Ask any pensioner about their regrets in life and you’ll get a list of things they DIDN’T do. Yet it is uncanny how often I’m asked if I think I will regret my tattoos when I’m older. Being only forty and in the prime of my life, it is difficult to answer the question with any confidence. So, for this series of blogs I have collected opinions about ‘wrinkly ink’ from people of all ages.
Not fade away.
Do new tattoo owners worry about how they and their ink will look when they are older? It is easy to see why this might be a concern given that tattoos done 50 years ago are mostly faded, spread and blurry. I asked Ben Stone, the renowned trad tattooer, based in Derby, UK, if he thought modern tattoos would age any better.
“For sure, modern tattoos do definitely look newer for longer. Not only do we have better quality inks nowadays but tattooing techniques have developed a lot too, and we continue to evolve as the industry grows.” He continued “A major factor is the use of disposable equipment and specifically disposable needles. Today you’ll be tattooed with brand new needles that will be binned after a single use, as opposed to the old fashioned sterilised ones which were re-used time and time again. The tattoo process is much cleaner than it used to be thirty years ago too and that certainly helps. Keep your tattoos out of the sun and they’ll stay looking crisp for decades.”
“I’m not at all worried about how I will look when I am old and wrinkly. I suspect that wrinkles and tattoos will be the very least problem I will encounter with ageing.”
Doug Weymouth, Age 57
“I don’t worry about the future and I don’t think very much about being old. I guess most people will have tattoos by then anyhow. People will have to accept me as I am.”
Natalie Derby, Age 21 Re-mastered
Tattooing techniques and skills continue to evolve, opening the door to people looking for ways to rejuvenate or replace their old-school ink. Cover-up work is no longer limited to a large dark splodge, and several tattooers specialise and excel in this type of work. Owning a poor or past it tattoo is no longer a life sentence, and it is pleasing to see the glee of someone who has replaced their disappointing ink with a spectacular new cover-up piece. Re-touching old work can also bring new life to a tattoo that has seen better days, and restoring work to their former glory is equally rewarding for the proud ink owner. And for those who would like a completely fresh start there’s always laser removal. Although the results for total removal can vary, it is easy to fade an old design to the point where a cover-up need not be compromised at all.
“One of my old tattoos was looking a bit old, faded and spread so I had it ‘spruced up’ and I’m really pleased with it again now. However, one of my other tattoos is a piece by Micky Sharpz from way back in the day and that one is being left original and untouched. Some tattoos are classics in my view and this one deserves to age gracefully with me. It has a vintage charm that seems to age well.”
Musician. (New Model Army.)
Western culture does often unfairly favour youth and beauty. It is no wonder then that older people with older tattoos do not comfortably find favour within it. Inevitably, this view must change given the proliferation of tattoos over the last few decades. This latest wave of people and their tattoos will soon become old and society must learn to accept that. But for now, it appears that only people who worry about old folk with tattoos are those who don’t have any ink themselves. Strange really, don’t you think?
“Beautiful young people are accidents of nature, but beautiful old people are works of art.”
First Lady of the United States from 1933 to 1945