Fireside stories: why do we get tattooed?

Inkluded Tattoo Blog

Why do we get tattooed? A massive question, no one answer.

I’ve had a conversation this week which has really brought this question to the forefront of my mind.

When I got my first tattoo 6 years ago, it meant a lot to me. I remember it so vividly – the bad smell of incense in the studio, how nervous I was, the first time you feel that new itchy sensation. I don’t remember what the studio was called. I didn’t take a picture. I didn’t share it on the internet and I am not sure I even told that many people I had it.

I showed it to my housemates when I got home, we all gathered round the fire in our terraced house in Nottingham while I told them the story of what it meant and why I got it. I can recall the giddy look on my face as I shared it with them, their mouths open wide in awe that I had done something so brave and bonkers. 6 years later, apart from the few people that have seen me naked, no-one else in the world knows what that tattoo looks like. In fairness, it’s tiny, but I feel it now acts as a reminder of what it used to mean to “get a tattoo”.

In setting up this blog, I’ve spent days trawling through Twitter and Instagram researching if there are any similar UK tattoo blogs out there. I very quickly could see the outside world, and it surprised me. I was overwhelmed by just the sheer quantity of people who have tattoos, how young they are, and how much they share them. And I don’t mean tiny symbols on their wrists or ankles – HUGE pieces of epic art dominating the skinny white physique of an 18 year old boy.

Now obviously I am not saying there is anything wrong with that. I’m not being ageist. I am not being judgemental. I’m a young girl writing a blog here about how much I love tattoos and love sharing them. But I had just never really stopped to think about how much the process of getting a tattoo has changed, and in just a few years.

Admittedly, now, I too, take pictures, check myself into the studio on Facebook, go home, Tweet my picture, WhatsApp it to my friends and mum. Why are we doing this? Why do we feel the need?

The chat I had with someone recently that sparked this post was my friend’s brother who I wanted to interview for Inkluded. Tattoos have been a big part of his life, he has a lot, and although I don’t know him that well, I knew he would make for an interesting client story…

He declined. He loves the idea my blog, loves the idea of people sharing stories, but it’s not for him. He gets tattoos for himself and no one else. I wasn’t surprised or taken back at all. He was right, of course they’re private, that’s why people get them. That’s what they are. They are personal statements about our experiences and the world, that we want to see every time we look down at our own bodies. I agreed with him. Why then, are they relentlessly plastered all over the internet. Why does no one else turn around and say the same thing as he did to me?

Because that’s what we do now. We share everything. It’s great, it’s interactive, but when you turn off your computer and think about it, it’s actually completely bizarre and it’s quite scary that we might never take a step back as a society now in terms of online sharing. Most young people who get tattoos these days won’t just keep their phones face down and retreat home to share fireside stories with their friends.

I’m sitting on both sides of the fence, I guess. The way we share our stories online is amazing, and that’s why I created Inkluded – there’s a massive web online of gorgeous, inventive, creative tattoos that can all be seen, appreciated, admired and loved forever. There’s an international community of people who all love the same weird geeky hobby of putting permanent ink between the layers of their skin, and they can all come together to say “hello! I like that too!”.

But on the other side, it’s YOU. Your life, your decisions, your memories. Wanting to permanently hold on to amazing images and feelings is such a personal experience that can never be shared with complete strangers, no matter how many photos you take.

That’s why I had to write this post for my friend’s brother. He commented in his email that he was the “odd” one for not wanting to share his stories, when actually, I think it’s definitely the world that’s odd, and will continue to grow more and more so everyday.

Photo and painting by Luke Rudden