Everywhere you look people have tattoos – from policemen to nannies, it seems like everyone’s got at least a couple. It wasn’t too long ago that only bikers and military people had tattoos, but nowadays, the first thing teenage girls do on their eighteenth birthday is hit up the tattoo parlor.
“More people have them than don’t today,” says Mike Maney, owner of True Tattoo on Broadway in Saratoga Springs. “I’d say about 80 percent of the population has tattoos, and about 60 percent of that is made up of women.”
Some people attribute this to the attitude of a generation.
“It’s no longer taboo,” says Cirena Bills, a young True Tattoo customer who currently has 14 tats of her own. “The younger generations were more rebels. Now that we all have tattoos, tattoos are no longer really seen as ‘rebellious.’”
Indeed, people don’t just get tattoos to be “rebellious” or to fit into a certain group anymore.
“Tattoos are great for marking a moment in your life, decorating your body with great artwork or marking the passing of a loved one,” says Bills, who has a tribal heart on the left side of her chest with her deceased grandmother’s initials on it. “They can also turn out to be not-so great, though, if you don’t take time to think it through or don’t go to the right place.”
Tattoos are like marriage – you have to know what you’re getting yourself into before you take that gigantic leap. Unfortunately, a tattoo is lot more difficult to “divorce” once you’ve decided it’s not for you. (Some might argue, but still.)
So how can you ensure that you don’t end up with something hideous that you will have to bear for the rest of your life, or something you might hate yourself for in ten years? Follow these seven tips to be safe, original and professional before making the decision to mark yourself for life.
1) Don’t ink on impulse
“Acting on impulse doesn’t always work,” Bills says, who knows from experience. While in the air force, Bills and her companions would go out almost every weekend to get a new tattoo. “It’s not a good idea. Think long and hard before going to a tattoo parlor. Remember that it’s a permanent thing, so it’s a big choice. You don’t want to wind up hating it eventually.”
2) Incorporate yourself into it
Don’t just choose something that you saw online or on someone else. Make it original. For example, Bills’ tribal heart was inspired by a heart she saw online, but she tweaked it a bit to make it different and her own.
“Don’t just get a butterfly tattoo because you think butterflies are cute,” Bills says. “Incorporate yourself by making the butterfly your birthstone colors. If you’re going to get a tattoo of a bracelet, make it a charm bracelet and put the initials of your children on each charm.” The more meaning the tattoo has to you, the less likely you are to hate it someday.
3) Think about placement
If your job/career path is professional, having tattoos out in the open isn’t usually a good idea. Most professional businesses don’t hire people who have ink that can’t easily be covered.
“Even Starbucks still requires employees to have all tattoos covered, and they’re supposed to be hip,” says Saratoga resident Jon Faulkner.
Places that are easy to hide are the torso, legs, back of the neck (if you have long hair) and feet.
“I really feel like businesses are going to have to start changing their tattoo policies, though,” Bills says. “If they continue to keep those policies, I feel like they won’t have anyone to work for them because everyone has tattoos. Plus, as I said, tattoos are no longer taboo, anyway.”
4) Try to keep it respectable
“In the military they would tell you, ‘If your mom wouldn’t approve, don’t get it,’” Bills says. “You don’t want to be offensive.”
Be very careful about obscenities. Would you want a little kid passing you on the street to read what you’re thinking about having written on your knuckles? Would you want your mom or daughter to ask you about it?
5) Avoid infection before getting inked
When choosing a tattoo parlor, first and foremost take a look at the cleanliness of the establishment. Most places will have established infection control policies that they are completely willing to discuss. If the employees are reluctant to discuss the policies, leave. Non-sterile needles can carry countless diseases, including HIV.
Also, look over the tattoo after-care sheet before getting your tattoo to make sure you’ll be able to comply with all the after-tattooing rules. For example, submerging your tattoo in water is not advised for weeks afterward you first get it. Do you enjoy dips in the pool in summer? If so, you might want to wait until fall to get your tattoo.
6) Look at portfolios
Before choosing a specific artist to do your tattoo, find out how many years of experience he or she has. Ask to see the artist’s hard-copy portfolio. Look through it. Do you like what you see? Do you like their style and ability? If not, politely ask for someone else. Remember, this is something you’re going to have forever.
7) Take time to discuss your tattoo with a tattoo artist
“Most artists will take time to discuss your idea with you ahead of time to make sure you get what you want,” Maney says.
If you plan on adding on to the tattoo over time, tell the artist your plan and take into consideration the placement. If you want the artist to draw something original for you, be very specific and work with them. Ask the artist you’re working with to do a stencil with you before actually doing the tattoo.
Everyone knows at least one person with a tattoo that they’ve grown to hate over time, whether it’s because they’ve outgrown it, it’s ugly or it makes it even more difficult to get a job in these tough economic times. Don’t become one of those people. Be responsible and put time and thought into your body art so that you’ll continue to love it for the rest of your life.