I think “flying a flag” is a good way to understand body modifications in broad terms. Sure, people can have all kinds of personal reasons for their tattoos, or not. Their internal rationalization doesn’t influence how other people perceive them. Tattoos or not, you don’t get to choose how people read you as a person.
What I’ve always found baffling are the people who fly flags with body art that don’t match who they are as a person. Menacing tattoos on un-menacing guys is one I’ve always wondered about, especially when I worked bar security. Some guys really seem to think that their tats and overall image are intimidating. Sorry chief, you can’t menacing biker tattoo your way out of being short, weak and incapable. It’s time to put down your White Claw and go home.
I’ve also known two guys who’ve gotten BJJ school tattoos who had absolutely no business flying that flag. In fact, some schools might have a problem with a guy who has only trained for a week getting a tattoo of the school’s patch. Similar to how you might get spoken to if you got, say, an Outlaws Motorcycle Gang tattoo.
Menacing tattoos on menacing men is another story. You can tell when the person matches the body art.
I think often of Jordan Peterson’s take that the ideal man is the “tender defender”…he’s a bad ass. Physically strong. Unafraid of life. But also humble, and kind and gentle with those weaker (women and children).
At 43 I now consider myself part of the older crowd. When I was younger I liked them and considered getting one. Thankfully I didn’t because I now don’t prefer them. I appreciate the artwork in some of them though.
I don’t wish to be rude to anyone here who has them and I admit that my dim view on them is partly due to conditioning from living in NYC and Long Island where there is no shortage of tough guys and wannabe tough guys. Though I’m certain not all heavily tatted people intend to intimidate those around them, I believe there is a subset who do, and their overall getup is intended for that. I admittedly have low tolerance for people who I believe want to intimidate those around them.
So I see heavy tattooing as part of the tough-guy starter pack for some of those who have it:
a creepy, menacing aura and gait, as if one is surveilling and posturing to those around him
deafening music volumes played from cars or headphones
mumbling or even bellowing song lyrics out loud (including while walking outdoors near strangers)
garish clothing and jewelry
All this combined registers to me a statement and as one giant eyesore.
So, my dislike doesn’t come from the tattoos themselves, I believe, and I’ve met likable, heavily-tattooed people. It’s the admitted conditioning enforced by my aforesaid explanation that gives me a dim view on them.
One of the things that has kept me from getting tattoos is people watching at the beach or outdoor summer events. It is possible to see 1000s of tattoos at something like the state fair, and out of all of them, I think I would only want one or two of those “works of art”. There are just so many that do not look good, or they looked good 50 lbs ago.
I had this realization when I tried to put together an outfit similar to something Brad Pitt wears in Fight Club. What looks good on him, will only look good if you are pretty good looking and very lean.
Self-awareness isn’t a strong suit of most people, and now that most people have tattoos the lack of self-awareness can definitely manifest in some really bad body art. Like most things, you seem to get what you pay for with body modifications, but that doesn’t stop a lot of people from shopping at the discount rack.
In the early 90’s I was into punk rock and hardcore with the other kids who rode bikes and did BMX. Our behavior is what made us punks, like smoking cigarettes, smashing trashcans with the pegs of your bike, kicking down political signs in people’s yards, running from the cops and otherwise being little shits.
Sometime between then and now tattoos became part of the punk and broader counter-culture scene. Now they’re mainstream, and people who don’t have any tattoos at all are increasingly becoming the odd-balls in society.
I now present to you the new social misfit. A 42 year-old white guy with no body modifications, traditional values and a stable, productive career in manufacturing management.
That’s right ladies, I’m the new bad boy on the scene.
It isn’t cool if everybody does it IMO. I really hope the grunge look doesn’t come back lol. It is my default look, that happens from me not caring about fashion. I wear jeans, tee shirts, flannels, and I slack on grooming and haircuts. If everybody does it I’ll look like a yuppie.
Interesting topic. Back to the generational perspective, every successive generation since the industrial revolution has continued to push the boundaries of what is socially acceptable. IMO we hit the right mark sometime around the late 90’s, when this guy was super-edgy.
At that point we were a liberal, tolerant society that had broken down most of the significant barriers to free expression. What boundaries were left to be pushed? What’s left for a young person to distinguish themselves from their lame peers?
None were apparent to me, but Millennials and gen Z have since answered that question.
The ones on my shoulders were from when I was younger and I liked the way they looked. TE AMO PLUS was for my wife. She didn’t see it until our wedding night. KNOWN SOME CALL IS AIR AM sounds like Latin for I AM NOT WHAT I ONCE WAS. Personal significance. It’s from a book HOUSE OF LEAVES
This was one of the first things I thought about. I personally don’t really care if someone has tattoos on places like the neck, face, hands, whatever, if they’re the kind of person who can pull it off. (Some would argue that no one can pull it off and I understand that.) But so many people now are getting their very first tattoos on their necks and hands, and are extremely obviously not the kinds of people who should be doing that.
Otherwise, broadly speaking, I have no issues with tattoos. I’m 22, for reference. I don’t have any currently, but I’m open to getting some in the future. I think the majority of ones that people get are stupid, but it’s the content of the tattoos that bother me, not the fact that they have them in the first place.
Sure, they could argue that, but would anyone in their right mind actually go up to a guy like this to make that argument?
“Excuse me sir, but don’t you think those tattoos are a little over-the-top? What kind of image are you trying to project, anyway? You should check out my cousin’s Sponge Bob tattoo. The detail is amazing.”