Tattoo by Tim Kern.
Stricter new rules governing tattoos and other appearance issues in the US Army have been approved, and once signed, will take effect in a matter of weeks. According to Stars & Stripes, the Army will soon ban tattoos visible below the elbows and knees, and above the neck; however, existing tattoos may be "grandfathered" in.
The new rules also continue the prohibition on racist, sexist or extremist tattoos, but go even further and make removal of such tattoos mandatory. Here's more from Stars & Stripes:
Once the rules are implemented, soldiers will sit down with their unit leaders and "self identify" each tattoo. Soldiers will be required to pay for the removal of any tattoo that violates the policy, [Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond] Chandler said.I understand the ban against tattoos that are racist, sexist, and the like -- although, these tattoos do offer an upfront insight into the person you're dealing with (and whether he/she may have your back in combat). But does the prohibition on artful tattoos take things too far? There is such a historic tattoo tradition in the military; tattoos are used to express loyalty & commitment to one's division; to memorialize fellow soldiers who died; and to mark personal achievements and milestones.
I asked a friend who spent a long time serving in Iraq & Afghanistan what he thought about the rules, and he said that there are more important reasons than simply maintaining a "uniform look," and he shared instances where being tattooed actually affected a soldier's performance of his/her duties. Leaving aside that those in covert ops need to stay, well, covert, a big problem my friend witnessed was that tattooed soldiers faced issues when dealing with Iraqi military as well as civilians because of the negative stigma attached to tattoos. He said that he witnessed an Iraqi officer refuse to deal with a tattooed US military officer because he did not believe that someone with a tattoo could hold any rank. My friend added that it's hard to "win the hearts of minds of the people" when their minds are clearly occupied with cultural bias, and even fear, of tattoos.
However, you look at it, with this grandfather clause in effect, I'm guessing tattoo studios, especially those near military bases, are going to be pretty busy over the next few weeks as soldiers either get new work or finish sleeves and other major work in progress.
Over the weekend, the Army Times reported on potential new grooming regulations that govern tattoos as well as other appearance standards. And if soldiers don't comply, they could face some serious trouble.
According to the article, here are the new tattoo and piercing rules proposed:
Tattoos will not be visible above the neck line when the physical fitness uniform is worn. Tattoos will not extend below the wrist line and not be visible on the hands. Sleeve tattoos will be prohibited. (This rule may be grandfathered.)The regulations still have to be "tweaked" to make sure they are "feasible, affordable and reasonable." And legal. One of the big problems I have, in relation to these standards, is forced tattoo removal -- which was actually mentioned as a possibility by a Sergeant Major and other senior leaders. While I don't know anything about military law, it's not improbable that a removal requirement could face a legal challenge.
The removal discussion follows a note on "inappropriate tattoos," but it seems that, for those with existing tattoos not deemed inappropriate, the work could be "grandfathered" in and soldiers wouldn't be penalized.
It'll be interesting to see how this plays out. Read more about the rules in the Army Times.
Yesterday, Father Panik gave us his own (special brand of) review of the Star of Texas tattoo convention in Austin, but he wasn't the only one offering reportage of the event. Austin 360 gave a play-by-play (and a small lame sideshow), while TV stations KRQE and Fox Austin posted short videos online of the show. I dig these photos and quick videos because they offer a look at the scene, which helps decide what will be on my convention schedule next year.
The Bangkok International Tattoo Convention also got some nice coverage. Reuters took beautiful photos from the show including the one above, and CNN has a few nice shots as well. Sky News joined in with a video from the floor.
With thousands attending these conventions worldwide -- and the media chasing after us -- you'd think that the debate whether "tattoos have gone mainstream" was thoroughly squashed, but a new study says otherwise.
Texas Tech University's "Body Art Team" [real name] has found "The more body art you have, the more likely you are to be involved in deviance," according to the Chicago Tribune. The swat Body Art Team surveyed 1,753 students at four colleges and reported that the heavily tattooed and pierced drank more, did drugs more, had sex more and cheated in class more. [They add, "For low-level body art, these kids are not any different from anybody else."]
NBC news in Dallas also reported on the study and gave this reasoning behind the results:
To see what tattooed people think about the study, NBC went to a local studio and talked to artists and clients -- who, as expected, laughed at it. Watch their video report below:
The study is somewhat silly in its over-generalization and limited study group: How many of us drank, smoked and fucked more in college? A lot.
But yes, we've seen more young people heavily tattooed and modified in more extreme ways than just a decade ago. I wonder, though, if it's because of a need to rebel or simply because there is greater access to tattoos and mod procedures. Feel free to weigh in in the comments section.
If anyone is pissed off about the popularity of tattoos, it's Helen Mirren, who got her hand tattoo while drunk and lookin' to be baaaad.
Tattoos are not popular enough for Armani, however. They airbrushed those of Megan Fox in their latest undie ad.
Even less scientific than the deviant study: "How tattoos can reveal your lover's personality."
The Marine Corps are also concerned about heavily tattooed (deviant?) soldiers saying that "tattoos of an
excessive nature do not represent our traditional values." Values like Shock & Awe? A new Marine Corps reg tightens and clarifies tattoo policies for active-duty troops; most notably, it "prohibits enlisted Marines with sleeve tattoos from becoming
commissioned officers, even if the tattoos, which were banned in 2007,
had been grandfathered in according to protocol." I know this is wacky but I have no problem with our military lookin'
Real deviants will soon be less likely to get tattooed with new technology that matches tattoos to criminal records. The newest development called "Tattoo ID" helps law enforcement match up tattoos to suspects and victims. For example, the Boston Herald says that "a security camera image of a suspect's tattoo could be checked against an image databank to come up with a short list of suspects." Problem here is that we assume most criminals have artistic acumen for fine art custom tattoos. What about those who picked off some flash from a tattoo shop wall along with tons of other clients? Internet-industry journal IEEE Spectrum asks, "Is a tattoo ... enough of a unique identifier to put someone under suspicion?" A valid question to explore before innocent tattooed people are accused.
In more on the tattoo law front ...
A new tattoo bill in Florida will prohinit those 16 and under from getting tattooed even with parental permission. [Teenagers 16 or 17 years old would still need a parent to sign for them.] The bill also requires every tattoo artist in Panama City to register with the Florida Department of Health.
In South Carolina, however, tattoo rules are being eased. The state's tough tattoo law requires parental consent for tattoos on those aged under 20 years of age, but that restriction will be lifted if a state House bill passes and the Governor signs off on it. An impetus for the change is soldiers under 20 returning to South Carolina after tours in Iraq and Afghanistan who want to get tattooed but can't -- they're allowed to be shot at but not tattooed.
On the pop culture tip ...
Check this black light Lost tattoo. The story behind it is pretty cool:
"In the late summer of '08, I took my Lost love to the next level by getting a Dharma tattoo inked onto my ankle. Since my good pal had recently started working at small parlor nearby, we decided to collaborate. I had been wanting to experiment with iridescent ink. My pal had never worked with the stuff, so we struck a deal: I would be his guinea pig if he would spring for the ink.
If you've never heard of it, iridescent ink is a dye that glows under a black light. The tough thing about tattooing with it is that you have to illuminate the surface of the skin just to see what you're doing.
Dharma logo seemed perfect for this technique, with a thick,
recognizable shape....We decided to use the Looking Glass Station's
logo -- a white rabbit inside of the Dharma shape -- a reference to Alice in Wonderland, and the (site) of my favorite Lost episode, the Season 3 finale."
In clear tattoo view, a Baton Rouge man tempts fate with a "Saints Superbowl Champion" tattoo even before this past Sunday's game. Thankfully, they at least made it to the Super Bowl.
Best Headline (and Jersey Shore reference): "This Is Why Cadillac Has an Image Problem.
Worst press release ever. "Tattoo body art is not only a kind of body art but a great way of advertising your business and products as tattoo advertising has many merits compared to other ways of advertising."
And More Quick & Dirty Links ...
Beyond Nazi tattoo cover-ups and and celebrity tattoo trifles, the headlines this week also featured stories that made us feel a little less soiled.
On Discovery's awesome Science Tattoo blog, I learned from this science teacher and her endangered species tattoo about the Ext Inked, a project from Ultimate Holding Company (a Machester art co-op) that celebrates Charles Darwin's 200th birthday by inviting 100 volunteers to become the ambassadors of 100 endangered UK species -- that is, by being tattooed with the image of their chosen mammal, invertebrate, bird, reptile, fish or plant. The tattoos, like the one above, were done by the artists of Ink vs. Steel in Leeds. See more photos on their Facebook group and Flickr pages.
On the other English coast, in Lincolnshire, tattooing the town mascot will cost ya. The Skegness Town Council is requiring tattooists pay a ten pound fee for tattooing the famous Jolly Fisherman, somewhat of a local logo since it was designed as a ad for the coastal resort town in 1908. Could this be the makings of a tattoo copyright fight?
And in Derbyshire, university forensic scientists are exploring how using an infrared digital camera can determine if a tattoo is an original or a cover-up. So criminals who have tattooed over or lazered distinct tattoos to evade identification may not have an easy pass after all.
In Nottinghamshire (if you're not sure on shires, see this map), one rock fan is trying for a world record by getting portrait tattoos of his favorite musicians and celebs, and then having them sign his bod (he then tattoos the autographs). Portraits range from Ozzy to Anastacia to The Corrs. And, surprisingly, he is being abused on message boards for his musical taste.
Back in the US ...
The American Statesman (A.S. photo above by Ralph Barrerra) looks at how soldiers deal with the stress of war and last month's shootings by finding comfort in places like tattoo studios. The owner of La Rude's Tattoo Studios explains:
"There's more counseling involved than artwork on a lot of weeks...We're like the bartender without the alcohol. Sometimes they need a nonmilitary ear to listen."
Army Sgt. Ryan Witko, a 27-year-old injured Iraq War vet comes to La Rude's regularly:
For more on tattooed soldiers and Fort Hood, see our post on the Tattooed Under Fire documentary.
The Stateman article also looked at how soldiers have turned to churches as well as tattoo studios. A church in Mill Creek, Washington offers both worlds. During their Permanent Ink series, sermons are accompanied by the buzz of live tattooing. Praise be.
The waning of the "tattoo taboo" isn't just in the US and UK. The Bangkok Post says that more women in Hong Kong are following the "trend" and getting tattooed.
But there are moments when I long for the "good old days" of underground tattooing, a time when you had to really do your homework and seek out masters of the craft to create your desired work, a tattoo of Lily Allen's nipples on your buttocks.
I'll end there.
Tattoo by Steve Boltz of Smith Street Tattoo.
As Americans head into our Memorial Day weekend, prepping to gorge on BBQ and cultivate sunburns, I figured I'd do a holier-than-thou, finger wagging post to remind us that it's a time to honor and reflect on those who died in service to our country. And I figured I'd do that via memorial and military tattoos, like this one above by Steve Boltz of Smith Street Tattoo in Brooklyn.
You can find an array of those designs on the following sites: