bleeder!” the piercer said. My friend laughed. Her ear stopped bleeding and the piercing healed fine–she probably still has it. I did take my piercing out a year later, when I got an internship. I was dismayed to find that it was considered such a minor piercing that no one would have cared.

But the point is, I don’t talk to that friend anymore, but I’ll never forget that memory with her. I still laugh, remembering us so young. We gave each other nicknames from the incident, and the joke never got old!

I’ve become friends with three siblings, and they all have tattoos– as do their parents. I remember being told about a day where, as a family, they all went and got tattoos on the same day. Getting inked can be a family activity! I thought that was beautiful. This family is educated, affectionate, opinionated, fun-loving, gregarious and successful. I wish Doonan could meet them, because maybe he would have a chance at understanding that being inked is just another aspect of a complex identity, rather than a marker of conformity.

Another friend likes to stride around in his Dad’s vintage motorcycle jacket, builds his own bikes, and is tough when needed. He’s tall, big, and looks intimidating–especially with the ink on his on his forearms. But at work, he covers them up and banks because of it.  He’s a devoted family man, who worked his ass off to buy a home. He loves to read, and plans his tattoos to reflect his ideals. He drove two hours to go to a poetry slam with me on my birthday a few years ago, because that’s what friends do. And he would have a thing or two to tell Doonan about this article! Ha.

I don’t have any ink myself, not for lack of desire. For me, it’s a lack of decision. I haven’t decided on a graphic yet, or location. I’ve asked a couple gifted artist friends to design one for me, but they felt too much pressure and declined. If I ever do get one, it will most likely symbolize writing, or be a quote dear to me– since I’m a woman of words. Probably something discreet, to empower me.

Others want something on display, to spark conversation. They want these symbols and images to be visible, as an expression of some aspect of their beliefs, personal history, or as tribute to a person, cause, or something which enlivens them.

Every tattoo has a personal meaning ascribed to it, and marks a specific time period of that individual’s life.

Stop judging, and just ask.

What’s your tattoo story?


13 comments on “Tattoos, Ed Hardy and Bad Journalism

  1. That is very nice. Thank you for writing this and hopefully it will help open judgmental minds!

    • Thank you for commenting, ON the blog itself! ❤ That helps my ego. Welcome my dear, your newest ink is proof that this guy is just ridiculous. I wish I had a picture of it! Can you post one with the meaning and how you decided to get it? It looks kinda metaphysical? I just saw the textbook illustration.

  2. lalawethika says:

    Great blog. 🙂 Thought I would share my tattoo story with you since I don’t have much else to be doing at 5:30 in the morning yet..

    I decided to get mine when I was 18. My parents are pretty much against any body modification. My older sister kind of opened them up when she started getting them. My older brother doesn’t have any, and he still laughs every time he sees mine because he thinks it’s ridiculous. I had just finished high school and was preparing to make a move down to Lafayette to attend Purdue later that summer. I tried holding off on getting the tattoo until right before moving so I could try hiding it from my parents. My mom eventually found out I was going to get one, so she just said “Don’t come home with something huge.” Oops. I already had given the idea to a particular artist that did all of my sisters work and her boyfriends work. Rob Farinelli at Tainted Skin in Crown Point, IN. I left him some room to be creative. I gave him a picture of a piece of art done by Tony Ciavarro, a tattoo artist from Stinky Monkey Tattoos in Kingston, Massachusetts.

    I wanted a monkey because my best friend, Andy, ever since 4th grade has been calling me Monkeypaw since the year we met because I always had bigger hands than he did. Not necessarily BIGGER hands, but long fingers. He called me Monkeypaw all through elementary school and high school, and I just find them to be fascinating animals. It was also very fitting that my friend Andy just happened to be getting tattooed at Tainted Skin by the artist in the next booth during one of my sessions. 🙂 But to go on with the design I chose.. I also loved that there was a snake incorporated in Tony’s work because I love snakes as well. I asked Rob to take out the skull bats from the original image and add a sunset instead. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been taking pictures of the sky, and it never ceases to amaze me by its beauty. Other than those main factors I wanted in the tattoo, I let Rob play around with the design for his opinion on what he would think would work as a great piece for me.

    This is a photo of the original piece.

    And these were taken during and after my first 5 hour session. This is what I came home with after my dear mother told me NOT to come home with something huge. Sorry, Mom, but it was already drawn out, planned, and scheduled before you said what you said.

    And finally, the completed tattoo after 21 hours of work and many months passing by as I saved more money..

    The quality of the picture is poor due to it having been taken with my webcam, but you get the idea, nonetheless. Rob did a great job with me, as I do not handle pain very well, and it definitely hurt a lot. But like you said, a friendship was formed between Rob and I over the course of getting my piece done. Every time I go in the shop, he asks how I’ve been and how my sister is doing since he’s done her work too. I also gained friendships with the other artists at Tainted Skin as well. Since I started going to Purdue as Photography major, Rob and the other artists allowed me to do some of my shooting in the shop. I did one of my final projects on the process of body modifications, and some of the artists have my work in their portfolios.

    It was an all-around great experience, and 6 years later, I’m still loving the work and memories of getting it done. I always hear “You will regret that one day when you’re old and wrinkled.” But guess what? I’m not old and wrinkled yet. And even when I am, I will still have the memory, and I’m sure it will be something for my children/grand children/great grandchildren to laugh about and say “You should see the backpiece my granny has!” Haha. 🙂

  3. […] I read a blog titled Tattoo’s, Ed Hardy and Bad Journalism ( The argument was in response to an article against tattooed people written by a Hardy t-shirt […]

    • Thanks for the shout-out, Dane! Great piece, you brought some journalistic credibility to the conversation– both as a person with 13 tattoos and by your detailed analysis of the gaping holes in Doonan’s story. Hard to believe that he’s written six books and a column for the New York Observer, ain’t it??

      My favorite is the list of famous inked people at the bottom of the story:Churchill, FDR and George Orwell?!! Rad.

      You’re the second blogger to write a post inspired by one of mine, and thankfully yours was complimentary–unlike the first time it happened!

    • Thanks for the wonderful long tattoo story!! I read the whole thing, just haven’t had time to sit down and reply yet– but I intend to very soon. What should I call you, Lala? This is definitely the most exciting comment I’ve ever gotten– and the longest. 🙂 I’ll be back soon, but just wanted to thank you so you didn’t think I wasn’t grateful for your effort.

  4. Having a tattoo now has no meaning? Right. Tell that to my many tattooed friends, who have gotten them for various reasons – but ALL meaningful. I’m totally with ya, Amee. I don’t have any tattoos either (like you, I can’t decide!), but I definitely don’t take issue with people who do. Great post!

    • Thanks, Kaylee. I just can’t stand when people are make such ridiculous generalizations, especially when most people with tattoos have staggering loyalty and the biggest hearts! They’re colorful people inside, and so they want to paint their canvas! Who can blame ’em for that?! 🙂

  5. I am so proud of you for writing this blog…
    As you know, I grew up in a very strict Christian household that constantly laid down the basic principle that “tattoos were bad” and “that there was no way that anyone could ever get a decent job with any sort of unnatural inkings on their bodies”. Growing up with this idea burned into my head, I thought that I would never get one. Then my mother died. The only solace I could find was to inflict a certain pain upon myself; a pain that I could control to, in my mind, immortalize her memory. People always ask me if I would get more and I never give a definite yes or no because I don’t know what other life situations will drive me to the therapeutic needle.
    Tattoos, like a lot of other things, are a life decision.
    I love that you don’t judge and that you called this guy out…
    You rock.

  6. That means a lot, Christine. Thanks for sharing this unique perspective with us, and such a personal story about your tattoo and why it helped you to cope with grief over your mother’s death. I’m sure she understood and appreciated your gesture– and you hold your mother so close to your heart anyways, this is just another way to keep her close to you. To make that decision after growing up with so many restrictions was also very liberating to you, I’m sure. I hope if you get another tattoo, Kat Von D can do it for you, since I know that would make it even more special because you admire her! And who knows? Maybe someday you’ll want a tattoo for something joyful.

    You rock too, brave sister. ❤

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