I Blame Popeye

“The  first purpose of clothes… was not warmth or decency, but ornament…. Among  wild people, we find tattooing and painting even prior to clothes. The first  spiritual want of a barbarous man is decoration; as indeed we still see among  the barbarous classes in civilized countries ―Thomas  Carlyle

Just lately there has been a right hullabaloo  in the village. Tattoos – I won’t go into murky depths of it too much, I don’t want to be accused of taking sides. Also I don’t want to make enemies, goodness knows what could happen if you got on the wrong side of an angry person with a needle and ink. Anyway, all that’s been going on got me thinking about body decoration and why it has become so popular with people in western society. There is a thread running currently on the “Dymchurch Online”  forum http://www.dymchurchonline.com/forum2011/forum.php  called “Tattoo Concerns”. Myself and the usual suspects on the forum have been discussing what makes people have tattoos. In the village there are currently two Tattoo “Parlours” as they are known.  One never seems to be open the other looks to do a roaring trade in all sorts of body decoration. Good luck to them they are probably making a half decent living from it.   I was thinking about why at the moment people are so desperate to cover their bodies with all manner of designs and marks.   It’s usually claimed by the tattoo fraternity that their chosen designs are a form of “self-expression”. What are they expressing? The designs are more often chosen from a book, the artwork has been created by someone else. Often that someone is from another culture. So why do you want to become a Celt or perhaps a Japanese Samurai Warrior?  In the forces and for especially for prisoners a bit of body decoration is considered a badge of honour. Compared to some of today’s overblown and messy creations,  Popeye with his understated  solitary anchor on each arm seems quite restrained.

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Now those are proper tattoos !

I suppose it’s fashion,.in ten years time the essential look will be for pale unblemished skin. Things tend to go like that. Art goes from one extreme to the other. For example in the late 18th century. we had  Rococo style, all swirly curves and frivolity – then lo and behold along comes Neo-Classicism, which is all about order, structure and seriousness.. In the 60’s we had Pop Art, decorative, commercial and colourful, then along came Minimalism, which was hardly there at all (but very deep and meaningful nonetheless) . A while ago I was watching the England in the Rugby League World Cup, after the game it was the usual shirt swapping. I couldn’t believe what I saw, the player’s naked torsos to a man were covered in blurry blue and red designs – and it wasn’t bruising. Can anybody honestly say David Beckham has become more attractive now his skin is 50% tattooed? There was a mildly amusing article in the Times recently about how one or two mischievous  tattooists have been inserting symbols into customer’s designs which have, shall we say, “alternative” meanings to those that were ordered. It seems that quite a number of tattooed people are now sporting something quite different to what they imagine. Spelling mistakes are also rife.

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Oh Really?

If I was thinking of starting a new business I would concentrate on inventing an effective tattoo removal system. In the next few years someone is going to make a fortune. Dragons Den anyone?

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