The tale of the tattoo

No doubt, at some point in your life, the thought of getting a tattoo has crossed your mind. However, how many of us have actually gone through with it and if so, why? This, along with the tattoos new presence on the catwalk and how they are increasingly becoming a mainstream fashion statement, are all aspects of this body art phenomenon that I find most intriguing.

Historically, tattoos have been associated with many walks of life and for many different reasons. In 1991, a five thousand year old tattooed man ‘Otzi the ice man’ was discovered with 57 tattoos on his body, which they believed to have been applied for the treatment of arthritis. Whereas, in the 1800s, 90% of the British navy had tattoos, some signifying the places they had been, whilst others believed that the compass rose tattoo would bring them luck to ensure they made it back to shore alive. Although, particularly in the past ten years, tattoos seem to have lost these core meanings and representations; instead they are losing their uniqueness and becoming more generic as most frequently requested tattoos are replicas of the ones seen on celebrity icons. It seems as though, the tattoo which derives from the Polynesian word ‘ta’ which means striking something and the Tahitian word ‘tatau’ which means ‘to mark something’ has been lost in our ‘copycat’ culture.

However, tattoos have been slowly creeping their way into the fashion industry, with fashion house Chanel using them to help showcase their collections on two separate occasions. In spring 2010, the fashion designer’s signature pearls and bag chain handles appeared on their model’s wrists, shoulders and thighs. Then, last year at Chanel’s Palace of Versailles cruise show the models appeared on the catwalk with the highly recognisable interlocking Cs of Chanel placed on their cheekbones. Their repeated use of the tattoo on the catwalk has made us see the tattoo in another light. Inspiringly and rather daringly, Chanel managed to turn something that in the past has been associated with crime and gang culture to high-end fashion. This is why it will be interesting to see how the tattoo trends during 2013, and how other fashion houses react to Chanel’s continued use of this art form to market and sell their brand.

Therefore, whilst I do not think the Marmite rule of ‘you either love it or you hate it’ can be applied quite as easily to the tattoo, it is certain that the mention of this word will always receive diverse views, especially when used by designers. For the time being though, I will continue to make my statements through fashion, as these can be changed and altered as many times as I like, without the need of a laser!

By Hattie Lee

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