Last weekend saw Edinburgh host its 4th Scottish Tattoo Convention, which showcased some amazing creativity that's thriving out there in the world of body art. So, we were inspired to cobble together a wee history of this ancient practice, taken from one of our rare and out of print Taschen Icon books on the subject.
The word ‘tattoo’ originates from Tahiti and dates back to the 18th century, when the tribal practice of ‘tattooing’ was discovered by Western sailors on their voyages in the South Pacific. However, the practice is much older than its name. The art of dyeing the skin is as old as mankind, and has been used among indigenous peoples throughout the globe, including in Britain, and was especially popular in Asia.
It was James Cook who re-introduced the art of tattooing to the Western world in 1771, when he brought back a tattooed man from his travels in the South Pacific to display at home. One of his team, a leading aristocrat called Sir Joseph Banks, returned home to England with his own tattoo, thus starting the noble tradition of going on holiday and coming back with a tattoo to shock all your mates.
People have historically had tattoos for a variety of reasons. In a tribal setting they were used to mark each rite of passage in the road to becoming a fully-fledged member. They therefore mapped out pretty much all of who you are: achievements, age, status, and family. If it was a war-like tribe then the markings of belonging also served to scare people off - supposedly giving you an extra second to think when fighting an opponent who is being distracted by your scary, slightly hypnotising tats.
The tribal warrior style of tattoo that means ‘I’m really hard and you’ll never beat me’ is favoured by people like Mike Tyson and Mickey Rourke. Just like the ancient war-like tribes, these two humanoid battering rams both chose tats with the shock and awe factor to slow their opponents' reaction times. Mike Tyson has one of Chairman Mao on one of his shoulders and Mickey Rourke had one declaring support for the IRA. Interestingly part of the modern version of this old tactic seems to be in choosing something controversial.
In India and Tibet, according to the Taschen Icon book, “a tattoo can provide assistance in getting through difficult periods in life” through “the attempt to drown out mental suffering by means of physical pain”. People often get them to commemorate someone who has been loved and lost. There is also the ‘memento mori’ tattoo, which often depicts a skull, to remind you to live every moment to the full.
Now tattoos are more than anything an expression of personal choice. Instead of being used to signify group identity, a tattoo allows you to mark yourself out from the crowd. In the best cases, a tattoo allows you to say something without even having to speak… (the worst tattoos being the ones that say too much).
The style of the designs has as a result become brighter and bolder, with a strong value placed on originality. Who wouldn't stop and stare if you passed this guy in the street?:
Buying Christmas beard gifts for the man in your life can be tricky no matter if they are your brother, boyfriend or dad, even the bearded ones.
However, if the guy has a beard, you can be certain that some beard care items and or some form of facial hair item will be loved and cherished way beyond Christmas time.