From Boo Ya Tribe to Sailor Jerry, the Red Hot Chilli Peppers and Chopper Read, tattoos have been an expression of outlaw style since the caveman days. Still considered a taboo by some, the artform has steadily made its way into the mainstream, with recent research indicating that 36% of people between the ages of 18-25 in the US have at least one tattoo. As a mark of dedication, infatuation or some may say stupidity, kids loyal to their kicks are also lining up to ink themselves. However, when the tattoo gun and sneaker culture collide, it can definitely turn into the good, the bad and the oh, so butt ugly.
You may love what's dressing your feet at the moment, but it takes some serious dedication to forever commemorate that under your skin. Then there's a stack of factors to consider such as model, size, placement, design and colourway. Also, what happens when your number one pair gets dated and you've still got it inked on your chest?
A sneakerhead's most hellish nightmare would be to end up looking like a Trefoil just shat all over your bicep. Of course every tattoo has the potential to suck balls, and Gucci Mane's bizarre ice cream cone tattoo with ‘Brr' written across it is as good an example as you'd find anywhere. To top that, we don't know what type of drugs were dealt to the lady with Swooshes for eyebrows, nor the guy who covered three quarters of his back with the infamous tick, but we're sure as hell not having any! On the flipside, you'll be rocking your favourite brand and representing the sneakerhead way of life! Well executed sneaker tattoos can render a passion into an art form, a permanent piece that can earn you respect and perhaps, even some cool points in the playground. As always, a dope design stems from a good idea matched with a talented artist, so do your research first before you even think about putting pen to paper.
Just last year, I was the recipient of an adidas Jeremy Scott Wings 2.0 tattoo on my ankle. A brutal session that lasted for three hours, it was done on a night called ‘Ink and Drink', where free tattoos were donated by a local studio in Singapore. I offered my skin up as a canvas and a tattooist named Elton inked in the design.
For me, the Wings 2.0 was an easy choice, as I had always wanted a sneaker tattoo. With the wings attached, I suddenly had the feeling of flight, making me feel almost like a superhero! Although it's only been six months, I don't have any regrets about getting some permanent sneaker-love on my leg. The reaction has been interesting. After first tweeting about my tattoo, someone made the comment ‘This is capitalism at its best, I can't believe this person is getting permanent branding and isn't getting paid!' I never expected to get money from adidas but interestingly enough, they did promise me a pair of Wings, though they have yet to be delivered!
So far the only issue I've come across was when I applied for a position at Nike. It's well known that the brand evangelists at Nike, themselves known as Ekins, have to undergo a nine day boot camp at the Nike headquarters in Oregon. Thereafter they have the option to have the Swoosh tattooed onto them as a sign of dedication. Needless to say, when I applied for a Nike position, they declined due to my apparent lack of ‘brand loyalty'. Assholes!
All sneakers have an expiry date. They're going to crack, wear and tear no matter how pristine you keep ‘em. By getting your grails inked, you can have your favourite pair in (hopefully) mint condition for life. Sure, tattoos age to a certain degree, and there'll always be haters saying that putting a sneaker under your skin is taking it too far, but at the end of the day, your skin is your own. If you're considering going under the gun, you've done your research and are in the hands of a good artist, I say go for it! However, looking at some of these examples I found on the interweb, you may want to definitely have a good think about it first, as some people should have stuck by the principle...
Just Don't Do It!
Written by Sneaker Freaker intern Emma Lee and first seen in Issue 21!