We live in an age of bad tattoos.

Everywhere I look, I see misspelt foreign characters (hello, Ariana!), misappropriated tribal motifs, and strange wild animals few have ever seen in real life.

You can't go to a gym, a bar, or a beach in New Zealand without seeing a deluge of ink on other patrons. The "sleeve" is more popular than ever. People don't just get one tatt on their upper arm anymore, they set out to cover an entire limb as quickly as possible so there's no skin left – meaning for each individual tattoo be damned.


Same goes these days with the leg sleeve and the neck tattoo. Gone is the era when a person would get a cute little devil tattooed discreetly on their butt so only a few would see. Today, tattoos are advertised on the body. They are public. They shout at you.

How did we get here?

Having lots of tattoos is fetishised in modern society. They say somebody is a "bad boy" or "bad girl", which has connotations of being sexy and alluring. I'd admit, sometimes I actually buy into that notion too. When you see somebody with particularly well-placed ink, it can be pretty hot.

Moreover – following classic sheep mentality – because it seems like everybody has tattoos, people just get more and more of them. They're so normalised now that people are jumping into them without enough thought. Getting inked is so "cool" that you will end up feeling left out if you don't have one (or five).

I'm in a minority among the people in my life as a person with no tattoos. Most friends have two or three. A couple are tatted-up and have more than 20. I feel particularly clean-skinned at the gym when everyone is wearing shorts and singlets: nine of every 10 men and half of all women have tattoos staring right at me during my push-ups.

And don't get me wrong, some of them are tasteful and admirable tattoos with real significance and artistic merit. But only some of them.

Ink warnings

Skin sags and you won't be the same shape at age 40, 60, or 80 as you are at 26. Photo / Getty Images
Skin sags and you won't be the same shape at age 40, 60, or 80 as you are at 26. Photo / Getty Images

As a child, we were warned off tattoos by our parents and teachers and they told us we would regret them when we were old and wrinkly. That narrative seems to have been lost on modern generations: despite caring more than ever about physical presentation, we've seemingly forgotten that skin sags and you won't be the same shape at age 40, 60, or 80 as you are at 26.

Some of our greatest celebrity idols have bad tattoos. Kendall Jenner has "meow" tattooed on the inside of her lip. Rihanna has a shark because her ex-boyfriend Drake apparently once took her to an aquarium and bought her a stuffed one at the gift shop. Ryan Gosling has a DIY tattoo of a monster's hand (which actually looks like a cactus), Johnny Depp used to have "Winona Forever" (he dated Winona Ryder in the 90s) but it now says "Wino Forever", and Lady Gaga got a cherub tattooed live on the back of her head at her perfume launch.

Were I an investor, I'd be putting my money into tattoo removal companies right about now. I see it highly unlikely that tattoos will be so popular in 10 years' time. Everything goes in fads, and I think we will one day get to the stage where tattoos are actually undesirable. Maybe society will look at clean-skinned people and yearn for the days of an unmarked canvas... I'm sure David Beckham and Zayn Malik look in the mirror and wonder what they would look like by now if they hadn't been so impulsive.


I say all of this as a non-tattooed person. I will give people with tattoos credit: they don't talk about their tattoos unless asked. They will never try to convince you to get a tattoo, and they really don't care what you think of theirs. Many of them are even able to laugh at their bad tattoos as something silly they did when they were young.

At the end of the day, someone else having their skin inked has no effect on me, whether the final result is good or bad. My opinions on another's body don't matter. If you love your tattoos, go for gold and get more of them. If you ever change your mind about them, I'm sure there will be a bevy of new clinics available to remove them in 10 years' time.