Thoughts on my tattoo, three years later
Back in 2019 I had my first tattoo, and wrote a long and very personal article about it.
As predicted it drew some very strong responses, but the curious, engaged PS reader came through - the knee jerks were a minority compared to the intrigued and open-minded. There was even a smattering of my all-time-favourite comment: ‘this is not for me at all, but I found it really interesting reading about it, thank you’.
Of course, as I pointed out at the time, this was intensely personal. It shouldn’t matter what other people think about it. And it doesn’t - to an extent. I’ll get into that in a minute.
To begin with, I just wanted to answer the readers who've asked in the previous three years how I felt about the tattoo since having it done. Do I regret anything about it? Is there anything I would do differently?
Happily, the answer is no, I don’t regret anything, and I can’t think of anything I would have done differently. I will certainly have more as well, though I’ve deliberately left it a while before starting on that journey again.
Today, my tattoo simply feels part of me (no pun intended) and I only ever think about it when someone asks. It doesn’t feel strange, doesn’t feel alien. It's like it’s always been there.
In one way this is probably inevitable - I’ve just grown used to it. But I also think a few things I did, and then wrote about, made this more likely. I know some friends who’ve had tattoos have regretted their choices.
The key thing, I think, was I spent so much time thinking about it. It had been on my mind for several years, and for more than two years I'd been taking photos of designs in the things that inspired me - wrought iron and stone carving - sketching and playing with them, building up a notebook of ideas.
This amount of time and thought meant that the final decision didn’t feel big at all - just a natural end to a process.
And I had confidence in the decision because of the artist, Mo Coppoletta. As I wrote three years ago, he got my ideas immediately and began creating his own versions of them much more fluidly than I ever had.
If someone asked me for my advice today, it would be largely those two things - put the time into playing with what you want, and pick an artist you admire.
Let's return to that interesting question: how much does it matter what people think about having a tattoo?
I hope it doesn’t at all; but it’s impossible to ever know for sure, because it does always get reactions. The most common is ‘Blimey, Mr Permanent Style has a tattoo, I didn’t expect that’.
This is sort of both annoying and pleasing. Annoying because no one likes having presumptions made about them, and I still find it odd how many people make assumptions about my tastes or lifestyle because I love craft and tailoring. Everyone expects you to drive a classic car (I hate cars) and have Kind of Blue playing on the stereo (rather than Kyuss).
The pleasing aspect is that it's nice to subvert some of those expectations.
In terms of society as a whole, I recognise that it influences how I feel about my tattoo that they’re increasingly common. This was something I wrestled with in that first article: I’m a snob to the extent that I hate to be part of a trend; but I also recognise that I wouldn't be thinking about them otherwise.
As I said, I’ll never know how I would feel about a tattoo in isolation, outside society. But I think it's relevant that while they're more common, very few of my family and friends actually have them. In my social context, it doesn’t feel like part of a trend.
So what’s next?
I was warned that tattooing can be addictive, and I really felt that. There is an excitement in having it done, partly because it feels so risky. I remember cycling back from the parlour, my forearm wrapped in cling film, with this big smile on my face. It's a thrill.
I could easily have started planning another, and had one or two a year. Given the size of the pieces I like, that would have taken over how I look very quickly.
So I set myself the arbitrary limit of not getting another for five years. This stopped me thinking about, at least for a while. I also liked the idea that after such a length of time, any future ones would end up representing different points in my life.
Three years on, I’m glad I did that, but I’m ready to start again. It might well be five years before I actually get it done, but my mind is spinning through questions and ideas.
The biggest one is - do I get something in a similar vein, or rather different?
It would still be a piece of decorative art, because it's what appeals to me most. But do I look at something more angular, maybe Art Deco, maybe Islamic, or do I stick with a variation on the theme?
At the time, Mo said it would be cool to have a similarly sized and styled piece on the opposite forearm, and I can definitely see that. It would be more harmonious, more like a single, overarching plan.
But would it not also be a pity, to not reflect something else, another artistic tradition I admire? To use a clothing metaphor, would it be like wearing just one suit forever? And does that apply to using the same artist, or not?
Then there’s where to have it. I like having something I see all the time, but it might be nice to have another choice about what to expose - perhaps a piece on the right upper arm, which would only when I was wearing a T-shirt.
I’ve talked to several people I know who’ve been through this process themselves, but if any readers have experience or advice they’d like to share, do shout.
This is the beginning of another journey. I don’t expect it to be short, but I know it will be pleasurable.
I'm aware others would be more instinctive, and think things over less. But I also know now that this process works well for me, both in terms of enjoying it and in terms of the final result.
Time to get doodling again.
I have one on my upper right arm.
It came as a surprise to my family and friends, as I’m known as the quiet sensible one and I was 50 when it was done.
I certainly don’t regret it and only suggest it goes where you can see it. It’s a walking piece of art after all.
That’s setting a very low bar for the definition of “art”.
I just find most tattoos very derivative. For something to truly be considered art I believe a considerable measure of uniqueness should be present.
As an art historian by training, I can tell you that all of the masterpieces of history are derivative in some sense. ‘Uniqueness’ is a far more recent obsession.
What possessed you to leave such an ugly comment?
For the purposes of discussion, perhaps?
Simon is clearly happy with his tattoo and that’s to be welcomed. I’m less convinced about this particular aesthetic choice and the description of tattoos in general as “art” and so said as much. Simon is a big boy and I don’t think he needs protecting from views that differ from his own. I’m also pretty certain he wouldn’t want this comment section to be nothing but a bland echo chamber where everyone agrees with all his ideas and no alternative opinions are ever offered.
It’s interesting that you chose to describe the comment as ugly. Is it really? In what way? If someone made a post suggesting they don’t hold a particularly positive view of, say, soft shouldered Neapolitan tailoring would that also be ugly?
Thank you James! You are absolutely right!
Thanks for another great article, Simon
This eas very insightful, especially since my siblings and I were discussing about getting one together (I don’t have any at the moment)
Still, I can’t tell exactly why, but though I find some tattoo really beautiful and even consider them as art pieces, I still can’t make myself prefer them over not having them. My impression at least is that, while they are really beatutiful and exciting, I find that I get tired very quickly about the illustrations.
Maybe a similar thing would be a painting over a wall. Even of the painting is extremely beautiful and an art piece, I find that after sometime I get tired of it while I dont have the same feeling over a “plain” wall (though it is less exciting than the former)
This is certainly very personal, since you clearly don’t have that sensation at all, since even after 3 years the excitement is still there
Yes I think it is Tamaki, and that may well mean it’s not for you. Perhaps you appreciate the beauty of the human body unmarked, as it were, more than if it had something on it?
I remember the original article and it’s interesting to see how your thinking has progressed. I glad you don’t have any regrets. You give good advice on thinking it through and the timeline for further tattoos. Whilst they are not for me, but I’m open minded on people having them.
I would however caution any younger readers to think carefully, as like it or not, it will impact how some people see you and they will make negative assumptions, which for example may have career implications- probably less so in the creative industries. Or at least have them where clothing can cover them. It may not be right, but we have to deal with the world as it is. I think you were wise to wait until the greater maturity that comes with age and where ones career and life is more established.
To finish on the same short anecdote which I think I made in the comments about the original article. In the days before DNA was understood and there was not much in the way of surveillance, our mum always warned against tattoos in the family as they could be used to identify you, should you ever be ‘wanted’ for something! Fortunately that eventually hasn’t come to pass!
That really begs the question of what your mum thought you’d be doing such that your butt (or any other possible tattoo location) would be visible.
I feel the exact same way as you did before you got your first piece tattooed.
I have been thinking about my own tatto for the biggest part of the last five years; last year I finally found the perfect artist and now I almost have the exact design.
I just might be ready to pull the trigger this Autumn (in order to not have to think about protecting it all Summer).
A decent amount of people are wearing tattoos in my social circle: I can tell you that none have been able to stop after the first one!
I loved the previous article going in detail over your thought process and please keep this thread going if (when) you’re getting the next one!
Cheers, will do
Insightful article and beautiful tattoo. I have always wanted one but never plucked up the courage to just do it. Mine would be from a musical period in my life that has affected me hugely and funnily enough relates to Kind Of Blue…actually Sketches Of Spain. And on your featuring I am now listening to Kyuss, although I won’t be getting a tattoo about them.
Enjoy Marc. If I had any advice there, I’d keep the reference quite abstract, if that makes sense. Not a silhouette of Miles blowing his horn. That’s what I prefer personally anyway
Thanks, Simon. I may as well be the one to ask. Care to expand on your hatred of cars?
Ha! Yeah hatred might be too strong. I basically don’t find much appeal in cars, have never owned one (rent when we need to for a family holiday etc) and think often people use them too much, given the climate situation. I understand completely that people living outside a big city need one, but it infuriates me when you see a dozen people driving their kids to school in the morning, when the catchment area means they all live within a mile or so.
I would gently and non-judgementally suggest that people should consider how much they need one, or indeed need two.
I drive my son to school – which is less than half a mile away – because i then need to drive on to work. Dont assume people who are driving are doing so out of laziness. You never know what peoples reasoning may be.
Thanks Robert. I do try not to make that assumption, and apologies if that came across as too strong. I know some parents that have specific reasons (including disability for example) but also several others that when asked not to block the school gates, for example, are very indignant about their ‘right’ to park there.
It’s certainly an issue, but also certainly some have legitimate reasons.
It’s hard for onlookers to appreciate the beautiful sweep of Simon’s lapels behind a windshield and steering wheels.
Simon, This is a great read. Like most of my favourite PS articles, its explores that fascinating interplay between style as personal expression and style as a social activity. And always nice to see a nod to Kyuss!!
A (slightly) personal question: would or did the views of your immediate family make a difference to you getting a tattoo? And should those views have an impact? It strikes me that a partner’s allergy to say, tassel loafers, is not necessarily as high stakes to something like a tattoo…
Very true. If my partner had had a strong reaction against the idea I wouldn’t have done it. I guess I’d also hope I’d be able to anticipate what she would feel about something like that.
What my parents, siblings etc think doesn’t have much of an impact, beyond the point that it doesn’t feel common in our family, so that feels more like an act of expression, if that makes sense.
With my children I’ve tried to be clear why I did it and what my views on them are, without being too prescriptive. Just trying to avoid the impression that it’s not a serious and significant thing to do I guess.
Best part of this piece for me is the Kyuss reference. Thank you for restarting the 90s sludge metal movement!
Likewise, this just reminded me to listen to Jar of Flies
There was recently an interview on Armoury’s Youtube channel with author David Marx where he and Mark Cho were, among other things, discussing clothing as status symbols and as tools to place yourself somewhere in the society. This reminded me the very interesting works by J. Baudrillard like “The System of Objects” that among other topics handles the value of signs. I also highly recommend his “Simulacra and Simulation” to any Permanent Style leader.
This tattoo is also a sign and placed to be seen. Is it there to help you define yourself, an an attempt to control the chaos of the head that we all struggle with? Is it there for the looker and what does it say to the viewer?
Taking my thoughts to a whole new level. Thanks m
Generally, I don’t like tattoos but yours seems conspicious and therefore doesn’t ‘interfere’ with the clothes you wear.
The best example of why not to wear tailoring and have tatooes ……David Beckham !
He looks a mess !
What I find revealing , over many years of reading PS , is glimpses into your personality .
Oxford educated, well dressed , heavy metal , tattooed blogger.
I note you find presumptions made about you annoying .
Surely a consequence of fine dressing is people will immediately infer things about you . That’s human nature.
Generally , I think sometimes you take comments far too seriously .
The voice in my head always writes and reads these comments with a laid back , non-serious attitude. After all …. is only clothes.
Don’t take offence ….. many people on PS who may p!$$ you off are heavily influenced by you . Myself particulalry. I dare not even think how you’ve changed my life (no exaggeration) let alone count how much money you’ve caused me to spend
Anyway, lovely article … keep up the great work and …….relax.
Cheers Robin, yeah it’s definitely in my nature to take things seriously!
Now I don’t know if your being serious or ironic !
Alas, I understand how the written form limits true meaning.
(Shakes head in exasperation )
Still serious, or at least not ironic
Hi, I bought a pair of C&J boots and the toes and heel are looser than I’d like, so I’ll be sizing down. However, the top of the shoe – the throat – already pushes into my foot a bit and I’m concerned that sizing down will mean the throat digs in. Will that part of the shoe stretch over time as well?
It might a little Ed, and it might soften, but it’s hard to tell. Does loosening the lacing not help?
Not sure if applicable here, but I experienced with a pair of CJ Audleys that were half a size to large, that the crease on the toe box was rather large and digging into my toes due the the excess leather.
Intereting and thoughtful article. It is certainly well executed which is key. What did your partner think about it, and is she as enthusiastic about additions?
She did like it, yes. Not like, extremely attracted and enthusiastic about the idea, but interested and sure I’d do something well, which was nice.
She was also the one you said ‘if you’re going to do it, you want to be able to see it yourself – don’t hide it’. I didn’t expect her to be so strong on that point, which was interesting
When people wear a suit, or any other clothing for that matter, they check a mirror to see how they look from the viewpoint of the person facing them, not just the top-down front view they can see themselves. Shouldn’t a tattoo be regarded in the same way?
Just to be clear, the point of what my wife said was that it shouldn’t be hidden, eg on my back.
I guess I can see the point that it matters what others see. But a tattoo is perhaps a bit more personal.
My only objection is that I don’t like that it’s been three years already.
I think one of the reasons I haven’t gotten a tattoo is because, as all menswear aficionados know, tastes tend to change with time. I don’t mean in the season-to-season, fashionable sense. But slowly, over time. And unlike a wardrobe, a tattoo can’t be changed. So no matter how much thought I put into a tattoo, I may be a different person in five years.
However I do appreciate how much thought you and others here put into tattoos. It’s a good way to approach any major decision.
My favourite aspect of this I think is how the thought process converges and diverges with dressing well. In principle the thinking behind having a permanent tattoo should be different to buying clothes – and yet all of us are guilty at some point or other of buying clothes, feeling in the moment like we’ve perfected our style, that we’ve arrived at something we’ll grow old with, transcending the changes that will come with age (I know I am, anyway!). Which I suppose is the converse of getting a tattoo representing the then-present, and bonding with it over time, the original meaning and significance being compounded or replaced by new meaning. The important thing in this case is that it’s a very beautiful design, and it does something that clothing can’t do.
As a non-tattooed person with a very much tattooed girlfriend my thought on tattoos has always been that you either go all-in, or you don’t do it at all. Having all of one’s upper body and legs covered in tattoos can look great on some guys (or girls), but a small tattoo or two results in a very unsatisfying neither-here-nor-there look, in my opinion.
Of course I get the reasoning behind this (wanting to look business-like when necessary, cost, health concerns), but I’d argue that part of the appeal of tattoos is the devil-may-care attitude they imply, so…
I think that was part of my reasoning for getting a fairly large piece, though perhaps sub-consciously!
Great article Simon and I think it’s very cool that you’re willing to share something so personal with us, the PS readership. The tattoo still looks great these years later, there’s a mystique to it, that’s what I like most about tattoo’s, the hidden story. Is it a symbol? Is Simon part of a secret society? Probably not, but the imagination runs wild.
I have one a similar size, of a similar slightly abstract but meaningful nature on my upper, inner arm. Nobody can see it unless I’m wearing a t-shirt and happen to reach for something, even then they’d need to be at a certain angle.
RE: Mo’s idea for something on the other arm, I’ve heard from tattoo artists that there should be some “flow” to your tattoos–not an exact symmetry, which looks strange, but that you don’t want to just throw things together either. I think your idea for another piece of decorative art in a different style is spot-on with that recommendation. Islamic-style decorative art is something that tattoos particularly well; the art of Islamic-era Spain looks fantastic in tattoos. Art deco can look good, but you want to make sure you don’t end up with too-large patches of black, or conversely too-thin linework.
Cheers Jesse, that’s really helpful.
The Islamic idea would be drawn from places I’ve travelled through and sketched in the past, particularly Morocco, Oman and western China. Hopefully I can find something there that fits that brief.
Lovely sources of inspiration. I haven’t been to Oman, but it’s on my travel list–even without all of the gorgeous historical architecture, Muscat would make the list solely on the presence of the Amouage headquarters. Whichever place ends up inspiring the next, I do hope you’ll include some details on what took you there.
Surprising to see so many Kyuss fans in the comments. Maybe I’m guilty of the same phenomenon you mentioned, but in regards to your own readership!
Just let me add my two cents. I’m from a tropical country and the mercury very rarely goes below 25ºc, so my attraction to tailoring always felt weird for the people around me. We don’t make this strong of a association between liking suits and having a wealthy lifestyle, since most wealthy people I know hate wearing their suits. There’s no significant tailoring tradition around here either.
So I’m very frequently put in a position where I have to explain to people my thought process in wearing garments that are alien to us and to our climate. Your writings have been very important to me in this ever-present task. They help me articulate what I like about tailoring, and help me explain to other people as well. These kind of articles are very enlightening to me, and I sincerely hope they keep coming. Thanks for the read!
No worries Judah, and really pleased they’ve been that useful
I don’t have any tattoos and I’m very happy about that. I’ve also advised my children, adults now, not to get any tattoos which they haven’t. They’ve thanked me for that advice many times over. We all have blind spots, perhaps the tattoo is yours. I’d advise you certainly not to get any more tattoos, not now or ever, but the choice is yours of course. Interestingly, a number of people I know who have tattoos have started to remove them.
Thanks Scott, advice well taken.
I know people like that too, though in most cases they weren’t tattoos they had really thought through much.
Like my friend who, in her early twenties, woke up one Sunday morning with a Guns N Roses tattoo across her lower back… the horror, the horror…
Now if it had been Kyuss, or better still, QOTSA, it would have been a different matter…
This is a very good discussion. I do not have tattoos and I strongly advise my teenage son and daughter to avoid them. The main reason is so simple: you may hate tomorrow what you love today. Building a style is all about tests and mistakes. Unfortunately there is no second chance with a tattoo. And I do not even enter the discussion on what may look great when you are 25 may look quite different 25 years later.
I have always thought that guys who get tattoos lack confidence and need something to attract people to them, thus the tattoo. The more the tattoos, the longer the conversation.
When I lived in San Diego in the early 90’s I saw an attractive girl. I was going to approach her until I saw that she had a tattoo. My thought was of disgust. I walked away.
When I see woman with tattoos today I think that they are part of the herd and just following the trend.
I’m sure you didn’t mean it that way, but that reaction sounds rather harsh and judgemental. Perhaps disgust was the wrong word?
Santorsola might have been more diplomatic to say Aversion? But dear Simon, consider if Santorsola knows every tattoo requires penetration under the skin and always lets blood. Bleeding is part of the process, correct? Which entity or entities would the clairvoyant perceive?
I think the reason I have never had one is is a sort of snobbery. Everyone has them nowadays ( even my wife) and I almost feel part of an exclusive club in not having one. The other reason is that growing up my Nan had a tattoo ( done by my wild grandfather in Indian ink and a needle) and several uncles. These were not as intricate or artistic as the ones folk have today as they were done in dodgy South Wales parlours. Each to their own though and its a short life. Do what you please.
I enjoy looking at other people’s tattoos, and I like yours, but I have elected not to have one myself. The one thing I have heard about tattoos that gives me pause: Once you get the first one, it becomes a lifelong passion, and you keep adding the ink to your body. I think you are already on this journey, and if it is pleasurable for you, why not?
Now we get to that other thing that seems to go with tattoos — piercings, anyone?
Simon, in various articles you’ve described your changing opinions about how you like your clothes (for example https://www.permanentstyle.com/2021/11/how-my-jacket-style-has-changed.html). As time goes by our personality, our tastes and even sometimes our beliefs gradually change. So far, after three years you’re happy yet could you imagine wanting a different design (or none at all) in ten or twenty years’ time? In spite of your meticulous planning, you can’t foresee how you’ll change in the next few decades. Isn’t this perhaps the biggest risk with something that is truly permanent?
Absolutely, it really is. I think the thing that reassures me there is the fact the current one feels great every single day (like wearing the same jacket every day almost) and the fact that I’ve spoken to others that have had them for 10-20 years and heard their experiences.
There might also be an extent to which, because it’s with you absolutely all the time, almost because it’s permanent, you accept it fully. There’s no choice or alternative to swap to every day. Just thinking out loud there but it would make some sense
Just the other day I checked your first post to see if it was already 5 years since the first tattoo and ask you about the next one. Don’t know why but I remembered that lol.
And I think I agree with your line of thought, thinking really through it and spacing the tattoos. Got my first tattoo on the forearm, not that big, size similar to yours. Then after 5 years I got the second, but this time I covered the whole arm. It’s big but I can say I spent 5 years thinking about it lol. And finding the right tattoo artist is really the key.
And now I’m expecting in probably two years to see pictures of Simon’s own line of tank tops design specifically to show his new sleeve tattoo.
Thanks for a great article, very interesting and thoughtful.
I started with tatoos in the end of the 80s at that time you have to visit biker places or other more or less suspect spots to have them made (in Sweden) – more adrenaline, ha ha. I have a lots of different styles – I think thats very fine, I find it little boring when tatoos are to stylish and a result of design at one time. For me it is connected to experiences and interests and that changes over time like what you wear – no one wear monks now….but who knows what a gentlemen wears in 7 years? maybe monks again, you never know. I work as a artist, painter – colour and form, proportions. Black works – I often look at details in old woodencut and engravings like Albrecht Dürer, Piranesi, William Blake, Walter Crane and so on… If you are in London go to John Soane Museum and have a look, maybe the worlds best home museum and a very inspiring place.
And if you go japanese it will work (just make sure you find a good craftsman which have the skill to tweak it after your body) Looking forward to see the new one!
Cheers Fredrik, and nice tip on woodcuts, I hadn’t thought about that. Beautiful
I wear monks Fredrik, and that might be the whole point.
Single monks, if that would matter, and I believe it does.
Im sure I said it at the tike, ‘its addictive’ .. I have maybe 23 + (will have to count) but all upper arms/shoulders so mostly not visible and most done before it became trendy (I too dont like the fashion/trend thing). All mine are themed on my history with links to home town, various military references and travel; they all have a link but not always obvious to a casual observer which keeps them personal. My advice when people ask is always the same; Give it a lot of thought (for the design not the yes/no) and go bigger than most plan (that common ‘just a small butterfly’ idea) because small in my mind never works really. You did that and i assume will repeat the process so I cant think you need advice but, if I were to give, it would be to stick with a theme so that all designs can be linked (in your mind if not others), oh and of course think where number 3 will go…. Enjoy!
I see a lot of “what if you regret it 25 years later” talk about tattoos, which is a fair question – you can’t switch out a tattoo as easily as clothes, and tastes can change with time just as they do for clothes.
But as someone who’s just made it 16 years with mine, I think I’m qualified to speak on that question. And thinking about it, perhaps I wouldn’t get the same tattoo now, at 37, but I see its presence on my arm as a memory of the person I was at 20. And even though I can neither fit into the clothes I wore at that age or would want to wear them even if I could, the tattoo is a tangible reminder of that time in my life and I don’t hold my 20 year old self in contempt for choosing it, even if its appearance changes with age – at this point, it feels as much a part of my body as my fingernails do. I suspect a lot of longtime tattoo wearers feel similarly. And for those who really regret it…. well, there is laser removal – ironically, much easier done on older tattoos than newer ones, based on what I’ve heard.
Thanks Nisha, good to hear from someone that far down the line
I truly like your story. In the end it is up to you. No one has a say. I was in my mid 30’s when I got my first one only a few cm big. It is an image I have loved since I was young and at that age I never thought about tattoos for myself. I got my most favourite image done on my right arm. Love it to this day. 2/3 years later I had my second favourite image done on my left arm. Also love it. I decided to expand the tattoo on my right arm. Took 2 years but I found the best image to add to it and I love it even more. April 2022 I had a much longer design on my left arm. From above my shoulder to my elbow that incorporates the image on my left arm and I love it too. I think 1 more on my right arm to match the left one. They can be seen when I wear a tank top but with a T-Shirt they can be seen only a little. Yes, it is part of me and if people don’t like it or judge me before they know me then their loss.
The tattoo craze that’s been going on for some years has taken on a narrative, started by tattoo apologists I suspect, that having a tattoo is sophisticated, glamorous and modern. Of course this narrative is basically absurd and self-serving as tattoos have been around for thousands of years. It’s a very pagan and cultic practice actually and in more modern times used by various criminal organizations as a sign of membership. So just be aware that the tattoo is nothing new and has a decidedly unglamorous history.
Exactly, leave them to us servicemen and criminals, fashion only ruins the image.
Completely off subject Simon but was wondering if you could update your readers with an up to date release schedule? I know you do this from time to time and was particularly wondering about the brown linen over shirt as well as the tapered tees. Thank you.
Brown overshirt, this week!
Tees in July.
We’ll do another email in August for the Autumn/Winter schedule, but any questions in the meantime feel free to ask on here or by emailing the support team
Thanks for the great article and very timely. I used to be in the crowd of why would anyone ever get something so permanent done to their body. Well I’m scheduled to get my first tattoo in 3 weeks and had wrestled with some of the same thoughts as you have gone through. After much though and effort I have come up with a design that I feel is a part of who I am and always will be so it just continues to feel right after all the deliberation. For those that are as I once was asking what if it’s something you regret later in life I say for me that’s even more of a reason to go ahead and get it. It’s as much a symbol of accepting that all decisions you make in life have a permanent effect on you and not letting the worry of what ifs stop you from enjoying what you want to do.
Your tattoo journey seems to be very much coincided with your transition from formal wear to workwear. I suppose it´s logical in a way.
I haven’t changed much the way I dress Kevin, the site has just widened to cover what I always wore at the weekend
I have had 3 tattoo’s, I waited until I was 30 to have my first and thought long and hard about what to have. Since then I have had two others which have both been large and take up both of my upper arms. I love them and would still have more now. Interestingly, I had them placed where they are as I was concerned how people would respond to me having them and wanted to be able to cover them up easily. But to be honest, whilst I’ve had a few funny looks and a couple ‘oh I never would’ve thought’ comments, on the whole I’ve had more compliments than anything.
Like a good timepiece, a good tattoo says a lot about you, tells a story and is a piece of unique art that has un-qualifiable value once it’s yours.
Thanks for sharing your three years on story and do let us know how your plans for others progress.
Why don’t you reflect about the occult aspect of the addiction you indicate? Consider the stylized “N” on the back of Depp’s left hand, which the tattoed friend of Satanist Marilyn Manson knows when another such “N” is carefully place over the first forms Aleister CROWley’s unicursal hexagramm?
The right hand tattoo is a bird i. e. crow in flight. Britain is a magical island.
I love this! “The pleasing aspect is that it’s nice to subvert [. . .] expectations.” Great perspective and a wonderful share.
Your piece is very interesting! I have several tattoos and definitely don’t take them as seriously as you do. The whole highbrow “art” aspect of it didn’t really appeal to me, and I look at them more as memories of the various stages of my life.
Regarding the people in the higher levels of society and how they may judge you, I always remember that famous watch case back inscription, “f*%£ ‘em if they can’t take a joke.” I even have my wedding band tattooed because I hated wearing my ring while working. Would Gay Tálese love my tattoos? Probably not, but I can’t be bothered to care.
As a long-term reader, but not yet a commenter, I thought I might throw my hat into the ring in this thread. I got my first stick-and-poke tattoo just before lockdown (still not finished) and then a second one a year later. I went for a medium sized one on my bicep and the second, machine-done, quite different in style but similar in size, on the other bicep. Matching but not quite. I can cover them when I wish and show them when I want to. I’ve never understood why people get them where they can’t themselves see them. One thing I experienced was that the healing process, and the process of having the tattoo itself, makes one feel very alive and in the moment. The stick and poke took over four hours and it’s only about four inches long. Caring for them and the sensation of having something I related to on my body was quite intoxicating. My first tattooist was in the process of writing her masters dissertation on the history and cultural significance of the tattoo which was fascinating and, although intellectualising it in the guise of legitimising and justifying it, I’m happy with them and may get more. Each to their own. I don’t want to remove them nor do I regret them. They are each reminders of a moment in time and that they are permanent makes those reminders real. Body art is as ancient as time. We’ve just made it classist in the last hundred years or so which is a shame.
I apologise for concentrating on the car point but you did mention it. My 1967 E-Type Jaguars, a roadster and a coupé, are achingly beautiful and driven sparingly but enjoyed for the pure driving pleasure I get from them. More than 60 years after it was conceived the E-Type remains the most gorgeous car ever conceived.
In what you will hopefully accept as a nod to emission problems I have a 2022 Toyota Corolla Hyrbrid as a daily driver. About 80pc of the time it runs on its electric motor.
I never drive it much but I’m not prepared to walk three miles trying to carry six bags of groceries. Sometimes cars are necessary.
Bicycles in Melbourne, which in typical and tiresome ‘woke’ surrender, have been given half of all the roads pretty much, are an eternal pest and cause congestion and aggravation. And, as usual, while there’s often an endless stream of cars in one lane, you will often see just one bicycle in your entire journey enjoying half the road – alone. It’s ridiculous.
How do you get a large load of groceries home?
I have groceries delivered Rob. It’s an electric van and they do lots of deliveries from the same journey.
The point about separating lines of traffic is that it’s not a static exercise. As you reduce space for cars, people drive less, and vice versa for bicycles. Though of course I’m sure that could be taken to ridiculous extremes.
Because of ongoing health issues I’ve not been in the right frame of mind to contribute to PS, but the question of tattoos caused me to reflect on my one solitary (so far) choice, on my upper right shoulder I should add. Although I had been reflecting on exactly why I should have a ‘tat, the reason for this was entirely to do with a very personal philosophical mood that had become increasingly central to everything I hold dear.
I had searched high and low, eventually choosing something that Rudyard Kipling had written, but with a gentle change of emphasis to reflect what had become important to me – “Success and failure are the same impostor”. Not once have I doubted my reasons for this, in fact it’s an affirmation of everything that underpins my moral compass. I am now considering a second tattoo, but a concise philosophical phrase, at least one that is appropriate to the journey I’m on, remains elusive. However, I’ve no doubt I’ll discover a thought that suits my nature and the dedicated space that waits on my arm.
For anyone mulling over the pros and cons of whether to commit to or resist the urge, my advice is to live a little. Take the plunge, embrace your inner creative, after all, if you step back from this rewarding addition you’ll never experience the sense of fulfillment that I can assure you will become an integral part of knowing you ‘dared’.
1) They’re permanent and there for life
2) They’re expensive
3) Getting them requires a painful process
4) Having them will make your body look worse as you age
So each to their own, but these are just a few of the reasons you won’t find me having kids.
Talk about being judgmental! When I was young in the Marine Corps Infantry, working shoulder to shoulder with like-minded brethren there were times in combat or operational areas that my mates tried to get me to join them for matching tattoos to mark a mission. We trained, exercised, and worked 24/7 together – and I was so close to being convinced due to the feeling of exclusivity and brotherhood in our profession. My sensibilities were quite specific in that era – as to who should and shouldn’t get a tattoo. It wasn’t about art or expression. It was a ‘been there and done that” mark of ego.
I thought that tattoos only belonged on guys with well-developed muscularity in tough guy jobs! Only applied on the deltoid cap or upper arm so it would be a secret/hidden identifier. Thing is, I didn’t feel I met the requirement. I was a perfectionist and didn’t want to reward myself with a tattoo just yet. As I think back I laugh because I was just looking for an excuse NOT to get one. Then as the years progressed, getting a tattoo was no longer just for the muscular tough guys, and when I’d see a skinny desk-jockey with a tat on his neck, hands, legs, etc… my brain almost broke. Now I realize my stringent sensibilities were a bunch of nonsense.
I don’t have anything meaningful to add to the tattoo discussion.
But I find your statement about cars (and climate change in the discussion below) intriguing. In fact, what I’ve been missing a bit on this excellent blog so far is the topic of clothing and ecology, including human rights (there is a bit of that) and animal welfare. It would be interesting to read your thoughts on this in an article.This applies not only to fast fashion but often also to high quality clothing. For example, I would never buy anything made of fur or live-plucked down, which is (unfortunately) still used.
I haven’t written about animal welfare and labour practices much, but I have written about fur, which I think is a little (only a little) misunderstood. You might find this article interesting, and this interview.
Thanks Simon. Interesting read but – as you seem too – am not convinced about fur. There are good reasons that fur farming is now forbidden in many countries and the Western countries that keep it mainly do so because the fur-business lobby is quite strong (Finland, Canada).
On a different note. One of your interview partners mentioned that he did a “lot of research […] on deer hunting in [my native] Austria”. It is true that we have a law that deer has to be culled because otherwise the population gets too big. But the reason that the deer population is so big is not only the lack of predators but the feeding of deer throughout the winter, so that hunters can shoot more deer in the next year. So it is a somewhat self-serving argument of the hunting lobby in Austria and a political issue that pops up from time to time (considering that Austria is very animal friendly and has some of the strictest animal welfare laws in the world).
Thanks Markus, that’s interesting on Austria. Where I live I always find it strange how opposed people are to culling – even when there’s no feeding to increase numbers as you say happens there. If you don’t cull usually, animals just starve to death. It’s one or the other. I don’t think people really think these things through. Also, in some countries animals that are culled are simply burnt because there’s too much public opposition to using them (see here for example).
I didn’t realise the fur lobby was that strong in Finland and Canada, though it makes sense. In the UK, it always amazes me strong and well-funded the anti-fur lobby is, given how small the problem is. Even if you care about animal welfare, mass production of beef or chickens is a much much bigger problem. Yet there are far fewer protests against that – and people keep on buying the animal products.
I personally think they become uncool as soon as Beckham/Robbie Williams et al started getting tattooed and everyone followed.
I grew up with seeing the likes of if Rollins/ Crue / Ginger, and Suicidal and it was different and it was cool. Now they are a dime a dozen and quite boring in my opinion. Like the trend for eyebrow piercing in the 90’s it has become in my opinion like joining the army. As Ozzy says to his son in one of the Osbourne episodes ‘If you want to be different don’t get a tattoo’ Spot on.
Thanks Nikki. Surely you shouldn’t do something like that to your body with the aim of being cool anyway?
Agree, but I think most people do. My problem with this tattoo fad is that it’s it is just that , fashion has driven it, and as we know fashion doesn’t last, and it has become a uniform rather than expressing individuality which it used to. Marks and even primark will start tattooing soon. Please don’t think this is a slight on your tattoo,.
I guarantee tattoo removal will become big business in the next 10 years.
I’m sure it will, most are pretty terrible.
I think it’s hard to tell how the attitude to tattoos will change – they were seen one way for decades, this might just be a broader acceptance. But it certainly doesn’t help when so many are ill-thought out
I grew up in an era that having a tattoo was akin to the mark of Cain..they signified you as a lout, a criminal an outcast of polite civil society. Now there as acceptable and common as muck. My how times change.
Its nothing something that I ever contemplated. My father had a lot of service tats obtained during his war service. I was always intrigued by them as a child but never was driven to get one of my own.
Body art extends beyond inscription on the body to hair cut style, facial hair in all its manifestations. Tattoos now are just another means of expressing ones sense of self..this is who I am..so what!
Personally my two cents worth is that I would go for symmetry and get another on done on the forearm as to the design I’d consider something complementary to the one you have as it would create a visual and artistic balance…I look forward to see the results.
People seem to read a lot into a tattoo and liken it to a spiritual journey. Each to his own but our spiritual journey used to amount to if we had enough money to get another one and if anyone would give us a lift to the tattoo man.
Big S introducing me to Kyuss feels similar to learning about The Vibrators from my genetics prof
Simon, I think tattoos can be very personal and I find their stories fascinating. I’m probably not the demographic that most people envision when imagining tattooed people (that is changing) I was over 40 when I got a tiny one on the top of my foot. It had a deeply personal meaning and it was me stepping way outside my comfort zone. A few years ago I had a “bracelet” done on my wrist with the international symbol of adoption hanging like a charm. When my Mom passed I added her favorite humming bird to the top of my hand and tied the two pieces together through color and placement as they connected in my life. I wanted people to ask me about them and they have created amazing dialog with complete strangers. My husband recently had a huge health scare and I added his zodiac symbol as another charm to the inside of the same wrist. All of them are delicate, beautiful and very very meaningful to me. Now over 60, I don’t regret a single one. They each evolved from my heart, grew with thought into a sketch then inked beautifully by an artist who listened to my story and brought it to life. You will know if and when you want another. Good luck on your journey.
How wonderful. Thank you for sharing that with us Caroline
Thank you for sharing!
At 15 I saw an illustration of a woman with a classical Japanese tattoo. It was the first time I had seen one that wasn’t rough, faded and badly executed. Something clicked in my mind and from that moment I genuinely couldn’t see myself without one. Now my first was when I was 21 and it was objectively terrible. I don’t regret it for a moment however, as it was and is part of my transition through life.
Since then, I have had further ink done at approximately 7 year gaps and have been lucky enough to educate myself on the traditions and skills of the tattooist, as well as find some amazing artists to do the work. (I’m currently 51 for context.)
I will say if you are in doubt about what style to go for next, don’t force it. There is a definite moment of clarity and when it comes to integrating new work with old, having a strong sense of your personal aesthetic and trust in your artist means styles can be blended sympathetically – in much the same way a mid- century modern decor item can absolutely work alongside a Roman antique – you are highly aware of how to mix and match using form, colour and contrast, and the visual rules remain as true for tattoes as for jackets.
The only regret I have is not getting one from an incredible artist when I had the chance. Everyone should be able to feel comfortable about their skin and I firmly believe personal choice is the key here – respect for those that do and don’t.
You can choose to regret or you can choose to embrace both our ability to evolve and our ability to honour who we were.
Good luck with your next piece – there will be a moment when you know it’s the right one, despite all the inevitable rationales that your brain is churning over. No different to a jacket that ‘should’ work actually not being the one that looks the best on you.
Noooo! That makes me a stereotype!… I DO drive a classic car (Alfa GTV, since you ask…), ride a cafe racer motorcycle (FZS 600 custom), listen to Miles Davis (yes, kind of blue IS a favourite) and have a love of fine quality living. (Not necessarily expensive, but tasteful objets, cars, clothes, food and architecture.)… I have a tailor, (Damien Carbury in Exeter)… I’m also a husband and father, and like you, Simon, have a deeply personal tattoo which I felt the need to have done about 30 years ago and have never regretted. I always felt that my appreciation of the life aesthetic was fairly good, but now I find, to my horror, that I’m merely a caricature!
Oh, the shame!
Tattoos- used to be a sign of rebellion, now they’re so commonplace they’re almost a symbol of conformity. About 20 years ago I decided to draw a picture of a marlin fish and have it tattooed on my upper arm. The tattoo artist worked the drawing up a bit before he started and I was really pleased with the result. Now all these years down the line I’m not really aware that its there most of the time. I don’t regret it, my feelings about it are pretty neutral. I certainly didn’t feel compelled to go and get another. There’s going to be a lot of regret around in a few years time about some of the tribal tats and half sleeves I see around on young men and women. They are already going out of fashion. My advice Simon? Wait another 10 years and see if you still want another.
The argument for a chest piece: it is rather enjoyable to have something you only see on occasion. It keeps things fresh and interesting to oneself, in my opinion. Furthermore, when a top button is unfastened, there is a possibility that small sections of my chest tattoo become visible. I feel like it adds a layer of intrigue that would otherwise be impossible, especially whilst wearing a DB jacket.
I am one of those guys who are not into tattoos at all but I enjoyed this one and the first article none the less. What I can really recognize is the thing with the (false) presumptions other people make. It reminds me, that the menswear community is very diverse and that is what makes it so interesting to me. As said, I am not into tattoos, and not into cars, and I don’t smoke cigars – but I am a lot into Kyuss.
Really interesting article, thanks Simon. I’ve also enjoyed the discussion it has triggered. My experience of tattoos perhaps jars with some the advice offered by other readers on the risks associated with this type of commitment.
I had a tattoo in my late teens which I’m comfortable to admit doesn’t reflect my tastes today. However, I am glad I have it and have no intention of changing it. I consider this piece of art to be a part of my ‘story’ for want of a better term. It reminds me of who I was in years gone by and stimulates me to think about how my tastes have changed and why. While it is not immediately visible on a day to day basis (residing on my upper arm), I have no problem showing it to others and explaining the story behind it.
Of course, I’m sure I would feel differently if the tattoo was on my face! Anyway, I think what I am trying to say is that these things are perhaps not always quite as binary as some might suggest.
From casual observation over the last couple of years, at the pub and around town, I think too some extent tattoos has influenced what people are wearing. I have noticed people who have extensive tattoos, sleeves and full legs, are now just dressing in singlets and shorts, and will wear them in all weathers.
I don’t have a tattoo and doubt that I would get one living and working in Japan where the connection with gangsters or more precisely ‘yakuza’ would have the eyes of society working against me.
Of late, there has been a distinction between tattoos and ‘irezumi’ which are the traditional body art of the yakuza and so the tattoos are less disapproved of but still looked upon with some stigma. There have been some stories that men with arm tattoos have been asked to wear long sleeve shirts all year round so as not to ‘offend’ customers or clients or in some extremes, taken off front-line customer/client duties. It might seem a shame to have freedom of expression and freewill be so prejudiced against, however, when fitting in with the majority and social norms are so integral to ‘harmony’ and group consciousness, it would seem to be almost inevitable.
If people want to get a tattoo then go ahead but just as we dress not only for ourselves for society as a whole or whichever part of it we operate in, then there will always be an element of compromise that we will take in order to fit in.
I am still tempted by piercing one ear and having a single diamond stud in it and I am in my fifties. To each his own.
I appreciate people like having them done but a tattoo is never going to inspire me when I see one in the way an outfit can.
Clothing where everything comes together and is stylish but looks effortless.
for me tattoos are ‘trying to hard’.
Can look at pictures of fine shoes all day but tattoos are just a bit uninspiring, i guess they cost about the same but last longer!?
I’ve been meaning to get one for years but I can never make up my mind what to get. What an earth would he some way express something about me? But reading this has got me thinking about it again. Maybe one day, I’ll make the leap…
Pleased you found it interesting Nick. Worth having a read of my original article on it too, for more background on the why I chose that and how it came together
I just went back to find my comment on your original article and I did predict you’d get another! Pleased but not surprised to hear you have no regrets.
Incidentally I’d say a 50/50 blend of Kyuss and Kind of Blue on the stereo would keep me happy for a long while!
On Kind of Blue, by the way, I didn’t mean to disparage the album, it is a masterpiece. More that people make silly connections between style and music, and stick to ‘classics’, often afraid to make their own choices (also, as in clothing). I love that album, but would just as happily mix it up with Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus or Eddie Gale’s Ghetto Music.
I very much relate to the feeling that you dont notice your tattoos until someone points them out. I got all my three tattoos between 2010-2014 and really felt the addictiveness. Both the individual motifs and the larger picture of how they interact is really stimulating to think about. As time went on I thought about tattoos less and less, and when the first exciting idea in a long time turned to not translate well to ink I mostly lost interest. Today I dont dislike my tattoos but I cant really see myself getting more, and Im happy their placement makes them easy to hide if I want to. In a way it was just an itch to scratch.
Good luck on your tattoos journey!
Thanks Sasha, that’s really interesting. Why did you find that last idea didn’t translate well to ink?
The idea was based on the stamped logo on a 1910s turkish cymbal that I found beautiful, but the design itself was less interesting without the three-dimensional depth of the stamp.
A pity, but Im glad I realized before it was permanent!
I see, thank you
I’m surprised you’d hate cars, especially classics which surely offer something in the way of design and tradition that you’d appreciate.
I imagine that placement is just as much of a decision to contemplate as the design itself. What I can’t stand is when someone has numerous unrelated tattoos spread over their limbs, making them look like a doodle pad next to the telephone.
Personally I think that rather than choosing something Islamic, which risks looking as cheesy as when westerners have oriental characters or tribal tattoos, it would be better to choose something from your own rich cultural history.
Thanks MJ. I can definitely see how there are design aspects and traditions to admire in cars. It’s just not something I’m into, and I have other issues with them generally
On tattoo inspiration, given the amount I have travelled, drawn and studied Islamic art, it would feel very personal to me – more than something English I’ve never closely admired.
I can see how someone that didn’t know me might think it was out of place on me, but then that would be the same error of making any presumptions about someone based on their colour, race etc.
Being well into later years, my canvas has gone to hell but I wonder what one would look like now if I got one in my younger years.
It’s one reason experienced artists usually recommend strong, graphic tattoo designs. Some of the more sketchy and detailed ones you see more these days will suffer more
Like you mentioned, your tattoo is intensely personal and it shouldn’t matter what other people think about it – to an extent. I agree.
However, I believe your comment about possibly getting another tattoo, maybe inspired by Islamic art, breaches the realm of personal choice/opinion and into the discussion of possible cultural appropriation.
Islamic art has a storied history, one that should be respected. Part of that respect would mean the art actually conforms to Islamic guidelines. In the case of tattoos, they are prohibited in Islam. It is ironic at best and offensive at worst for someone to get a tattoo inspired by Islamic art.
Another aspect to consider when respecting Islamic art, or perhaps more broadly Islam, is the historical context of British and Western colonisation of Muslim-majority lands. I would argue this warrants a higher degree of caution on the part of Westerners when considering to adopt art/culture from people that they have oppressed for centuries.
As a practicing Muslim, I implore you – please don’t get a tattoo inspired by Islamic art. Having read your blog for several years I know you to be an extremely respectful person and I hope that respect continues in this circumstance.
Thank you Saad, I think you’re right and I very much respect you giving your views here.
As a more academic point, would you be OK with a white British artist that was extremely knowledgeable and respectful of Islamic art doing his own artistic works inspired by it? I think something like that is more of a grey area, and an interesting one – after all, all artistic traditions have been inspired by others.
I can’t imagine ever getting a tattoo as it’s not my style, but if I did it would probably be some version of a Dutch still life with dead game on my back, if I could find anyone I thought could do it justice 😂