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Trends Are Temporary but Tattoos Are Forever, Here’s How To Think Before You Ink

Trends seem harmless, in the grand scheme of things. By their very nature, trends are impermanent, coming and going as they please, dominating social influence only to disappear quickly, deeming the remains as outdated or “cringe.” It’s natural to fall victim to the omnipotent presence of media and buy into what’s trending; then, when the hype dies down, it’s easy to discard a clothing item, redecorate a room, or grow out an impulsive at-home haircut. The point is, most trends are reversible, but what about when they’re not?

Nowadays, tattoos are more popular than they’ve ever been before. In fact, approximately 40% of people aged 18-34 in the U.S. have at least one tattoo. But it wasn’t always that way. Even though tattooing has been a part of many other cultures for hundreds of years, American tattoo culture only took off around the 1940s, when U.S. Navy sailors began inking their skin with half-naked pin-up girls, bold-lined eagles, and big red hearts with MOM written through the center. In the 1990s, tribal tattoos were all the rage, and by the early 2000s, tramp stamps peaked through the waistbands of low-rise jeans. In 2022, with the gradual de-stigmatization of tattoos and their rise in popularity, tattoo artists have moved away from just flash designs; they each have an individual style and offer a unique set of abilities. But walk-in tattoos are as popular as ever, which means there are still plenty of opportunities for someone to get a tattoo whenever they feel the impulse.

Although there are now more opportunities to get custom tattoos, the trends have never left. At the moment, some of the current tattoo trends are abstract blackwork, delicate ornamental, and micro-realism. These tattoos can be done really well, but while they seem great at the moment, it’s important to remember that you’re making a lifelong commitment. Think back to the 2012 era of infinity tattoos, or the short-lived white ink hysteria that in hindsight should have been shorter — and realize that at one time, those were considered great ideas. Now, I really don’t mean to scare anyone away from tattoos; I love them, I have them, and I encourage getting one. But with how easy it is to be influenced by trends, it’s important to take some time and consider your options. As someone who’s made the decision to permanently ink my skin more than once, here’s what I suggest if you want to avoid getting a tattoo that you might regret:

Wait. Sit on the idea for a few months, at the very least. Chances are, if you still want it then, you’ll probably be happy with it later, too.

Do not cheap out. Cheap tattoos are bad tattoos and there’s no way around it. Permanent art is an investment.

Do your research. I seriously cannot stress this one enough. Research a tattoo artist, find one you like, look at their portfolio and make sure their art style matches what you’re looking for. Also, make sure your design will hold up over time. Tattoos are permanent, yes, but they age — and a very detailed, single-needle, fine-line design will not look the same 10 years down the line, so it’s important to know exactly what you’re getting into. Research standard costs; maybe the artist you like has a specific rate, then set a budget and be realistic about it. Discuss designs with your artist and trust their opinions. Do. Your. Research.

It’s perfectly normal for some people to have a harder time committing while others get an impulsive tattoo each week and love them. But at the end of the day, I believe that tattoos are a wonderful form of self-expression, and truthfully, I think that they tell an amazing story of who you are and who you were. So, more than anything, I recommend thinking of it like a physical storybook of yourself. Just be wary of trends that may not hold up in the future, and give it a little thought before you run to the tattoo shop.

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Isabelle Gross

U Mass Amherst '23

Isabelle is a senior at UMass Amherst and a New Yorker at heart. She majors in French Studies with a minor in Linguistics. Her interests include (but are not limited to) reading, writing, and traveling. She hopes to help create a world of acceptance and kindness through storytelling.