Wednesday, September 27, 2017

tramp stamps

Think about “tramp stamps.” The term, and the tattoo.

The term is sexist. The tattoos themselves are much-derided. Looking past all that, I often find them to be quite attractive.

In general, tattoos have a purpose: to decorate the human body. So it has to sit well there. Designs have to work in the place they're designed for. A picture meant to be on a square painting on a wall has different requirements than one on a cylindrical vase. Same goes for something you put on the front of a building. Or on a real human body.

See? That would have looked better on a vase.

The most successful tattoos are the ones that obey the human form. We're very attuned to the human form. It's one of the pillars of world art throughout history, and we know it well. A tattoo that interrupts that form may be trendy for a moment (like those geometric designs that crop up every generation or so in fashion, and don't last for the same reason), but it will ultimately look wrong.

This gent's admirable V-shaped form begged for a design just like this.

There's an exception: the tattoo that defies the form, which is another way of imposing the human will on nature. When done well it can look good too. But that's very rare.

Actual example of one that I think is really beautiful. Especially because the careful point-by-point tattooing process is contrasted here by the illusion of watercolor's spontaneity. 
I stress that this is the exception.

Mainly, you want to obey and honor the human form. A small horizontal design at the lumbar, or slightly above at the slimmest part of the waist, can act as a visual cinch. It accentuates the feminine form in a pleasing way.

No. No, not like that. Sorry, St. Paul.

Yes. Yes, just like that.

Maybe that's why those tattoos are so popular, even and especially among girls who are not typically inky girls. Ironically, it's the conservative choice! Conservative in the sense that a small design that accentuates the female form is a safer bet than, say,


So if you're not the sort of girl who gets a lot of tattoos you may still get one on your lower back. (This is also true of those tiny ankle tattoos, which share the lumbar tattoo's feature of being easily concealed in business settings.)

Thus, girls who get typical lower-back tattoos are scorned from both sides: from those who don't get tattoos at all, and from those who get more "tattoo-culture" tattoos.

It's like a person whose favorite singer is Kesha. People who don't like modern pop scorn you for being so pop, and people who do like modern pop scorn you for being so obvious.

Hey, I like Kesha's music.

Meanwhile, those tattoos might very well stick with us for a while. They'll look good as a woman ages. They're easy to conceal when necessary and pleasant to reveal when desired. And at this point they'll never really be in or out of fashion.


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