Recently, I interviewed two tattoo studios in Soho and explored the concept of having a completely impulsive tattoo. I did this, by getting one myself. I made a decision about something that would be on me for life, in about 30 seconds. In that time, you can’t really put that much thought into anything – design, meaning, placement, colour, font, size. It got me thinking, does all that stuff really matter? Well, hang on, obviously it does, otherwise I wouldn’t be here, running this blog. But is it important for everyone? How do those aspects impact on how you remember your tattoo in the future? We’re constantly bombarded with the message that we must plan our tattoos. Plan, plan and plan. Think, think, and re-think. It’s with you for life, make sure it’s in the right place, make sure the artists’ style is right for you, make sure it won’t look dated in the future, make sure you have given it enough thought, etc. etc.
The message engrained in our heads is that those who make spontaneous ink decisions, come to regret it for the rest of their lives. Be safe, be sensible, consider the consequences of your actions. That’s just the world we live in now, we’re good little citizens that follow the rules we are handcuffed to. Anyway, when I arrived home that day with the letters SOHO tattooed on my leg in a heart, not having ever discussed wanting this with anyone, ever… my friends and family were shocked. Well, had you been to the studio before? How did you know it was trustworthy then? How did you have time to think about the design in just an hour?
I didn’t. I was about to leave London after working there for a couple of memorable years and suddenly decided I wanted a tattoo.I just pressed my ‘Fuck It’ button. We’ve all got a Fuck It button (especially people in Soho), and some of us press it more than others. I think for people that get tattoos, some people will know what I’m talking about, and some won’t.Catching up with my old man this week, he reminded me of a funny story he’s told me many times before, about his mate Bob that he plays poker with… Bob’s in his late 80s, and when he was in the navy he was very much the clown of the group, the funny man. One day, he persuaded his shipmates that he had the words ‘I love Jam Roly Poly Pudding’ tattooed on his stomach. I’m not quite sure how he did this, but he did. An elaborate story that ended with his persuasion that, as fellow friends, they should get the same permanent mark to symbolise their friendships and time at sea.
So one day, in a drunken state, when they arrived on land, they did. They eventually returned to the ship with sticky, bloody bellies and were welcomed by a hysterical Bob, rolling on the floor laughing, and eventually revealing that it was all a big joke. So in return, they dragged him kicking and screaming to the place from which they’d just returned and made him get the exact same tattoo, in the same place. The tattoo he’d managed to persuade them days ago that he already had. And so, for the rest of their lives, those men wore this ridiculous tattoo upon their abdomens. A spontaneous, stupid, silly, embarrassing, pudding-related tattoo that did nothing but remind them of their experiences as part of that crew.
The most common question we get asked is, ‘but what are your tattoos going to look like when you’re older?!’ I can see from the expression on Bob’s face, when he tells that story to my dad for the millionth time, that he couldn’t care less about the font, style, design, placement or longevity of the wonky words Jam Roly Poly on his wrinkly skin. Not an ounce of his thought is concerned with how it looks, because the memories are worth its weight in gold.