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Tattoos – whether you love them or hate them, they are still a talking point. Although culturally more acceptable than they were in the 70s, tattoos can still cause a lot of tension around the dinner table. A friend of mine moved out in order to get a twine of ivy on her thigh – her mother gave her the option of a home or a tattoo. She chose the latter. However, views towards inkings aren’t always as traditional as these with tattoos becoming part and parcel of high fashion.
Initially the choice of sailors wishing to document their travels and tribespeople across the globe, tattoos soon became a fashion statement rather than solely a cultural or religious choice. 1930s America reported on the increasingly disturbing trend of women having stockings ‘tattooed’ onto their legs to combat the difficulty in attaining highly-desirable nylon stockings. Although this is dramatically different from the tattoos we see today, the swallows, symbols and anchors that grace people’s bodies stem from this style of tattooing.
But how does fashion really feel about tattoos? Are they still questioned by the fashion conscious or accepted as part and parcel of modern society? It can’t be denied that a whole host of models and celebrities choose to have tattoos. Johnny Depp is rumoured to have 15 different inkings, including a native American to symbolise his links to his American Indian ancestors, whilst pop princess Taylor Swift has sworn off tattoos due to her fear of needles. In contrast, Cara Delevingne’s increasingly tattooed body caused controversy before last year’s Autumn/Winter London Fashion Week . Some modelling agencies suggested she was too heavily tattooed to model on the catwalk; her intricate inks would put designers off and take the focus away from the garments.
However, Cara’s presence at the 2014 shows proved how irrelevant her tattoos with regard to her performance on the catwalk. She walked for Burberry, Giles and a number of other designers, however her starring role was at Mulberry, which introduced the fashionistas to ‘the Cara’, their newest handbag. The handbag was designed in honour of Queen Delevingne, with style inspiration taken directly from Cara’s beloved tatts. The limited edition version of the rucksack come handbag features rivets with lion designs, copied from Miss Delevingne’s signature ink; the lion head on her right index finger. The inside of these bags also includes a heart patch and a ‘Made in England’ stamp, both direct references to other Delevingne tattoos. This interesting move by Mulberry, a traditional English brand, loved by ladies of leisure since the seventies, to attract a more dynamic and youthful consumer highlights high fashion’s recognition of the beauty of tattoos. This attitude is slowly becoming evident in high street fashion with Billy, the heavily tattooed ASOS and Burtons model becoming hot property in the fashion world and increasingly popular with shoppers.
Now I could say that this definitely means an end to the stigma surrounding tattoos, but unfortunately I’d be lying. Since the late 19th century, the controversy of the humble tatt has been a regular theme in newspapers, with New York newspapers in 1926 proclaiming the increasing popularity of artistic inks. Granted, tattoos seem to have been welcomed into the high fashion fold, but the peaks and troughs of acceptance and disapproval surrounding tattoos is a recurring theme which is unlikely to go away. Even though they could fall out of favour, right now tattoos are hot and in some ways, their ever-changing status makes them more appealing.