You know those cool international stamps you get on your passport, the ones that prove you've been to a bunch of neat countries? Well, your scene tattoos are a lot like that. Except they're the exact opposite. They tell a much sadder story, the story of how you travelled to the lands of embarrassing musical phases over the years and now you’re stuck with these awful souvenirs forever.
As unique as you like to think your tattoos are, they mostly fall into a small handful of categories. Here are a few of the common types of scene tattoos and what they say about you.
If you escaped the early 2000’s emo scene without some sort of star tattoo, please line up to accept your medal. That includes nautical stars, the outline of a star, or that lame wispy-cluster-of-stars thing on your hip. This trend took off right around the time bands started thinking it was acceptable to turn an entire sonnet into a band name, e.g. A Dozen Roses For An Endless Sky, Give Up the Fate Of A Thousand Dying Suns, Sinking Ships In The Passing Calm Blue Ocean. Those were made up but you probably would’ve listened to them if they were real. You got your emo stars because it was either that or keep cutting your wrists until your parents noticed. Happy with your choice?
Aside from emo stars, the sparrows tattoo is probably the most cliché of all scene tattoos. For ladies, anyway. Dudes who have sparrows tattoos have bigger problems on their hands than being cliché. There are two places you can get the sparrows. The first is on your hip bones, which is a delightful way to let anyone about to get into your pants for the first time know that this territory has already been charted by the singer of a mid-level screamo band. The other place to get them is on your upper boobs, announcing to anyone who checks out your cleavage that you own three copies of Thursday’s Full Collapse.
Home state outline
An outline of a state is your own personal reminder to never forget all those good times you had at shows in your home town. You know, like your favorite band whose sets were 10% actual music and 90% blathering about the inconsequential politics of your local scene. Or that one farewell show for that “popular” local band where everyone cried together at the VFW hall. Good times, guys. Don’t forget your roots.
Nature (trees, koi, flowers)
Bro, you were like, mad in touch with nature back in the day. That’s why you got a sick, vaguely Asian-looking koi tat on your shoulder and why you always wore tank tops to show it off. You had to look good at all those Incubus and Deftones concerts you went to non-ironically, bro.
Your sailor tattoos tell people that at some point, you were into the rockabilly scene, which is not an actual genre of music, but an excuse for people to dress like extras from the movie Grease for no discernable reason. You dudes got $90 haircuts and you ladies spent obscene amounts of time searching thrift stores for the perfect retro bathing suits but then refused to go in the water.
Stretched out lobes
While not technically a tattoo, your dangly stretched out lobes are a great way to promptly gross people the fuck out. You were the kid who was willing to do literally anything to fit into the hardcore scene including getting ridiculously high gauged plugs. And as your reward, you’re now rocking a set of ears that more closely resemble Betty White’s labia.
A checkered tattoo can only mean one thing: You took your brief, 2-month interest in ska and turned it into a lifelong mistake. The checkers are often accompanied by the outlined guy on the Madness logo. Or the outlined guy on the Specials logo. Or the outlined guy on the Operation Ivy logo. (Wow, ska bands were really into their outlined guy logos, huh?) While most of us escaped our ska phases with only an embarrassing collection of red plaid pants and the completely useless knowledge of how to 2-step, you full-on skanked your way into a talk with your future kids about how mommy or daddy used to like a band called Catch 22.
You got your lyrics tattoo because MUSIC IS YOUR LIFE, NOT LIKE ALL THOSE SHEEP WHO LISTEN TO THE RADIO. Unlike them, you really connected with the bands you listened to and wanted to immortalize that by getting their words permanently branded on you. Not sure what led you to believe that was a good idea. Maybe because the bands you liked played on a stage that was only 6 inches off the ground or because their albums had clips from Donnie Darko and American Beauty in them? The problem is that since you chose the standard illegible script font, no one can read what the fuck it says, which is probably for the best because most of them were written by a lyricist who couldn’t pass a creative writing class at a community college. (Bonus lame points if you got the lyrics in any language other than your native one *coughcoughFrench*.)
A face tattoo says that you are a completely insane person who happened to get into music.
Cool phrase chestpiece
If you fancy yourself a cool dude, you likely got some cool dude words across your chest. Something meaningful that defines you, not just “Livin’ La Vida Loca.” Having to face this tattoo in the mirror every morning is the equivalent of reading your high school yearbook quote on a daily basis.
For only three X’s, a straight-edge tattoo says so much about who you were and who you are. It says that you used to have an AOL screenname which consisted of a word surrounded by an ungodly number of X’s. XxPersiStaNcexX, XxXTruTilDethXxX, xXsXeIsSeXXXyxXx, xetcx. You also used to X up your hands to go to Strife shows to sing songs about how poison-free you were. But these days, you’ve “lost the edge,” which is punk translation for you packed on a 30 lb beer gut and get excited about MMA fights.
Inner lip tattoo
A tattoo on the inside of your lip says that you were the kid who was still trying to please their parents well into their 20’s. You had to call home every two hours to check in. You were the least fun person to go to shows with. You got a little lip tattoo as a small act of personal rebellion. Now you are an adult whose parents pay your rent.
You know that embarrassing old notebook of high school poetry you have in the closet of your childhood bedroom? The one where you took a marker and covered it with your favorite band names? Congratulations, that’s your skin now.
Dan Ozzi has a lifetime of regret but fortunately not on his skin. Follow him on Twitter - @danozzi