“Tattoos in the workplace” is a common area of discussion for body mod enthusiasts – but what about tattoos for the workplace? Over the last few years, a trend has emerged that speaks not only to the cultural relevance of tattoos, but also to the state of the economy – people tattooing corporate logos on their bodies. For some, this means getting their own employer’s name (Rapid Realty of New York boasts almost 40 employees that have the company’s logo tattooed on them); for others, it means selling advertising space on their own bodies (Billy the Human Billboard currently has over 20 logos and websites tattooed on his face alone). Still others do it to show loyalty to the brand itself. What it means for them all is a permanent corporate branding.
Of course, this trend is not entirely new. Both bikers and sports fans have long been getting their favourite brand or team’s logo tattooed on them, and pretty well every tattoo artist on Earth has tattooed the Nike “swoosh” on someone at some point. But the idea of being paid to advertise in such a way, or to willingly turn oneself into a walking billboard, is far more recent, and has some interesting implications.
Rapid Realty offered a 15% raise to any employee that got the tattoo, and in today’s rough real estate market, 36 employees decided that was too good an offer to refuse. Billy has stated in interviews that it is supporting his family in a rocky economy that drove him to such lengths. Many others tell a similar story; a lack of stable jobs, bills that seem to get bigger every year, and families to support has forced them to think outside the box, and corporations are generally more than happy to pay a little cash for some sensational advertising (though there are exceptions – in researching this phenomena, I ran across two separate companies that expressed a great disdain at the idea of their logo being inked into someone’s face…).
For some, however, it’s about more than just money. A Utah woman made headlines a few years ago for auctioning off her forehead on eBay, promising to tattoo the corporate logo of the highest bidder smack in the center. She made good on her promise, tattooing “goldenpalace.com” across her head for a cool ten thousand dollars. It didn’t seem to be the money she was interested in, however, stating on the original eBay listing that she “loves to be the center of attention”. And a 2009 study on corporate tattoos has suggested that many people happily get corporate brands done of their own volition, no payment necessary, to feel part of a perceived “in-group” (we’re not naming any names, here, but a lot of those tattoos strongly resembled partially eaten apples…).
For many, this trend brings up more questions than answers: sure, some are clearly in it for the money, some for the attention, and some are simply following a fad – but is there something more to this? Tattoos, from their very inception, have had a cultural foundation. We can learn a lot about a culture and its history from the tattoos left behind – what, then, will the archaeologists and historians of the future have to say about the corporate logos they will find on us? What will this tell them about our culture? Will they see a people so obsessed with capitalism and consumption that they felt moved to permanently brand themselves with the labels of their choice, or will they see a people that, in a faltering economy, were not afraid to become a walking billboard if it meant putting food on the table? Will they see trend-setters, or fad-followers?
It will be interesting to watch how the corporate logo fad plays out – who will come to regret their decisions, who will still be sporting porn-sites on their head a decade from now, and whether this blip in tattoo and corporate history makes a lasting impression on industry in general. For now, we can at least sleep a little better knowing that, if we ever need a quick ten grand, the solution may be as close as our foreheads.
Edit: Due to a couple of recent concern-causing incidents, I-Kandy has changed our policy regarding children in the studio:
-NO children under the age of 7 are allowed in the studio.
-During your tattoo and/or piercing session, please do not bring your children.
We regret having to make this change, but feel that it is best for all concerned.
If you have any questions regarding this; or any of our studio policies – please call us at 604-532-1188.
The world of body modification is, by and large, an adult one. The vast majority of shops have strict age restrictions on who they will tattoo and pierce, and many do not even permit minors through their doors. The occasional shop, however, is a bit more lax – particularly if they have a lot of family-oriented clients. Ideally, one would never bring their children into a tattoo shop, but the world is not ideal, and many shops understand that.
First and foremost, a tattoo shop is full of potential dangers – there is a reason you see BIOHAZARD stickers and warnings here, there, and everywhere. It really can’t be stressed enough that the floor your child wants to crawl around on is covered with biohazardous material. Of course, every reputable shop takes extreme measures to keep things clean and safe, but it’s only common sense that a floor, during working hours, with clients and staff both walking across it countless times per day and it being beneath the work we are doing, cannot be kept sterile. We are dealing with broken skin, ink, chemicals, and blood, all of which have a good chance of hitting the floor your child wants to put their little hands and bodies on. Don’t let them!
Second, everything that we love about kids becomes inappropriate in a shop. They are cute, talkative, active, and rambunctious – all things that become huge distractions in a tattoo setting. Tattoo and piercing artists need to be able to concentrate, and kids yelling, crying, laughing, running around, and playing make that very difficult to do.
Ideally, tattoo shops would be adult-only environments, but life rarely goes according to plan, and we understand that. We only ask that you follow these simple tips to make the experience as easy as possible.
In 8th grade, approximately a million years ago, I got my nostril pierced. At the time, piercing anything other than your earlobes was taken as a defiant symbol of freakdom, and my classmates responded in kind. I, however, never understood how a little silver hoop could be seen as so extreme – I had older, freakier friends that had been jabbing safety pins, chains, and Lego heads (yes, you read that correctly…and no, I don’t recommend trying it out!) through various parts of their bodies for years. One in particular seemed to have made it his life’s goal to have every single accessible piece of skin either tattooed, pierced, or scarred, and was well on his way to attaining that goal when I got my oh-so-daring nostril piercing. He was the first person I had seen, outside of a National Geographic, that had stretched earlobes, and he had been answering the inevitable question about them the same way for half a decade: “just a little bigger”.
Those four simple words would come to represent an entire philosophy – one that drove body modification from an underground network of tattooists and piercers to a visible subculture of people treating their bodies as canvases. It is what pushed the evolution from pierced earlobe to split tongue, from flash tattoos to full-body collages of ink and scars. People were quite literally reclaiming their bodies, redesigning them at will, creating a culture that combined aesthetics, ritual, and an insatiable urge to push the envelope – to find the boundaries, and race across them. Whether we were testing the waters with a little stud in our nose or carving mosaics into our flesh, the ideal was the same: a physical, visible declaration of independence. A culture based around the idea of taking things farther, of challenging convention – it was, and is, the philosophy that, if it could be thought up, it could be done.
And, oh, the things that have been thought up. From splitting body parts in half to inserting implants under the skin, from tattoo masks to full-body scarification, there is little left that has not been tried at least once. There is, of course, considerable controversy over some of these practices – things like U.V. ink, tongue splitting, and genital modification have raised concerns from both those inside and outside the body-mod industry, and there is a sense of them still being felt out by many. Depending on one’s perspective, extreme modification either epitomises or threatens the legitimacy of the movement. While it serves to affirm the radical and innovative nature of the art form, it also challenges our notions of what is acceptable, of what we are comfortable with. It requires we take risks with both our appearance and our outlook, and perpetually update our views.
Regardless of which side of the fence you sit on, it’s likely that you’ve pondered these questions, if even briefly. I still on occasion run into someone that sees my million year old nose-ring and quietly asks themselves who would do such a thing, and even I have seen modifications that left my eyebrow raised and my sensibilities shaken. And that’s exactly the point, I believe. Claiming one’s body a canvas is much more than a creative or even philosophical statement. It is a challenge to our perception of autonomy – it forces us to ask if we genuinely support having full control over our bodies, or if we feel there is a point at which others should have a say. It turns the statement “just a little bigger” into the question “how big is too big, how much is too much?” – though, I wouldn’t be expecting an answer any time soon.
A couple of weeks ago, we offered up a piercing FAQ, meant to address the most common queries we receive, and hopefully ease your mind a little. This week, we hope to do the same regarding tattoos. It should be made clear, however, that these FAQs are not intended to replace the guidance of your tattoo artist – they have devoted their lives to this artform, and should be respected and listened to when it comes to tattoo care. Rather, these are generalised answers to common questions, meant to help you make smart decisions about getting a new piece.
What does it feel like?
Everyone, no matter how tough or laid back, wonders what getting tattooed feels like, whether it hurts or not, and how they will be able to handle the sensation. Both the artists themselves and the front desk staff get asked countless times a day if there is anything one can do to reduce the pain, or where it hurts least to get tattooed. The fact is, it is impossible to tell someone else how their tattoo will feel. We all have different pain thresholds, and we all accept the sensation in different ways. Ask ten different people which of their tattoos hurt most, and you will get ten different answers. Some think it doesn’t hurt at all, no matter where it is. Some think certain body parts hurt while others don’t. And some think it is a painful experience, period. What we can tell you, however, is that the general rule is: the fleshier, the better. Getting tattooed is, for most people, not a painful experience – it is simply a sensation they had never felt before, and therefore needed to adjust to. Many people describe it as more annoying than painful, as if someone is flicking you with a rubber band, or poking you with a toothpick, but over and over again. Unless you have a really low threshold for pain, chances are pretty good that getting tattooed will not be an unbearable experience (I can personally attest to being a pretty big wuss, and I still managed to survive getting both of my feet and my ribcage, two of the more sensitive areas, tattooed).
Is there anything I should do beforehand?
Yes! Absolutely, yes! And we love people that ask this, as it shows you are being wise about your decision to get tattooed. The number one thing you can do to make the tattoo process easier is eat. Yes, eat. Specifically, eating carbs, leafy greens, and high-vitamin juices gives your body the boost it needs to better handle the sensation of being tattooed. Your blood will be thicker, your blood sugars a bit higher, and your body well-hydrated, all of which make the process far easier on you, and on your artist. Likewise, avoid blood-thinners (alcohol, for example), and do not come in on an empty stomach.
In the context of tattoos, beforehand and afterwards are often one in the same. One of the best ways to prepare for a tattoo is to consider what you’ll be doing afterwards – it is best to get a tattoo when you have a couple of days off to recoup – you want to avoid it getting bumped or scratched or soaked, so it may not be a great idea to get a tattoo and then head straight back to work if you have a job in which you are likely to be touched, bumped, or exerting yourself physically (if in doubt, ask your artist). Also be aware that you should not be tanning or swimming or doing any really strenuous work-outs (that is, if your tattoo is in a place where working out may affect it – your bicep or your ribcage, for example) during the healing process, so if you are so inclined, schedule your tattoo for a time when you can take a break from those activities.
In short, preparing for a tattoo means understanding what the process, including healing, entails. Make sure your body is well-fueled beforehand, and that you can relax a bit afterwards, and you are well on your way to a happy tattoo.
Can I get _______?
Unquestionably, the most common question we get asked is “can I get…?”, with the blank space being anything from your boyfriend’s name to a rose the size of a dime. The answer is always the same – yes, and no, and maybe, depending. Most reputable shops will refuse to tattoo your partner’s name on you – it’s just a bad idea, for what should be obvious reasons. But, for the most part, your artist can make whatever you want a reality, provided you will make a few concessions. A really intricate tattoo cannot be tiny – it needs to have enough space between the lines that they will not run together – and placement is important in ensuring it looks good when healed – getting a tattoo near the palm of your hand or inside your mouth is certainly possible, but may not be the greatest plan if you want it to heal nicely and stay looking good long-term. Whatever your idea, your artist will try to make it happen – just realize that your ideas may not be taking the practical side of things into account. Listen to your artist, and make these decisions together.
What can I expect from the healing process?
Getting the tattoo is the exciting part, but you want it to look good forever, not just today. Allowing it to heal properly is vital! While everyone is different, there are a couple of things most everyone can expect. Before I continue, however, I think it very important to make something clear, here: your artist knows best. A good artist has spent years not only perfecting their art, but nailing down the best aftercare instructions as well. They’ve seen firsthand what works, what doesn’t, and what common errors people make. Please take their advice seriously. That said, most everyone will experience a couple of things during the healing process, and those we can safely address here. First, you will shed! I can’t count how many times we’ve received panicked phone-calls from clients, telling us that they woke up to find bits of coloured skin on their sheets. And it is a panic-inducing moment, if one isn’t aware – it looks as though your tattoo itself is just peeling right off – not exactly what most people had in mind. Rest assured, however, that your tattoo will not just peel off – what you are seeing is the very top layer of skin, and it is no different than the dry skin that falls away from you on a regular basis. Second, it will probably itch – don’t scratch it! Healing skin normally itches; this is why you feel the urge to pick scabs. While it is normal, you want to avoid scratching or picking – letting it heal is crucial to how it will look in the end. Finally, you want to allow at least 3 weeks healing time – for some it will be shorter, for some much longer, but 3 weeks seems to be pretty standard. For that time, avoid soaking in water (showers are of course still recommended, but baths, hot-tubs, swimming pools, etc, are not), spending a lot of time in the sun, or doing anything extreme to your skin.
The most important part of the healing process, of course, is to listen to your artist, and just be good to yourself. Your body knows how to heal itself – you just need to allow it to do so!
Is a tattoo right for me?
We don’t actually hear this one a lot, but we should. While we at I-Kandy are of course huge body-mod advocates, we also want you to love your mod forever, which means being realistic and smart about it. Think about your career goals, your desired appearance, and your lifestyle before jumping in to a tattoo, and choose pieces and places that will work for you and your future plans. You may love the idea of a giant skull on your neck, but if your plan is to become a kindergarten teacher, you probably want to rethink that. Likewise, if you are a swimmer or summer-traveler, you want to be really careful about when you get tattooed. Taking a little extra time to do your research and consider your options is the best thing you can do to ensure you will be forever happy with your choice.