Weird habits abound during lockdown. Hacking at our hair and dying it the colour of Tango. Wrapping Babybels in ham and calling it “dinner”. Getting “really into” bean dips and, like, growing cress. And now, it seems, another lockdown trend has slowly and predictably cascaded into view: DIY tatts.
I'm no one to judge when it comes to impulsive stick 'n' poke tattoos. My legs look like a six-year-old has been given free reign with a biro. Give me two to three drinks and a needle and I'll be etching your name onto my knee as if we've known each other our whole lives.
But while stick 'n' pokes have always been popular, they seem to be experiencing a second life during lockdown (a quick search for #sticknpoke on TikTok reveals hundreds of videos posted in the past week). It makes sense: we have a lot more time to waste indoors, significant life changes to chronicle and a desperate desire to feel something, probably, even if it's a tiny needle repeatedly being stabbed into our skin.
With that in mind, we asked a bunch of people to talk us through their impulsive lockdown stick 'n' pokes. Here's what they had to say.
“IT WAS EITHER STICK 'N' POKE OR STARTING A VEGETABLE PATCH”
I'm a prolific, idle doodler and I always end up doing eyes - the arm crease seemed like a cool place for one. I'd been tattooed a fair few times in the past and always felt like "meaning" was super important but, in order to tattoo myself, I felt I had to accept that the end product was definitely going to be pretty shit and so I'd need to cultivate a certain amount of irreverence towards what I was putting on myself.
It was less about boredom and more a combination of frustration at not being able to book in a few tattoos I had planned and having just a tonne of time to fiddle around with projects that had always been at the bottom of the to-do list. It was either stick 'n' poke or starting a vegetable patch and I reckoned this would get more likes on Instagram. — Matt, 35.
“ONCE THE PANDEMIC STARTED, I JUST REALISEED IT TRULY DIDN'T MATTER”
There’s no meaning to it. I just like lemons. I have enough tattoos now that I think it’s fine to just decorate your body for fun. I had bought the supplies to do it a couple years ago and just never had the courage to do it, but once the pandemic started, I just realised it truly didn’t matter. I figured if I gave myself a terrible tattoo either I would think it was funny or I could just get it covered up later. I think the lockdown has made me more willing to take risks in my personal life because it’s just become obvious that life is short and hard. — Kelsey, 28.
“ALL OF THESE CRAP TATTOOS WILL BE A GOOD MEMORY FOR THE WEIRD TIME WE'RE IN”
None of my tattoos have much meaning. However, I like the idea of being 50 and having a constant reminder of my careless youth… I’ve been so bored in lockdown and poking myself with the needle reminds me I’m alive and all of these crap tattoos will be a good memory for the weird time we’re in. — Tegan, 26.
“HOPEFULLY I'LL COME OUT OF IT LOOKING LIKE A SOUNDCLOUD RAPPER”
I just like the look of sacred hearts and it’s a simple lil design to balance out my star. I'm absolutely copying Florence Welch. Boredom did feed into it. We bought a kit online and I’m the only one to do one though. I’ve always wanted to get a kit, but lockdown did feed into it. Hopefully I’ll come out of it looking like a Soundcloud rapper. — Ellen, 25.
“I 100 PERCENT WOULD NOT HAVE THIS TATTOO IF WE WEREN'T IN LOCKDOWN"
The meaning behind it really doesn’t go much deeper than me wanting a soot sprite tatt. I watched a lot of Studio Ghibili growing up and always had an affinity for those guys; I thought it was cool that they showed up in a few different movies too. I one hundred percent would not have this tattoo if we weren’t in lockdown. I started doing stick 'n' pokes when I was 16 and probably went a little overboard the first few weeks. I think being in lockdown kind of brought me back to that “I’m so bored might as well tattoo myself” mindset. —Chandler, 20.
“THERE'S SOMETHING CLEANSING AND SYMBOLIC ABOUT GETTING A NEW TATT THAT I'VE BEEN MISSING”
'Venus' is a word that reminds me of the power of the feminine. Love and beauty and all that shit that I maybe have been poring over more than usual while alone and single in my flat in lockdown. The planet has also been visible in the sky in the past months and with my stick and pokes I don't deliberate too much, I just pluck inspiration from my surroundings and run with it. The word itself looks sick too – there is such a thing as sexy looking words, for me. The 'X' is something me and one of my favourite people both have in the same space on our bodies which feels really cute and like we are closer.
Not being able to go and get tattooed has fuelled the self tatt fire for sure. There's something cleansing and symbolic about getting a new tatt that I've been missing. Also there's this weird intense feeling I've got, like a pressure to come out of lockdown changed and improved, noticeably different. Everyone is getting fit and learning new skills, but I'm anxious and lazy so I've turned to my old faithful to make me feel good about myself and my body: tattoos. — Jessica, 27.
“IT GAVE ME A GOOD EXCUSE TO DO SOMETHING I'D BEEN CURIOUS ABOUT FOR AGES”
There's no real meaning to it, to be honest – I had eight tattoos already so it didn't feel like something that needed to be a big decision. I bought a stick 'n' poke kit on week two of lockdown, partly because I was desperately trying to think of ways to keep busy, as I'm self-isolating alone, but partly because it gave me a good excuse to do something I'd been curious about for ages. My first tattoo was also done when I was 18 by a very drunk friend using a safety pin and it looks comically bad, so realistically I knew that whatever I did myself couldn't be worse than that one.
I was planning to be serious about it and do lots of practice before giving myself a tattoo but it took till week four for me to watch Birds of Prey and have a few beers, then decide at about 10PM that it was the perfect time to get poking. I just picked a simple shape as I can't draw to save my life, and luckily it's turned out okay, though I had to redo the lining a few weeks afterwards, and I may go over it one last time soon. — Marie, 28.