Siren Song of the Tattoo Salon?
To tat or not to tat: that is the modern question. Whether ‘tis nobler to suffer the needle or take thee up artful quotations and demonstrate amidst the sea of protesters (but isn’t that, like, so 1960’s?)
Whether striving daily to “Let it be”, for “Family First” or just to remind every onlooker that “Black Lives Matter”, there is little doubt that inking one’s mantra is the modern and (mostly) permanent way to go. No longer the sign of rebellion, tattoos are for even the peaceful warrior.
What is so compelling and comforting about the permanence of tattoos?
Our world is ever-changing and increasingly so. Bombarded 24/7 with multi-media messaging on what to believe, wear, think, be, do and like, these messages change constantly with the seasons and styles. Yet, a tattoo somehow transcends this impermanent lifestyle. It stands as a reminder and an anchor on the self.
Did you know that, not so long ago, tattooing another person was illegal in New York?
Only in 1997, after a 36-year ban, was tattooing another person legalized. It hardly seems coincidental that tattoos happen to be one of the few external evidences of a generation gap amongst New Yorkers. Thirty-six percent of Millennials and 40% of Gen X are reported to have least one tattoo. While, just 10% of those over 40 years old admit to a tattoo.
With the rise of acceptance and culture of inclusion, almost anyone these days can fit the ‘tattoo image’. Disruptive beauty brands like Kierin NYC and Fenty perfectly reflect a newly evolved concept of inclusion as a brand and incorporate tattoos in their campaigns and artwork representing what's beautiful. No longer a declaration of gang affiliation, hardship, heartbreak or rock band groupie and relegated to back alleys, barracks and prisons. Tattoos salons are now as main stream as your main street nail salon. Tattoos are now "pretty".
Is this tattoo trend an expression of true individuality or a pop culture of wannabee-ism?
Rock stars and rebels may have been some of the early adopters but Hollywood, however, has codified body art as style in recent years. The list of cool and even cooler celebs sporting tats is growing longer. Johnny Depp’s tattoos speak to his Native American culture. Angelina Jolie, Zoe Saldana from Guardians of the Galaxy, Christina Ricci, Megan Fox, Rihanna, Cara Delevingne are all fans of speaking to their angelic/bad-girl inner natures through scrip and clichés, some with Chinese and yin-yang symbols.
Ryan Gosling is known for having self-inked (pass the tequila please?) his collection of whimsical tattoos. The likes of Princess Stephanie of Monaco, Crown Prince Frederik and Princess Sophia of Sweden are also spattered with teeny tiny tattoos because, hey, even royals can secretly wish to be rebels.
One has to admire Jason Momoa’s artistic references to his Hawaiian heritage and Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson tattoo on his Samoan tradition. They are both nothing short of mesmerizing art. While tattoos like these undeniably speak to who these celebrities are deep down, others may be sporting tattoos a little less than skin deep. Some are just a statement of style and wannabe-ism, like "I'm zen", when deep down they are really just neurotic narcissists trapped in the revolving doors of rehab.
Among the latest trends are bloodline tattoos, for those who shirk away from permanence, white ink and black light (“invisible”) for those who don’t like the idea of a visible tattoo. The most beautiful body art comes in full color of course, like the type shown here on Cameron Diaz (though the dragon is a temporary tattoo, her permanent tattoo is a chetah print.) So, if you are ‘sans tat’ and looking for a place to inquire and be inspired, below is a list of some of the best tattoo parlors of Manhattan:
Dare Devil Tattoo in Chinatown made their name by inking musicians and actors, such as Joan Jett, and Boy George, Emma Roberts and Kelly Osbourne. One of the first legal parlors of NYC, their new locale features an on-site museum of tattoo artifacts and artwork from Samuel O’Reilly, the man responsible for patenting the first electric tattoo machine in 1891.
The Last Rites Tattoo Theater in Hell’s Kitchen caters to those with a taste for all things dark and macabre. Famous for inking metal acts such as Slayer, Pantera and Sepultura and New Yorkers since 1998, it’s one of NYC’s iconic tat parlors.
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Author: Mona Maine de Biran
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