Trends come and trends go, and the trend of flesh desecration known as “tattooing” may be on its way out the door, just like foot binding and earlobe stretching.
It was all very well when indelible tattoos were injected into the dermis, forever altering the purity of the pigment, as a spiritual ceremony by tribes like Maoris and Samoans, or as a rite of passage by seamen, or as a political statement by Beatniks. But when status-seeking Americans and Europeans took up getting tattooed as a mindless, artless, casual pastime, it eventually lost its point.
Lately, we have been seeing, or we think we might have been seeing, a turnaround in thinking about the desirability of inflicting whimsical decorations on the body that mar it for a lifetime. The coolest young kids aren’t doing it anymore. Soon the older folks, who did it to juvenate themselves, might see that what was once trendy is becoming lame and passe.
Or maybe we’re wrong, and David Beckham is right. Time will tell.
In any case, let’s look at some of the current hotshots who are shockingly devoid of ink.
The paradigm of tattoolessness is the Queen of the Scene, musically speaking, none other than Taylor Swift. Although she’s an international sensation, in many ways she’s an old-fashioned girl, having grown up in rural Pennsylvania and then arriving in Nashville at age 14. She’s not inclined to disrobe on stage or screen, but on the beach one can see she is blessedly free of illustration and calligraphy. Taylor is a role model, and a good one, for teens and tweens. Maybe it is her influence that is discouraging their interest in tattoos.
Among the male heartthrobs, there is only one ink-free singer in New Direction, the 21st century’s answer to The Beatles (sort of, in a manner of speaking). He is Niall Horan, the blond Irishman. All his bandmates are covered with designs, head to foot, but he has none. When asked why, he says, “I’m too scared to do it.” A very clever answer, because it does not criticize or disrespect those who have gotten tatted, like his fellow performers and many of his fans. Niall claims to have a fear of needles, but he might have a fear of being needled for his forbearance.
In recent weeks, two young blond rookie athletes have burst onto the New York scene in a blaze of buzz and so far it appears that neither of them has tattoos, at least not any that are visible to the eye.
One is Kristaps Porzingis, a 7-foot-3-inch Latvian-born basketball forward who in less than a month has become the hottest player for The Knicks. A headline in today’s NY Times reads “Porzingis Proving Indispensable Only 14 Games into His Tenure”. Today’s Daily News calls him “a revelation.”
Not only is he blemish-free, the 20-year-old Porzingis is clean-cut, modest and humble, a real departure from the thuggish demeanor of heavily tatted ballers like LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony.
On the diamond, one of the new stars for The Mets during their shining late-season play was pitcher Noah Syndergaard, a 23-year-old 6-foot-4-inch Texas farmboy who arrived in New York in May and has taken the town by storm. A weightlifting enthusiast who can deadlift 512 pounds, he has been given the nickname Thor, after the superhero.
With his shoulder-length tresses and aw-shucks manner, Noah comes across as American as Gary Cooper. So far the gossip columns haven’t sighted him lounging in the Meatpacking District at three in the morning, but just wait, there are plenty of publicists dying to get him there.
Next up is Carrie Underwood, the wholesome-as-apple-pie country singer who reminds us of her fellow Oklahoman Patti Page, America’s Darling in the 1950s with #1 hits and her own TV show. Carrie is always said to be from Checotah, but Orb can reveal exclusively she is really from Onapa, a charming hamlet midway between Checotah and the more sophisticated and picturesque city of Eufaula.
Now here’s the rub. Carrie Underwood is the last person you’d expect to besmirch her epidermis with india ink, but if you look closely, right there south of her bellybutton appears to be a tattoo. Say it ain’t so, Carrie. Say it’s only a smear of grape jelly or a smudge on the photo. Or even a temporary tat left over from a children’s birthday party.
Until proven otherwise, we’ll keep believing Carrie is among these other role models who are leading America out of the era of ink-stained skin and into a tattooless tomorrow.