After some years in the tattooing world it becomes pretty clear that snobbery comes in two basic forms. The most obvious and the one that most of us are familiar with is the elite tattoo type, otherwise known as the “rock-star”. Sometimes this is a person with a lot of talent and who knows it, far more often it is someone who thinks they have a lot of talent. The guys who brag about how they are friends with sports stars and celebrities, who have a pile of trophies proudly displayed on their website, or the guys who claim a special circle of other ‘in’ tattooers who have “secret” club tattoos and look down their noses at anyone who isn’t privy to the made up “secrets” they jealously guard. While these are the obvious snobs the fact is that they are a tiny minority compared to the other, more insidious kind of tattoo snob.
Im talking about the ‘tough guy’ tattooers. Usually these folks don’t have a whole lot of talent or personality so they have to fall back on the old saw of being more ‘old school’ or “street’ than other tattooers. Usually this take the form of bragging about how rough and ghetto their work environment is. And because they can’t actually compete on a quality level with other tattooers they use the volume of work they put out as an example of how they are more “real” than “those art fags” in their “private studios’. Somehow, in their strange logic, doing 15 mediocre tattoos a day is superior to doing one or two good tattoos a day. The lowdown elite are usually the first to grab hold of the traditional stereotype of old-school tattooers being rude violent people. Not only is this stereotype not based on facts, it actually denigrates the majority of mid-century tattooers who were simple working folk trying to make a living at a time when you couldn’t buy designer sneakers on a tattooers pay. Other forms of their supposed superiority are how many peoples ass they supposedly kicked, how drunk and/or high they get regularly, how much pussy they get, and how hard their apprenticeship/early years were. It should be clear to even a cursory reader that none of the aforementioned make the least bit of difference to the quality of work being put out, but all this nonsense is designed to camouflage the fact that the lowdown elite tough-guy doesn’t actually do very good tattoos.
Fortunately for the art of tattooing this type of foolishness is more and more being regarded as the bullshit that it is. There will never be a total absence of tough guys because a lack of self-confidence is most easily hidden under this kind of facade, but fewer and fewer tattoo customers are impressed (or even buy) the image. In fact, it might be this very fact that is the real cause of all the hand wringing and crying about why tattooing isn’t “as good as the old days”, the time when a tattooer could act superior to their clients simply because they were the one holding the tattoo machine are fading fast. these days you need to be able to draw, to tattoo wel, AND to be respectful of the folks forking over their money and skin. Some insecure folks don’t like that. Too bad.
One of the wonderful things about tattooing is its ability to absorb all sorts of freaks and misfits into a coherent community that is always pushing itself to excel. One of the few downsides to this giant umbrella is that there will always be those who put tattooing second or third (or tenth) on the list of importance in favor of their ego, image, or wallet. Tattooing has an extremely simple way to weed out those who are all take and no give, the work. look at the people who do excellent work and have a great reputation and the vast majority of the time they are the humble, talented, and considerate folks who don’t have time to brag about how lowdown they are.