I try to tread lightly on the snarky side of cultural criticism, but when I saw that, for some odd reason, several of the week's most popular "Arts & Culture" articles on Digg had to do with tattoos, I just couldn't resist a sort of counterpoint.
Tattoos, it seems, are rapidly falling away as a barrier for college students in their post-graduation job search, at least according to a report by global outplacement consulting firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. A lot of that, at least as far as CG&C can tell, comes from the general pervasiveness of body art among the next generation of the workforce. According to the FDA, 32 percent of Gen Xers and 38 percent of Millenials sport at least one tattoo, with another half of those having from two to five pieces. (Heck, even your beloved childhood LEGO man went in for a full set of sleeves.) Basically, if employers want to screen out people with tattoos, they're cutting themselves off from half the talent pool at this point, which means college students can rest a little easier if they're considering getting inked.
I don't sport any pieces myself, but most of my friends have at least one tattoo, and I appreciate a good piece of body art as much as the next former punk rocker. Still, some of the smartest people I know have fallen prey to some horrendously cliched tattoos, and I see an endless parade of variations on the same body art themes at the indie rock (and occasionally metal) shows that I attend week in, week out. So, to the coming generation of tattooed wonders - please, if you're gonna spend your hard-earned money to get expensive ink done, spare us another tired take on these: 2010's most played-out tattoos.
1. The Heart-On
What's the message here - "Pulmonary Pride?" Or perhaps it's a gesture toward emotional nakedness and seize-the-day grit - in which case, doesn't it belong on the sleeve? Whatever the intent, the anatomically-correct heart-over-your-heart (often rendered in excruciating detail, with random wings) gets my vote for the most unnecessary (and ubiquitous) contemporary tattoo.
2. The Knux
Despite the fact that Robert Mitchum brought knuckle tattoos to their apex of cool back in 1955, they've come back in a huge way in the past several years, and one can only imagine the sum total of mental energy expanded thinking of pithy 8-letter summations of ironic wit. Advice: don't get a tattoo that requires you to clutch your downturned hands together like a burrowing prairie dog so that someone can actually read it.
3. Any Radiohead Tattoo
Radiohead's "evil bear" logo likely started out as a postmodern play on the Dead's classic "dancing bears," but there's a fine line between "a play on" and "the next iteration of." You like Radiohead, you say? You and everyone between 14 and 49. I actually don't automatically hate on band tattoos, but if you're gonna go with Radiohead, you might as well get a tattoo of an oxygen molecule because you like breathing, too.
4. The T Stamp
I try to stay away from easy targets, and far be it from me to call anyone a tr*mp, but a lower back tattoo rarely ends well for anyone involved. As Vince Vaughn memorably opined in Wedding Crashers, "It might as well be a bullseye."
5. The "Sailor Jerry"
I remain firmly convinced that a big part of the tattoo influx comes from the massive groundswell of hipsters getting vaguely nautical-themed, rockabilly-style tattoos all of a sudden. Just checking, though: Didn't we all hate this with a bilious passion five years ago, when it was called "Ed Hardy?" OK. Thought so.
6. The Hip Shooter(s)
There was a time when tattooing a set of pistols on your hips advertised that you had a lively wit and a sassy sense of fun -- and we called that time 2002.
7. Bird Flu
Like nautical tattoos, retro-style images of swallows and other assorted avian specimens came back in a huge way in the past five years or so, to the point of extreme oversaturation. While the little blue buggers historically provided sailors a sign that land lurked nearby, they also telegraph to judgmental contemporaries (like me) that you couldn't wait for an original idea before you trucked off to the tattoo shop.
8. Cycling Themed/Random Bike Parts
There's no way I can dismantle these better than the world's best urban cycling blog, Bike Snob NYC, so I won't try. However, suffice it to say that even 65-year-old grannies ride fixed-gear bikes these days, so wannabe bike messengers can stop taking rebellious pride in inking a set of track cogs down their calves now.
9. The Fingerstache
Like streaking, its time in the sun came and went, yet it refuses to just completely die. Less a piece of "body art" than a permanent one-liner on your index digit, the fingerstache remains a perennial favorite among dudes who relish in giving out purple nurples and awful waffles well into their thirties.
10. Your Dead Pet
Yes, young people really get these -- somehow, the morbid-yet-goofy melange of a pet memorial tattoo appeals to ironic hipster sensibilities, even though the same crowd would react in utter dismay to a similar tattoo of, y'know, a human. Whatever the allure, the reasons to stay away from a poorly-drawn tribute toward your childhood gerbil on your arm should seem numerous and painfully obvious.
Ink, please disappear: Ten tattoos you can stop wasting money on now