If you want a “fashionable” tattoo, you’re caught in a bind: trends are temporary, but tattoos last forever.
Take, for example, the scene tattoos of the 2000s. Blue and red swallows on collarbones may have racked up the reblogs on tumblr, but they’re hardly in-demand now. Likewise, the Deathly Hallows symbol has aged very poorly – obviously. And woe betide anyone who ever decided to get a meme like “RIP Harambe” etched into their skin.
If you like the look of your tattoo, of course, who gives a fuck if it goes “out of style”. Still, it’s fair to say that it’s not unheard of for people to regret a previously on-trend tat years later. So how can you stop yourself from falling into this trap? Which popular tattoos today are doomed to become naff in the future?
I spoke to some tattooists to get their take on the current tattoo trends that people will come to regret in a decade’s time.
Lucie, 24: ‘Really small tattoos with really thin lines’
More and more people want really small tattoos, and tattoos with really thin lines. I’ve had to turn down lots of people who want tattoos which are too small and with lots of tiny detail, as they just don’t look good in the long run when the ink inevitably spreads out in the skin.
I’ve also noticed a lot of people wanting things like snakes, dragons, butterflies, suns and moons. I’ve also seen a trend for red ink tattoos. I definitely think red ink tattoos will go out of style eventually. I feel like this became popular as it had a bit of an edgy, unique look to it – and although I do think these look nice, black ink looks much cleaner and sharp to me. I think people may start thinking the same soon.
Some of the tattoos I’ve mentioned will go in and out of style throughout the years, as with anything – but honestly I don’t think it matters. If you like something and want something, then go for it.
Ben, 28: ‘Blackwork may have a time limit’
I'd say 50 percent of my clients are students, and at the end of the day they’re young adults and they’re still experimenting with their own style, which is great. But you get a lot of people that are quite heavily alternative and they'll get tattoos which match their style, which is awesome, but fashion changes. You can buy new clothes, you can buy a new haircut, but you can't get rid of the tattoos. There are a few styles, like traditional work, that I think will just be around forever, but things like blackwork [a bold style with solid blocks of black ink] may have a time limit.
Once, I tattooed the Armitage Shanks logo. If you don't know what Armitage Shanks is, they make toilets and urinals. I tattooed it on a dude’s lower back, smack bang in the middle. I didn't ask too many questions. I didn't feel like it was offensive at all, and he was raring to get it done. So yeah. Why not? He was happy. I was happy. Everybody's a winner. Whether he'll regret it in ten years… time will tell.
Jemima, 23: ‘Cutesy ACAB tattoos’
I've definitely seen a fair few white, upper-class southerners getting cutesy ACAB tattoos, which really doesn’t sit right with me. I just wonder what their motivation is – what they're actually doing in their lives to push that message, whether they actually believe it or even care at all about the working class, Black and brown and queer communities that are most negatively affected by the police as an institution. But also I guess that's not for me to say.
Tattoos going out of style isn't really something I tend to worry about much, to be honest. Each to their own, and if it doesn't affect me, I probably shouldn't pay much mind to what people are getting.
Amy, 22: ‘Definitely face tattoos’
Some tattoo trends just become kind of basic. The first one that comes to mind is getting your birth year in an Old English font. That’s a huge, huge trend, and it'll die out. There's not really a direct [reason why], it’s just similar to fast fashion. These kinds of things become tacky and old and… what’s that word? Cheugy.
Another example would definitely be face tattoos – since XXXTentacion and Lil Peep became popular it became a massive trend. I hate to say it, because it makes me sound like a mum or dad, but it just stems from a place of “rebellion”. Also, anything that’s a trendy saying at the time, or a meme. You'll regret it. Because all memes become cringey. Like, think of a meme from 2016 and it makes your spine curl.
Samalandra, 31: ‘Clocks and roses’
Recently, there’s been a lot of interest in clocks and roses, angels and clouds. Minimal tattoos have become very popular over the last two years, too. Things like moons, stars, dots, arrows, astrology symbols, loved ones’ initials, coordinates of special places. These are usually in black ink and anywhere from behind the ear and the side of ribs to on fingers and toes.
These designs will all go in and out of trend. As soon as a celebrity, singer, actor or athlete gets a new tattoo, whatever they get will probably become the new trend. You’ll notice clients bringing photos of a celebrity’s tattoo as a reference for what they want. I think people should leave trends aside and look into what they like, enjoy or love – do some research on styles and get personalised work. Trends come and go, your tattoo will be forever, so even if it’s a trendy tattoo, make it your own and have a little twist that makes it unique.
Bea, 23: ‘Butterflies and tribal patterns’
Recent tattoo trends kind of correlate with fashion at the minute. The 1990s and Y2K are back in and we're definitely seeing that with tattoo trends. I've definitely been doing a lot of butterflies, tribal patterns, tramp stamps, barbed wire and all that good stuff from the 1990s.
I think we take ourselves a lot less seriously now, so even though tattoos come round in trends, I don’t think they'll be regretted. I think when people try to force a meaning onto a tattoo, because they feel like it should have a meaning, is how people walk away with tattoos that maybe they didn't necessarily want that much.