The art of tattooing came to be, as a symbol of strength and conformity, due to its rich history in tribal tradition and identification early 20th century wartime. Many techniques and styles derived from this, such as tribal and American traditional, are present today. However, many tend to stray from the intention of conformity and argue that a tattoo is a symbol of self-expression and individuality.
With tattoos becoming as common practice as they are, and particular designs increasing in popularity, it begs the question: can tattoos still be considered self-expressive and unique to an individual?
Does having an arrow on your forearm or the word ‘wanderlust’ on your wrist, uniquely express who you are as a person, or merely brand you as a hipster?
Does a Southern Cross on your chest express your patriotism, or boast that you’re a little bit bogan?
Whilst a symbol, an image or a quote that you may choose to get inked onto yourself may be popular, the experience you’ve had, and the reasoning behind getting that tattoo is individual to you. Whatever the reasoning behind the tattoo may be, it is not usually apparent to the onlooker. What is though, is the quality of the design, which has the power to bring admiration or amusement to others.
With this in mind, let’s consider the typical university student. Whether it’s glancing around a lecture hall out of absent-mindedness, or waiting in line for coffee, chances are you’ve seen students wandering around with adorning art on their skin. Perhaps you have tattoos yourself; perhaps you enjoy admiring others, but ultimately think it’s not for you.
Wherever you stand on tattoos, it’s likely you would have seen the following, or perhaps have considered getting one yourself to show off on campus. Or perhaps you’ll just enjoy admiring (or mocking) those that do.
1. The Travel Tattoo. Common among students that just returned from a holiday they’ll take any opportunity to mention. Common designs include: airplanes, maps, waves, or a compass. Either fine line work, or splashed with colours.
2. The Procrastination Tattoo. Usually the tattoo you weren’t serious about at first. It came about from browsing designs online for something to look at when you were bored and procrastinating completing (or in most cases -starting) that assignment. After falling into the vortex of instagramming artists and searching Pinterest, you figure, why not? Common designs relevant to procrastination include: ‘to do’ lists, and ‘tomorrow’ with a sharp line through it, corrected with ‘today’.
3. The Motivational Tattoo. Maybe you’ve decided it’s time to adopt the good old Nike adage and ‘just do it’. This tattoo is often a reminder to ‘live, laugh, love’ more and ‘keep moving forward’. Common designs include quotes, semi colons and love hearts.
But what about the simpler things you need motivation for? Like climbing those stairs to the library, or actually going to the gym before class like you always say you will but never do. The solution: tattoo a smiley face onto your stomach and if you let yourself go, it’ll remind you, with the smooth curve of its smile slowly sagging, inspiring you to keep your body happy!
4. The Statement Tattoo. Whatever you’re passionate about, there’s probably a tattoo for it. Some favourites include band logos and song lyrics, feminist tattoos such as embellished gender symbols and uteruses /uteri flipping you off. Some statements directly relevant to student life include maths formulas you don’t want to forget, or ‘leave me alone I voted’; perfect for student-election season!
5. The Drunk Tattoo. This one seems pretty self-explanatory. Whether it’s a tattoo you got while drunk, or just in dedication to memories made under the influence. These tattoos don’t often age well, which is understandable, especially if you were a big NSYNC fan in the 90s and now in your 30s, shamefully try to hide Justin Timberlake’s curls that are permanently on your shoulder blade. Similarly, it’s not uncommon for people to get a tattoo impulsively, and then realise soon after that they really don’t want that dolphin on their ankle, ex-girlfriend’s name on their wrist, or their best friend’s lips on their arse cheek. Other common drunk or impulse designs include: VB or Smirnoff bottles, leprechauns and bin chickens (Ibises).
With these in mind, perhaps we could start a game of campus tattoo bingo!
Words by Helen Karakulak.