Remember a time when tattoos were reserved for sailors and criminals? That was before the number of young people getting inked hit an all time high, and Cracker Jacks realized they’d better change their toy prizes before ten-year-olds bearing real tattoos of skulls and cross bones on their forearms opened their candy boxes and complained, “All I got was a &**% stick-on tattoo!”
No longer limited to seaports and prisons, tattoos have become acceptable in every venue to the extent that someone wearing a tattoo is as likely to serve you a beer at the town pub, as serve you a lob at your country club. Nowadays, the nonconformist is the person without the tattoo, like the guy who made fun of the Snuggie sleeved blanket until he was the only one left who didn’t have one. The taboo in tattoo has vanished as suddenly as the words “Billy Bob” from Branjolina’s arm.
Not only has the stigma of tattoos changed with the times, so have the tattoos themselves. Each new decade has brought unique cultural trends in tattoo designs. With the 80’s came punk rock fans, whose pierced nipples and dog collars went hand in hand with tattooed anti-establishment images of guns, daggers, and “The Simpsons.” The 90’s urban grunge crowd rolled up their flannel shirts to bear sacred Japanese words inadvertently mistranslated into profanity, which subsequently caused a series of brawls at sushi bars across the country. The 2000’s produced icons that represent things we value in today’s society, like love, religion, and Pamela Anderson working a stripper pole.
If the content of tattoos is increasingly radical, the reason for getting them is even more so. The latest movement has taken tattoos from public diaries to human billboards—in other words, from providing personal meaning to providing personal cash. Tattoo visionaries are leasing out their bodies to companies in exchange for thousands of dollars in cash, or in the case of Goodyear, a set of free tires. It may sound extreme until you consider the people who, for a price, sell their organs (not the kind in their living room). Relatively speaking, the tattoo for tires deal doesn’t seem like such a bad one. After all, at least the guy with the Goodyear Dunlop flying D logo on his shoulder gets to keep his kidney. Plus, the tattooed “D” can be considered free personalized monogramming, if your name is, say, Doug.
One can’t, however, ignore the long-term consequences of tattooing. While none of us is immune to wrinkles, at least most of us don’t have to worry about sagging skin altering syntax on our bodies. The Nevada woman who got paid $18,000 by an online casino to shave her head, get a permanent tattoo of their website on her cranium and reveal it for one year may have thought it a good idea at the time. But what about in fifty years when the words, “GoldenPalacePoker.com” stretch into, “oldandpalehooker.com” and a case of female pattern baldness results in the advertisement of an entirely different service all together?
There’s some comfort in learning that there are less permanent tattoo-for-pay alternatives on the market. A tattoo leasing company called Lease Your Body will arrange for interested participants to wear temporary tattoos (logos) supplied by advertisers. The participant earns money and the advertising company gains novel exposure, literally, for their business. Their website shows a photograph of the first person ever selected to wear a temporary tattoo. An attractive young woman smiles at the camera. She looks normal, except for what appears to be a hairy tarantula burrowing into her face. It is, in fact, a temporary tattoo of the leasing company’s black and red insignia plastered to her forehead. No wonder she is smiling. That “tarantula” may have just paid for her next vacation. So who cares if the advertising loses effectiveness when the novelty wears off? At least the tattoo is guaranteed to wear off too.
For those interested, the site is looking for additional participants and advertisers. So let the bidding wars begin. A pristine neck: $10,000, going once…