Are Tattoos Acceptable in Fashion Society?

Tattoo or Taboo: Is ink still considered as political fashion incorrectness?

Whether you agree with Marc Jacobs or Karl Lagerfeld, the opinion of if tattoos are fashionable has detached groups for generations; class differentiation, youth culture and outlaws.

One fifth of all British adults have at least one tattoo; 29% of Britons aged 16-44 are inked and those 30-44, 16% have two tattoos. Traditionally related with criminals, sailors and the working class; advancing in 1999 with David Beckham’s first tattoo, which was his son’s name ‘Brooklyn’ on his lower back in black gothic script; the first celebrity and sport professional with visible markings on his body was significant. Now actors, musicians and other popular personal acquire them. Still often correlated with metal music and kinky culture but no longer associated with hooligans; moreover they’ve become a mainstream trend.

Not so fashionable when you learn about the job restrictions however; Law, political and medical professions all have their own restrictions when hiring; the British and American army have banned neck and face tattoos and developed the uniform to conceal the majority of sleeve tattoos. Is this restrictive or discriminative?

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Bradley Soileau
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Rick Genest

Rick Genest, Bradley Soileau and Etienne Dumont are fine examples of fully tattooed and body modified people with successful professions in acting, directing and journalism.

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Tattoo Barbie

October 2011 introduced the tattooed Barbie Doll. Designed by Tokidoki and Bob Mackie, the sell-out toy caused major controversy; Daily Mail reads, “Encouraging children that tattoos are cool is wrong… why not put a cigarette and a beer in her hand”. Barbie has been under scrutiny many a time over unrealistic body proportions, the ‘Oreo’ Barbie and the disabled wheel-chair Barbie; tattoos are the least of Barbie’s concern.

Psychological report shows that “tattooed adults had higher aggression” and “(they) may respond to disappointing and frustrating events by getting tattooed” research from Anglia Ruskin University Cambridge. Though the fashion of artwork has changed from skull and crossbones to swallows, roses and 1950s pin up girls, more fun than aggressive designs?

Temporary tattoos are the recent high street style, if you don’t want the commitment. Styles and colours are endless; Giamba, Chanel and Victoria Secret have all previously used them on runway.

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DSquared2 Collection
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DSquared Collection

DSquared2 2016 collection at Milan Fashion Week introduced tattooed fabric onto the catwalk; all-in-one body suits head to toe covered in Sailor Jerry influenced motifs. Dries Van Noten spring summer 2016 collection at London Fashion Week, additionally revealed elements inspired by ink through body stockings in violet, greys and caramel patterns with swirled black lines; trompe l’oeil of tattoo motifs. Although patterns on fabric not skin, combining tattoos with high fashion is uncommon, “sophisticated but raw” in his own words.

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Dries Van Noten Collection
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Dries Van Noten Collection

In British designer Ashley Williams’ 2016 collection included Grace Neutral on runway, the self described alien. As well as her tattoos, Neutral supports a fork tongue and pointed ears. “I just want to change my outside to reflect my soul, so I feel like I fit in more comfortably in my own skin”. One of the few female tattooed and body modified models on the runway. Many models have their designs concealed on catwalk or airbrushed from advertisement. Must models be blank canvases as their ink designs may take focus away or contradict the collection? Or are models just forbidden to express their individuality?

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Grace Neutral backstage at Ashley Williams’ Collection
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Grace Neutral at Ashley Williams’ Collection

Sponge Bob Square-Pants to the phrase ‘bros before hoes’, Marc Jacobs records specific points of his life through his career and relationships in his 28 tattoos. “Who knows what I’ll think about all of this 30 years from now? But even more than that: who cares?” Jacobs.

Off the runway, Valentino uses Terry Richardson’s sleeved arm in advertisement for their shoe, bag and other accessory campaigns. Dr Martins, Ed Hardy, Christian Louboutin and Love Moschino all have developed Sailor Jerry tattoo designs into their own prints and collections.

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Valentino Campaign featuring Terry Richardson’s tattooed arm

“It’s like living in a Pucci dress full-time” Karl Lagerfeld on ink. This is contradictory however to what is shown in Chanel campaigns; model muses Cara Delevingne, Freja Beha Erichsen and Alice Dellal all have their tattoos on show clearly in many Chanel advertisement. Is this because a high proportion of the population have tattoos, fashion labels are therefore selling to the mass consumer instead of putting them on the catwalk and calling them high fashion?

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Cara Delevigne in Chanel Fall Campaign

Is there still an old-fashioned perspective of tattoos in fashion? Must models be blank canvases or are they allowed to be individual. Or are tattoos too mainstream for high fashion? Tattoos are an art form; fashion takes inspiration from the arts; what is the paradox?

Or is it is just a question of commitment; can fashion society not commit to ink?

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