Inked Out

Over the past five years or so, the amount of tattoos seen on the streets of major metropolises, from New York to London to São Paulo, has been exponentially increasing. Far from being the exclusive province of unruly sailors and biker dudes, tattoos have practically become a style staple for the fashion set. As our focus on expressing our individuality—through blogs, social networks, custom-designed sneakers, limited-edition t-shirts and so on—intensifies, the body has literally become just another blank canvas.

Everyone from Marc Jacobs to Gisele Bundchen proudly sports ink these days, while tat-trained artists like Mexico City’s Dr. Lakra have been exhibited at venerable art institutions such as the Tate Modern. Scott Campbell, the founder of Williamsburg’s premium tattoo parlor Saved, has even leveraged his training in the tattoo arts for clients that include Maserati, Camel, Nike and Volkswagen.

Within the fashion sector in particular, the trend has continued to evolve. Though models like Erin Wasson and Jessica Stam have been sporting subtle ankle and wrist tats for a while, the ’08 and ’09 runways have seen an onslaught of no-holds-barred ink. Helmut Lang sent models with full-blown neck tattoos down the runway for his autumn/winter ’08 collection, Vivenne Westwood used tattooed toughs in her spring/summer ’09 show and DSquared’s models were decked out in bling-and-ink for the label’s s/s ’09 nod to ’80s hip-hop.

Clearly, the permanent body art trend has some serious staying power. But trends are by nature fleeting. So what does it mean when you can no longer make your blank canvas a blank canvas again? Although Marc will never go out of style (even if his love of M&Ms and Sponge Bob does), we could well see a boom in the laser removal business in the near future. And already, products picking up on a less permanent approach to the trend are hitting the market, with faux tattoo “sleeves” giving those prone to rash decisions the opportunity to literally try on a tattoo in lieu of going under the needle.

—Kyle Landman

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