The whole point of getting a tattoo done is that you’re choosing to use your body as a canvas for a piece of art. That piece of art will be with you for the rest of your life – or at least until you decide to get an expensive cover-up or removal – and so you ought to be very sure about what you’re getting done. It should be something that you’re happy with the idea of not just now, but ten years or more into the future. There are plenty of people who are now in their 40s and 50s who wish they hadn’t been quite so bold about the idea of what they wanted to get inked onto their skin in their 20s, and we wouldn’t want you or anyone else to join their number.
Tattoos should be individual. They should say something about you, your personality, and either your perspective on life or the things that matter to you. There’s little point in getting a tattoo that’s exactly the same as your friend’s, or exactly the same as a thousand other people you walk past on the street every day. Sometimes, someone walks into a tattoo parlor and asks for something that’s so cliched that the artist rolls their eyes – but they need to earn a living, and so they do the tattoo for you anyway. Let’s spare them that experience. Here are five cliched tattoo ideas that we need to move away from. If you’re considering getting any of these designs, consider this an invitation to reflect on the idea and come up with something more original instead.
Unless you’re Chinese or you speak fluent Chinese, getting Chinese characters as a tattoo is a risky business. You have little way of knowing whether the character you’ve had etched on your skin genuinely says ‘hope,’ ‘strength,’ or ‘love,’ or whether it says something utterly meaningless. It’s also an odd concept in general. After all, have you ever seen a Chinese person walking around with the word ‘hope’ written on them in English? The fad for Chinese characters as tattoos started around twenty years ago and is still going strong. It’s become so popular an idea that Chinese tattoos are used as the symbols on the reels of the ‘Tattoo Mania’ online slots game. We have nothing whatsoever against online slots games – in fact, we think they’re a fine way to pass the time so long as you’re playing sensibly and winning occasionally. We just think that if your tattoo choice is so mainstream that it’s being used on a popular online casino, it’s probably a sign you need to come up with a different choice.
Lower Back Tattoos
It doesn’t matter what you’re having done on your lower back. The design isn’t the issue here. It’s the location. For a variety of reasons – some of which are too unsavory to print – lower back tattoos have become known around the world as ‘tramp stamps.’ They’re viewed as trashy, and they come with a host of negative stereotypes. We appreciate that this is unfair – we’ve seen a number of lower-back tattoos that are beautifully realized and look great – but if you get a lower back tattoo, you’re going to be judged accordingly by people who turn their noses up at such things. There are sexist connotations to the term ‘tramp stamp’ which we don’t enjoy, but it doesn’t change the fact that the label exists, and it’s probably here to stay now.
We’ll grant an exception to this if you’re a sailor, or you’ve been in the Navy. If you haven’t, you have no business getting an anchor tattoo. These were once a traditional representation of somebody’s military service, but they crossed over in the mainstream during the 1990s, and now they’re everywhere. Often, they’re accompanied by nauseating text about how the bearer of the tattoo is ‘grounded,’ or ‘can’t be sunk.’ In all likelihood, anchors are the most cliched tattoos in the world. They’re the first image that a lot of people think about when you say the word ‘tattoo,’ and that means they’re redundant as an expression of individuality. If you live hundreds of miles from the nearest body of water and you’ve never spent more than a day on a boat in your entire life, we don’t think it’s out of order to suggest that an anchor might not be an appropriate representation of anything about your lifestyle or perspective.
The Infinity Symbol
Nothing lasts forever. The concept of infinity is difficult to understand for human beings because our lives are painfully finite. We’re all born, and we’re all going to die. Why is it, then, that so many young people decided to get infinity symbol tattoos around ten years ago? Did we all think we were going to buck the trend and become immortal? We don’t know the answer to that question, but we do know that far too many people got the design done, and many of those people now regret it. Those who chose to get the word ‘love’ or something equally generic tattooed either inside or as part of the symbol get bonus points here, and are probably twice as likely to regret it, too. Your tattoo might be permanent, but permanence in the context of your lifespan doesn’t mean the same thing as infinity. On top of that, the fact that so many people have the design makes it appear to the untrained eye that there’s a religious cult on Earth in which the number 8 has special significance.
Most of the things that apply to Chinese symbol tattoos also apply to tribal tattoos. Unless you come from a background or culture where tribal symbols are especially relevant, you should give tribal tattoos a wide berth. Looking at them through 2020 eyes, you could even accuse people who have tribal tattoos of cultural appropriation. There was a brief moment where tribal tattoos were sort-of cool, but that moment came to a sudden and crashing halt when Mike Tyson decided to have an enormous one tattooed on his face. From that moment on, they’ve been dated and trashy, and anyone who has one runs the risk of looking basic. Some tattooists have even started refusing to do them on principle.
There are thousands of great tattoo ideas out there. You’re limited only by the scope of your imagination. Don’t rush into an idea, and don’t book a tattoo appointment on a whim. If you think you’ve got a perfect idea, put it on ice and come back to it in a month. If you still want it at that point, it’s a good sign that your desire is genuine. Tattoos can be elegant and beautiful, so please don’t burden yourself with any of the five styles we’ve described above!