The "Mark(s)" of a Gentleman?

Anonymous asked/told:  "You need to write a gentleman's blog over tattoos. Where do they fit in the mix?"

As with everything from Thai food to argyle, the modern gentleman always errors on the side of moderation.  Just ask the late, great Ötzi the Iceman.  Undoubtedly seen as the dapper hipster of the village back in his day (a day around 4000 years ago), Big O, as the ladies called him, was known to sport several simple and discreet tattoos at the base of his spine (the original Tramp Stamp) as well as additional artwork around his knees and ankles.  Although history is unfortunately sparse on any indication of the previous generation's disapproval of such self expression, Ötzi's mummified remains suggest that he did, in fact, die; a coincidence the crime scene investigators at the time failed to link to the bad juju his revolutionary fashion statement may have caused among his fellow villagers.

However, I must inform you directly that if you've stumbled upon this post in an effort to discover the definitive answer to the morality, professionalism, or otherwise appropriateness of such epidermal markings, you will be regrettably disappointed.  As a mere style blog, I shall leave such an argument to the thousands of households in which conservative parents and independent teenagers have been inhumanly forced to live with one another.  Rather, I would merely like to present the three rules every gentleman should know and follow should he decide he absolutely MUST opt for the ink.  And here they are in an easily remembered, yet oddly unrelated mnemonic--HAM!

1.  Avoid the Head
While surely an argument could be made here that the modern business world is beginning to relax its stance on body art and that the new generation of customers and employees alike would not in the least bit feel violated to the deepest recession of their souls by simply locking eyes with this monstrosity--this is insanity.  No seriously, insanity.  As in the notion that a person of sound and noble character would never arrive at a point in their lives where this mind-boggling disaster would be a viable option.  I'm not exactly sure what possesses an individual to do....this, but it is must certainly not the work of a mentally stable human being.  But apart from full on tattoo masks, avoid neck and face art completely.  No matter how much you think you can pull it off, you can't.  Trust me, it's just disgusting.

2. Costs You an Arm
A friend of mine once came up to me after an Education class in college and asked me what I thought about him getting full tattoo sleeves the following long weekend.  A bit stunned, I remember telling him that he should consider the fact that most schools (especially elementary schools--the area of his certification) prohibit their teachers from showing their tattoos in the classroom.  His response was simple--he'd just always wear long sleeves and resist the temptation to roll them up.  Two sleeves and two semesters later, he got a job.  In West Texas.  And I can't help but wonder if on any of those scorching 100+ degree fall days, he doesn't yearn for the ability to bust out a polo.

So, here's the deal, if you're thinking of sleeving it up, consider a half-sleeve or a simple arm tattoo.  At least in that case, you can stay cool and professional simultaneously when the occasion calls for it.  Unless you're Lil' Wayne or David Beckham, don't make the mistake of thinking establishments and gatherings will adjust their dress standards to meet your ill-considered youthful impulses. 

3.  What's That Mean?
Quickest way to be a tool?  Get a tattoo for no other reason than to have a tattoo.  Meaning is everything.  If you find yourself looking through books, Googling popular tattoo designs, or contemplating ripping off that mindlessly cliche "nautical star" idea from one of your buddies--get up right now, turn the gas on, and place your head in the oven.  If you're lucky,  you'll only moderately suffocate...providing you with just enough hospital bills to adequately maintain a zero balance in your bank account for the next twenty years, leaving you with no extra tattoo money and hopefully the realization that it was a stupid idea in the first place.  However, if you're like many of my friends and use tattoos as a visual memorial for family, faith, or commitment, then I believe you have the right to decide for yourself.

How do tattoos fit in with the modern gentleman?  With heavy consideration, purpose, and necessity.  Never do something that could limit your ability to clean up sharp when the time calls for it.  Yet never be afraid to claim a cause or purpose for your own.  Standing for you beliefs and values in whatever that's the mark of a gentleman.

UPDATE 7-15-11:
This is entirely too good not to share here. Check it out:


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. In an effort to extend the opportunity for all to share their opinions, I shall rephrase what the above Mr. Anonymous said:

    "This [stuff] is weak."

    Thank you for your insight.