When it comes to tattoos, everybody has their own set of arbitrary rules on what they deem permissible. People like to say that “A tattoo should have meaning,” which is ridiculous—after all, most of the time the ink in question is worn on the skin of somebody living a meaningless life, working a meaningless job, and dreaming meaningless dreams. Why should their tattoo be the one thing about them with any real substance?
The truth is that most “tats” are horrible, because most people have horrible taste. Most people who get them make their decisions on a bizarrely conservative basis: They worry about how what they get done is going to look when they’re older, which is antithetical to the philosophy that brought tattoos out of nomadic tribes and into the Western consciousness in the first place. Everything about you looks terrible when you’re seventy, and if you disagree, you are nothing more than a gerontophile. On with the list:
In It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia—the only sitcom of the past decade worth watching—two of the main characters have the following exchange regarding tribal tattoos:
“Those are really original, by the way.”
“I’m sorry? What tribe are you from?”
The only people who can get away with having tribals on their flesh are MMA fighters, and that’s solely down to the fact that nobody in their right mind would openly mock them for it. If you’re thinking of getting tribal tattoos, just get yourself a T-shirt that says, “I have no imagination” instead. It will be infinitely cheaper and a whole lot less embarrassing to be seen in public with.
2. A loved one’s face or name
If you were to look up the word “tacky” in the dictionary, you would find a basic definition for what the word means. If you were to look up from the dictionary, you would probably see some idiot with the name of a child, parent, or significant other permanently branded onto their skin. This particular form of idiot stamp is extremely common, and I mean that in both senses.
The only thing worse than getting the name of a loved one as a tattoo is getting a portrait of their face done. There’s something profoundly creepy about seeing somebody walking around with their dead partner’s grinning visage indelibly sketched onto their bicep. It’s almost like they’re saying, “I couldn’t find a taxidermist willing to take the job, so I settled for this.” They’re dead, they’re gone, get over it. All you’ll accomplish by spending two weeks’ worth of wages immortalizing them on the canvas of your body is making everybody at the beach uncomfortable. Stop it.
3. Anything subcultural
Look, if you’re a beered-up biker and you want to get the Motorhead logo on the back of your hand, that’s one thing. You’re part of a subculture that will probably outlive you, and so getting one of its symbols as a tattoo at least makes some kind of sense. The subcultures that should absolutely not be commemorated with ink, however, are those with a five-year lifespan, and the post-screamo Scene Kids of the mid-2000s are probably the best example.
I realize that in an article that derides people for picking their tattoos with the future in mind, stating that foresight should play a part in a person’s selection process might seem a little hypocritical, but this is why I give the example of bikers. Those guys are married to the culture they belong to; I’ve never met a guy in a leather vest and a Lemmy-style cowboy hat who had me thinking, “Sure, you’re committed now, but I’ll bet any money you settle down and open a café in a few years’ time.”
Scene Kids were not that. They were a consortium of dudes in their mid-twenties with layered mullets and skinny jeans making terrible synth-rock and metalcore for 15-year-old girls. They got tattooed with the most trivial and unenduring images imaginable—diamonds, ice cream cones, Pac-Man ghosts—before dropping the whole shtick as soon as it went out of style (which was fast), becoming tech geeks and blowing the last of their royalty payments on laser removal treatment.
They are filled with shame and regret, as they should be. If you’re part of a musical subculture without any genuine longevity (and that’s most of them), just stick with having the posters in your room and accept that nothing lasts forever. There are a lot of impulsive Lostprophets fans out there who only wish they’d made that decision.
4. Koi Carp
Yes, they’re beautiful fish, but they’re still fish. Nobody should ever have a fish on their chest for any reason. Many people will also cite the insensitivity of adopting another culture’s tropes as part of your personal expression. I couldn’t care less about cultural appropriation, but getting seafood drawn on your body is only going to channel the power of suggestion and convince people that you smell like fish, and that’s offensive to everybody, not only oversensitive liberals who think that “microaggressions” are a major problem.
5. “Inspiring” Quotes
Only God can judge you, huh? That’s funny, because I seem to be judging you right now, and my judgment is that you’re a tedious fool with a cliché on her wrist. Just once I’d like to see somebody with a total non-sequitur represented as a tattoo on their body, like “Can you pass the chips, Mike?” instead of whatever paltry sentiment the wearer looked up on Wikiquote two days prior to actually getting it done.
Sure, joke tattoos are equally moronic, but at least they approach self-awareness instead of diluting the profundity of a famous saying by weaving it into the skin of some hung-over Kinko’s employee. Here’s a quote for you: Your tattoo sucks. Actually, if somebody gets that done, they will be my hero.