“Tattoos on gentlemen?!” I hear you cry, well yes, but bear with me on this one. If recent statistics are anything to go by, then roughly 20% of people have at least one tattoo – that’s 1 in every 5 men reading this. No longer just the preserve of sailors and biker boys, the tattoo has gone mainstream and its popularity shows no sign of waning.
Whether a silent rebellion beneath a well-ironed Turnbull & Asser shirt or a full blown spider’s web of ‘tats’ creeping up a neck, everyone has an opinion about them. Much like marmite, it seems to be another of those love/hate divides when it comes to women’s opinions of the inky branding of the male body. So what do women really think of men with tattoos? “Love them!” A friend exclaims bluntly over brunch, “they’re sexy, they’re cool. Yup, just love them.” And, as if like clockwork, almost every other girl at the table chimes in with agreement.
Essentially what it all boils down to is the fact that all women love a bad boy – or at least they love the idea of one. Eons ago, before every Tom, Dick and Harry got drunk off boxed wine on a beach in Australia and inked some aboriginal symbol upon a nondescript part of their tanned youthful bodies, tattoos actually meant something. Stood for something. Oozing with dangerous, rebellious connotations they metaphorically growled to the world through proverbial tobacco stained teeth, telling us all with gravelly voices to, “keep your 9 to 5s, your conventional wardrobes and your mundane lives.”
Because screw you and f*** convention. I’m getting on my Harley and hitting the lonely road and I’m sticking it to the man!” Of course, they didn’t literally say that, they normally just said something along the lines of “Nancy Forever”, but the implications were there. Tattooed men were scary, rebellious and to be feared.
I’m sure some of those one-in-five men today are just as scary as their predecessors and their tattoos as dangerous as their lives, but those Tom, Dick and Harrys now working in the city with their cashmere-clad girlfriends, as their aboriginal symbol for “strength” slowly begins to droop as their metabolic clocks slow down, probably aren’t. It’s the long term consequences of having them that most girls will tell you about, “while I find any tattoo on the inside of a well sculpted upper arm incredibly sexy, I’m not going to be saying the same thing 20 years from now on an ageing, saggy arm.”
But then again, “if there’s some kind of symbolism or sentimental story to accompany it, then why the hell not? As long as you don’t take yourself too seriously, or worse, regret it.” So good news gents, if 20 years from now you can look down and say “when I was 20 years old I got high on ‘shrooms, surrounded by all my best friends on top of a mountain and got the dancing frog I was hallucinating about branded on my backside, but you know what? It still makes me laugh.” Well then who are we to judge?
The problem is that for every lover, there’s always going to be a hater. Case in point, my friend and flatmate: “In theory I want to passionately get with ridiculously attractive men with tattoos (like Volchok from The OC), but the idea of my boyfriend or husband having even one is distinctly unappealing.”
Another friend also points out that whilst the bad-boy connotations still ring true in some cases, “there are so many embarrassing, stupid tattoos these days, that it’s almost more rebellious not to have any.”
Reading between the lines, most of us may ogle with lust at the tattooed sleeves of the bearded men that frequent Shoreditch High Street, we may even date them, but the more conventional women of the world aren’t going to be bringing you back to meet their parents, unless of course it’s the kind of tattoo that’s easily hidden behind that 9 to 5 suit you wear – that silent rebellion that’s forever metaphorically sticking it to the man!