Does Being “Inked” Mean You’re a Bad Person?

When we talked about the Local Pride of the Island bike show put on by Ollie Boy Productions, I promised that at some point I would talk about the tattoos. Because I’ve been meaning to do this for quite some time and because I have a reason to do this before tomorrow, I’m doing it now. Much like the bikers’ need for freedom and expressing their own identities, there’s much more to the tattoo than just being a bad a_ _!

Hart & Huntington SignPeople who see this sign may or may not be familiar with the company, Hart & Huntington. But if we say “Inked,” many will know instantly that we’re talking about one of the reality TV shows about tattoo artists. They opened a shop here in Waikiki. Personally, I prefer the other tattoo series, “Miami Ink.”

So, does having a tattoo mean you’re a bad person? Not really. In fact, more often than not, it means just the opposite. You may have needed a “right of passage” to get you over something, or things, that has had an emotional impact on you or some extreme consequences. Miami Ink focuses more on this. It is that facet of Miami Ink that makes me watch the show. Besides, sometimes the tattoo artists are as much of a fascination as their clients! Ami James, for example, is not the beast that you may think he is. Just study him for a while. Yeah, Ami, you’re a bad boy. Even though I know better, he would still scare the crap out of me in a dark alley.

This is not to say that some bad seeds don’t get a tattoo just to look hip or to belong to a group or just because they enjoy the pain. But then again, those people may have some different kinds of issues to deal with! If you listen to the stories that some of the customers give for getting a tattoo, some of them will amaze you. Some do it to deal with the death of a loved one, the deal with the death of a friend, to break out of growing pains, or to mark an important stage in their life.

Framed Tattoo Art

I guess we can call it artistic psychology, or something. Tattoos are just that — artistic. Kat Vondee who has moved from Miami Ink to a new show, LA Ink, is a wonderful realistic artist. Her portrait tattoos are amazing! But then, a lot of us cringe when we see some of what is considered art.

Alienated and somewhat put off by this “name” shop in Waikiki, I went looking for another place with this art form that had some customer aloha to go along with it. Some tattoo artists do tend to be grumpy I’ve found. Not always, but quite often. I know they’re busy, but that doesn’t give their front line staff license to be curt and cold to potential customers. I found a place that felt right! While it still had some creepy stuff here and there, the message rang true.

The Eye of the Beholder

Okay, okay, so it’s all a matter of personal taste… even if it does look like Halloween. But, there are still questions. Why the whole body? Why so much? “But, you have such beautiful skin!” (That last statement is one that I have used before myself.) This is especially true for the women, I think. Some tattoos are nicely and tastefully done. Some are just, well… meaningless. I guess my point is that if you’ve got a message, say it right and let it be. Just do it with taste. Men can get away with just about anything; women need, in my opinion, to be just a little more tasteful and discreet with their body art and their body jewelry. Just my opinion.

Hawaiian Tattoo Company in Kapahulu

Hawaiian Tattoo Company is at 810 Kapahulu Avenue. I was much happier and comfortable there, for me that’s a small miracle. I received assistance and answers to my questions. I did get a few puzzled and peculiar looks, as one would expect for a person with a camera. I’m telling you, cameras scare people! The sign on the front of the shop has words and phrases like “Custom Work,” “Experienced” — that’s good. “Licensed” too! Then my favorite word… “STERILE! “

Okay, here it comes. Since you guys had to put up with the helmet lecture for the bike show, you get the sanitation lecture for this one. Don’t worry, short and sweet since this topic can get graphic. This is more important than any other issue. We are, again, talking about your life. This includes the tattoos and the body piercing! Thank you, HTC, for keeping your customers safe!

Kapahulu Piercing Sign

Piercings? Yes, Hawaiian Tattoo Company does that too! And, yes, they do it with a very professional atmosphere, just like the sign says. They have another location too! Guess where?

Pucks Alley Rings

Pucks Alley Sign

Pucks Alley, right down the street from the University. Where else? The college students have got to be keeping them busy!

Piercing HumorThat’s a lot of belly buttons to pierce! Okay, cringing parents, relax, at least it’s sterile!

Actually, Hawaiian Tattoo Company‘s web site provides a tremendous amount of useful information. That also moved them up on the level of respect that I have for this organization!

They are very nice people, very helpful and they do have a sense of humor!

One last lecture point and I’m done with the cautionary statements (this time) — guys, keep the piercings at belly-button level and above. Why? Look it up on Google; it is too sensitive for me to go into here. Ladies, I think it is good advice for you too but for the gentlemen, DON’T DO IT! I don’t care how much of a nut case you think you are, nothing is worth that! Okay, lecture done.

Moving right along, let’s share some of our own stories. This is David’s story. David always wanted a tattoo. His mother knew that so she paid for this as a present for him. Well, if you follow Hawaiian Tattoo Company’s slogan on their web site, they say “the only valid reason to get a tattoo is because you want one…” Okay, I can go along with that.

David's Tattoo

Keliikuonapali ululi O’ koolua. What does that mean? King of Koolau Mountains is the definition I got from David. There may be other glottal stops, or ‘okina, whatever you want to call them, but I couldn’t tell you for sure. There’s another word for our Hawaiian glossary. ‘Okina means just that — glottal stop. It’s a pronunciation helper. Words can be spelled the same but mean something very different with or without the ‘okina ( ). Maybe we can get our Hawaiian language experts to help us out with that. Until then, I’ll just take David’s word for it. Since it is his middle name, I’m not inclined to think otherwise!

Since David is living on the Leeward side of Oahu and the Koolau mountains are on the Windward side I teased him and told him he was on the wrong side of things. He was apparently born on that side and he is proud of it and wants to keep that with him, always. Thank you, David, for sharing.

Tom's TattooThis next one has a lot of things going on but it also has a lot of things to say. This one comes from a fellow blogger who lives on Oahu. Tom was born in Japan but raised in Honolulu. He has lived here since he was an infant.

Knowing that I wanted to talk about this stuff, when I saw his tattoo I had to ask him about it. Here is the definition behind what you see on the left.

The chain at the bottom of the tattoo has 16 links. The 16th link is the one that “shatters.” Tom left home at 16, or ran away if you prefer. The ghostly skull shapes are demons that he had to overcome — drugs and being a high school drop out.

The playing cards, a jack and an ace (black jack), represent the age of 21, which is when he decided to “put things back into place.” The wave behind it all represents cleansing or renewal. The cross is the faith in God, or a higher power, (I think he threw the “higher power” thing so as not to offend, just in case I wasn’t Christian) and the angel wings are what carried him out of trouble. Relax, dude, I am a Christian, which is why some of the art at the shops bothers me so much.

There was obviously a lot of thinking that went into designing this tattoo! Tom will always have it with him, to remind him of where he has been and what he has overcome. Now do you guys believe me?!?

Today Tom is engaged to a beautiful girl and they have a beautiful little baby daughter. When I first ran into Tom, he was doing some creative blog advertising. Now, Tom is worried about something we all concern ourselves with… weight. But he still has time to take the family to the zoo!

Are tattoos a “right of passage?” Sometimes. Are they a constant reminder? Always. Does having a tattoo mean that you’re a bad person? Rarely. No, I don’t have one. But, “I get it!”

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10 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Carnival of Aloha, Chapter 2: The Ohana’s Together! // Oct 1, 2007 at 12:08 am

    […] A Honolulu blog ← Does Being “Inked” Mean You’re a Bad Person? […]

  • 2 skeet // Oct 1, 2007 at 11:46 am

    An interesting, informative and fun post – but I think I’ll still avoid inking my own skin! :0)

  • 3 Evelyn // Oct 1, 2007 at 12:47 pm

    Hi skeet! I’m still sifting through comments, but this one was easy! I know what you mean, I’m a coward about that too. I have to say, however, that some of them are very beautiful! The Kapahulu shop has lots of neat things in the way of decorative pieces too. It’s fun just to pop in and see stuff!

  • 4 mitch // Oct 5, 2007 at 3:23 pm

    I think i’ll pass on the whole tattoo thing. my christian faith looks very negatively on desecrating our bodies. you never answered the one thing i was wondering, did you get one? the reason i ask is because in the blog you say you’re a christian.

  • 5 Evelyn // Oct 5, 2007 at 3:52 pm

    Hi Mitch!

    You’re so funny! That was cute. Thank you for asking! No, I didn’t get one. 🙂 Please feel free to stop by anytime and don’t hesitate to ask questions!

  • 6 Ana // Feb 7, 2008 at 6:57 am

    Are people with tattoos still perceived as not well educated and low income. Or, has that changed? Just curious.

  • 7 Evelyn // Feb 7, 2008 at 9:06 am

    Hello Ana, thank you for stopping by and for asking that question. I think that TV shows like Miami Ink have done a lot to create a different way of looking at the tattoo.

    I think tattoos were originally associated with drugs, alcohol and just overall “unclean” lifestyles. Unclean meaning those lifestyles not generally acceptable to society’s mainstream ways of living. This is unfortunate and it’s part of why I feel the need to talk about them more.

    I have watched the show and I have friends that I never thought would ever do such a thing! There is more to it. I really believe that the bulk of the body art we see today have a much deeper meaning for the person who bears it. For the record, I’ve heard the same thing about breast enlargement. I have one friend who went to that extreme to spite her x-husband… she used his money. 🙂 It’s not always for show… there’s a root to these things!

    All walks of life, all social classes and all races bear these marks. Are they marks of life’s dramas or just way to send and “in your face” message to someone? Who knows. In most cases, I think, the real reasons are further below the skin than the ink can go.

    In other words… “never judge a book by its cover.” 🙂

  • 8 Rod // Feb 7, 2008 at 5:05 pm

    I’m with Mitch and Skeet on this one!!! If God wanted you to have tattoos he’d put in on you before you came out, if you know what I mean!!

  • 9 Evelyn // Feb 7, 2008 at 9:32 pm

    Much like everything else, we all have our own ways of dealing with things. Tattoos have meant a lot more to some people than just a cool thing to do.

    If getting a tattoo has enabled someone to deal with or memorialize events in their life, or to deal with or get past a difficult time, then I can understand it and I’m supportive of their choice to do so.

  • 10 The Good the Bad and the Ugly // Apr 9, 2008 at 1:17 pm

    […] I will restate, once again, that the image of the Tattoo industry, one that seems to be held by the general populace, is not necessarily an accurate one. […]

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