Tattooing is one of the oldest art forms in our history, just narrowly losing to cave painting. In fact, certain remains of humans from up to 10,000 years ago have been discovered to have pretty extensive ink. Despite this, they are definitely frowned upon in mainstream professional culture. Very recently, they’ve started to creep their way back into commonality. As someone who can be considered moderately tattooed, and has seen both extremes of the good/bad tattoo spectrum, I feel as though there are certain “do’s” and “don’ts” to sporting a tattoo. Now this in no way speaks for everyone, but the majority of people in a professional career should strongly consider the following, especially if you are as of yet a tattoo “virgin”.
Firstly, please realize that this is permanent! Don’t get a tattoo because of a passing trend. When it goes out of style, or no one understands the reference anymore, that’s when removals happen. Removals are expensive, and hurt more than getting the tattoo in the first place. Nip your bad ideas in the bud (that goes for you too drunk selves), because you will regret them. Given that, do get a tattoo if it has personal meaning to you. If it is important enough to you to put it on your body forever, then by all means do so. Just keep placement in mind.
A solid rule for placement is if it can’t be covered by a button down and chinos, it probably will work against you in professional and social situations. See if you don’t jump to conclusions about individuals with face or hand tattoos, I dare you. If this rule is too conservative for your taste, then the alternative is to make sure you’d be comfortable running into your boss, coworkers, or grandmother while wearing shorts and a t-shirt. If you’re still on board the tattoo train, then the next thing to consider is style.
There are as many styles as there are artists, so to make this easy, just find out what you like best. Visit different parlors, talk with different artists, and discover for yourself what styles look the best to you. Make sure you look in an artist’s portfolio before making any decisions, or you could be unpleasantly surprised by their personal touches when your ink is done. While it’s not my place to say one style is better than another, there are some that deliver very distinct messages about you. The quintessential stereotype of a questionable style is without a doubt “tribal”. I’m sure you all know what I mean by this. In reality, tribal is not related to any tribe, in any part of history. In addition to this, people associate it with the rudest of gym rats, and those most desperate to be seen as a bad ass. A good alternative are traditional Samoan tattoos, which can be both hypnotic and beautiful when done correctly. Try to also stay away from overly cartoony tattoos, as they can quickly turn you from a regular guy into an angsty teen.
The last important detail is color. Color is very hard to pull off correctly, and if you have your heart set on it, then my personal recommendation is to get predominately black and grey with splashes of color. It makes the tattoo seem more alive than just solid color everywhere. Color can be done extremely well, but you need to not only have complete trust in your artist, but be able to accept that skin is different than paper. Colors may not necessarily look the same as you picture in your head, and that is something that you should be able to live with. Black and grey is a safe bet for everyone, and usually looks very crisp and classic.
My final words for you are to please avoid being stingy with your tattoo. Don’t sacrifice quality for price. Forgive the extreme example, but would you opt for surgery in a third world country just because it was cheaper? Tattoos are permanent. You’ll have a good one forever, but the bad ones only get worse with age. Choose carefully my friends.