Stereotypes & Clichés

Urspo asked:

“Have you ever written on the stereotype/cliches of being a tattoo artist?”

I have not. Until now. Ask and ye shall receive! Eventually.

I’m not really sure what stereotypes people have in mind when it comes to a tattoo artist. On top of that, sometimes it’s difficult to separate the stereotypes about people with tattoos from people who do tattoos. Although… the later mostly includes the former since most people who do tattoos have tattoos. Mostly.

The phrase “stereotypes have some truth to them” does has some truth to it but not in the way people think. That truth is not about the stereotyped but the stereotyper. Stereotypes remain alive by confirmation bias: we notice a few examples that fit the stereotype then overlook the ton of examples that do not. I don’t know if it’s human nature to do that, but we (the collective) do it.

Having visible tattoos definitely changes the way humans look at you. There are times I catch someone staring at me. Not staring in a way that they’re observing my artwork. But staring at me as a person. Making judgments about me. It doesn’t bother me now like it used to. Most of the time. But there are still times I want to just yell out, “I’m not dangerous!”

When I came into the tattooing world, first as a client and later as a tattooist, I wasn’t sure what to expect from tattoo artists. I had my own stereotypes of what I would encounter and (sadly) a lot of those were true, at least in the area I live in: misogynistic, homophobic, racist, gang-related, miscreants, hellions. Some of those adjectives are linked either with the conjunctions “and” or “or”.

My guess would be that most people think tattoo artists are a lot of the above. And some people would say partiers. Or drug addicts. And I have known a few who fit both of those descriptions. But I also knew a lot of I.T. people who were the same back in the day when I was a computer guy.

But there’s a lot of us who are just… “normal”. Granted, normal is relative. Unless you’re my relatives, then you’re far from normal.

So sexy. A man in a well-tailored suit.
So sexy. A man in a well-tailored suit.

While some of us find visible ink possibly both sexy and enhancing depending on the individual and the artwork, not everyone approves. I guess my question to you would be: what do you do or think when you see someone with tattoos? And why do you think that?

Until next time...

8 thoughts on “Stereotypes & Clichés

  1. My perception of the tattoo artist has changed ever since I got my first one. Everyone I have met in the stores has been nice and professional and not at all the type that would want to beat the crap out of me because they’re just “bad ass”.

    I don’t judge people who have tats since I have 5 myself… I do wonder why some people got a certain on… especially on their neck or face.

    Very interesting topic though!

  2. Well since I’m into tattoos, I am never put off or disapproving. I like full sleeves, particularly Japanese-style, and always respond with interest to tribal work, some of which I have. Because my position at MIT that began when tattoos weren’t acceptable in academia, all my work (full back piece and both pecs, biceps, thighs and ankles) can be covered by shorts, a short sleeved shirt and socks.

    I LOVE tattoos on men, whether in porn or in life. I think they’re very sexy, and was delighted that mine were found attractive by a number of men I wanted to get my hands on–and did. As to tattoo artists I had a major one, one who did my upper arms, and three who each did one piece. All were very nice guys, fun to joke around with, and their work ranged from extremely competent to brilliant. The talented Hispanic sand-blasted glass sculptor and tattoo artist who did the most work loved the fact I designed all my own work. Armando was very hot, straight (damn!) but had no problem getting into position to do work on some area by throwing his arm around my chest and pulling me tight to him when working on bringing parts of my back piece over my shoulders, his warm breath on my neck. That was a frankly erotic experience!

  3. For me it comes down to the tattoos themselves. I find that I categorize people a certain way if they have bad ink. Which doesn’t make sense since one of my best friends had a tattoo that was misspelled, and I loved him just fine. This did, however, seem to be indicative of his lack of follow-through and somewhat poor personal choices in certain arenas of life.

    Being in the massage biz in a major medical facility that works with cancer patients, hence, older people, although I personally love ink (except for just sad or badly-done tats), given the choice I would not hire someone who had visible ink. Which is getting more rare 🙂 My clients would be uncomfortable with it, and I just don’t have an interest in alienating them. Plus, every medical facility in town has a “no visible ink” regulation and we are bound to that. Moot point right now.

    Having said that, I had a good friend massage therapist here in Huntsville (now in Alaska) who had tattoos of snakes around her wrists that coiled around her arms several times, then up her back. Her clients didn’t seem to care. So maybe I’m being too worried about something that has not yet happened.

    My brother and his partner have lots of tats. He’s a lawyer. His partner is a violent bipolar wacko who has hospitalized my brother more than once and has never been able to hold down a job. I like my brother’s tats and can’t stand his partner’s tats, so clearly I have a double standard when it comes to ink.

    I have had a client who had full-body work from Japan that was the most gorgeous ink I’ve ever seen. He was a lawyer and kept his under wraps. I have a client who is an artist who has, in my opinion, some of the ugliest tattoos I’ve ever laid eyes on. She’s a waitress and often puts hers out there for all to see.

    I want ink myself, hoping I can work it out for you to do it :-), and still it will be mostly invisible to my clients. Until I change professions 🙂

    Guess I’m not out of the ink closet yet 🙂

  4. I think tattoos are accepted much more now then ever before. It’s hard to find someone in their 20’s that does not have a tattoo. They’re done much more artistically now, although you still see some bad ones out there. I made an appointment with a tattoo artist 3 years ago, he made me wait 5 month’s for an appointment and then didn’t show up on the day scheduled and didn’t offer to reschedule or let me know in advance he wasn’t able to make the appointment. He won a tattoo competition “Ink Master” I believe was the name of the show. After the show I received an email asking to like him on Facebook. I emailed back and reminded him of how I was treated, he responded saying I was an oversight and he would do my tattoo in 4 to 5 weeks, if I wanted him to. Then when I asked for a appt. date ( 3 times) he never booked me a time. Others have been treated this way by this guy as well. Talent and being in demand does not justify this behavior. I hope you and most other tattoo artists don’t treat customers like I was treated. I still get pissed off when I think about this to this day. I am 54 years old now and still would like to get a tattoo. How old is too old to get a tattoo? I would like to hear your thoughts on this whole situation. Have you ever just blown off an appointment without notice? I am willing to bet money you have never treated someone that way.

  5. Yes, there is negative associations with tattoos and them’s that gets/receives them. They are still associated with drugs/degeneracy and mostly negativism in the medical community. It’s changing but there remains a bias.

    On the other hand psychiatry sees them as ‘windows into the soul’ – we were taught to inquire about visible tattoos – get the story behind them/what do they mean to the person. It’s very informative.

  6. If you haven’t already, you should read: Secret Historian: The Life and Times of Samuel Steward, Professor, Tattoo Artist, and Sexual Renegade by Justin Spring. Steward lived an extraordinary life as respected academic; intimate of Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas (book: Dear Sammy, a collection of their letters); case study for and also involved in Dr. Kinsey’s report on homosexual men; erotic diarist; artist and intimate of artists; respected author under his own name and writer of what I can only call elegantly written porn under the name Phil Andros; and for many years in many places a tattoo artist when it was a disreputable profession and tattoos were associated with disreputable people. It is a truly fascinating life.

  7. When I see a guy with tattoos I get turned on. I find them attractive. As for tattoo artists, here in California it’s not so bad. I’ve been tattooed by two gay men, many people have responded positively to my ink, everyone from teens to grandmothers. Really the only time anyone comments on my ink is to compliment me on it.

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