This Says, "I'm a Loser!"

Tattooing as an art, a form of cultural identification, and as body adornment has been with us for millennia.

Different pre-Columbian cultures in the Americas used tattooing for religious iconography and for body art; South American mummies from as early as 950 AD show tattoos on the hands and other parts of the body.

Chiribaya mummy (detail, hand tattoo, ca 1100AD)Credit: Smithsonian

The mummified corpse of a 5200-year-old Neolithic man (discovered in 1991 in frozen, Alpine glacial ice, nicknamed “The Iceman”) has tattoo work.  Over fifty individual tattoos were found on him, ranging from a cross (on the inside of one knee) to sets of parallel lines. 

The process of implanting pigment under the skin, leaving a permanent and indelible coloration, was probably discovered accidentally.  A prehistoric individual, with a deep cut, perhaps got dirt or wood ash from a cooking fire in the wound.  When it healed, it left the tell-tale black color of the pigment left behind.  From there, people would have figured out intuitively how to do these markings on purpose. Primitive tattoosCredit: public domainThe word “tattoo” is thought to be of South Pacific origin, probably Tahitian or Polynesian. The word “ta” is Polynesian for “striking”; the Tahitian language had the word “tatau” which means “ to mark”.  Bastardized English yielded the word “tattoo”.

Cool Tats
Tattoos used to always mean something.  Sailors got tattoos commemorating a trip to a new land (“Singapore”) or a trip to the local brothel (“Maysie, 1939”).  Today’s tattoo owners more often than not are just packing ink because they think it’s cool.

Tattoos are cool.  There is a certain maturation required to having a permanently and potentially disfiguring ornament on your body.  There is some pain in the process as well, so there’s the machismo of getting tattooed.

In general, almost everyone who gets a tattoo does give it some clear and level-headed thought.  The work done is mostly good to excellent.

However, there is a whole different level of idiocy It Takes A Village Idiot (book cover)involved when it comes to people with “bad” tattoos.  And a tattoo that’s bad can’t be merely something someone else doesn’t necessarily like.

Bad tattoos are done badly—terrible concept, indifferent layout and design, horrible line work, laughably pathetic artistic skills, inconsistencies in colors and pigment density—and just plain stupid. 

Culturally, “tribal” motifs in the world of tattooing have gained a solid foothold in the past two decades or so with people who have no cultural or ancestral right to wear such iconography. The subversion of these images means the people who get these designs are posers without a clue what they mean.

Any white guy with a “tribal” tattoo of any kind is a putz.  He is to be laughed at and mocked publicly (and repeatedly) until he cries and/or wets his pants.

Then, he needs to be smacked around.

Equation for White Guy + Tribal TattooCredit: Vic Dillinger™, © 2012

Black people are guilty of tattoo idiocy as well; they don’t get a pass for being African-American.  Boxer Mike Tyson’s facial tribal tattoo is just as ridiculous on him as anyone else on the planet who is not an aboriginal.  Not only does Tyson not understand where his tattoo motif comes from or what it means (though he claims he designed it himself), he probably can’t even spell “Maori”.  His tattoo is a joke.

In the end though, the beauty of any tattoo, like any other work of art, is in the eye of the beholder.  Although most people can’t clearly say what art is, most people know what it ain’t

And the following generalized categories of bad tattoos have no redeeming value at all.  They are actually counter-productive to their intent.  Tattoos are supposed to be cool—these make their owners look anything but cool.

These tats are just plain bad!  [And don’t tell me that there’re worse than these—I know there are.  These are merely part of an overview, not a definitive or exhaustive treatise.  Don’t make me smack you around!]

Totally **** Blocked!

By all that is sacred and holy, if you’re going to get a tattoo with words on it, in any language, could you just please spell it right?

That thing is going to be on you for a long time.  There is no CorrecType for tattooing—once it’s there, it’s there.  Make sure the pinhead that’s doing your ink work knows how to spell or is not dyslexic (or just plain malicious).  Write out the words, correctly spelled, as you wish them to appear on your tattoo, complete with spacing and any required punctuation. Misspelled tattooCredit: uglytattoos.comMr. “Awsome” here has to live with his stupidity forever—if he couldn’t afford a tattoo artist with at least a third-grade education to get these two simple words spelled correctly then he probably can’t afford skins grafts or laser treatments to get it corrected.  [I did an editing job for him, since he’s obviously broke.]  Not only is he not awesome, his ink work—probably done by his prison husband—is spectacularly bad (unevenly spaced, bad line work, excruciating and pointless 18th Century Germanic lettering, etc.).  

Male Virginity Guarantee
Women are very forgiving of men’s flaws (witness the “beauty-and-the-beast” marriage of Julia Roberts to Lyle Lovett many moons ago).  Women love us men (and sometimes other women) despite most of our absurdities.

I love women.

I also love being in on some of their little secret code words and phrases they use to talk about us men.  Women have a secret phrase that totally cracks me up every time I hear it.  If you are a man with an undesirable physical trait, personality quirk, or pretensions at metro-sexuality (such as wearing a toe ring, something most self-respecting gay men don’t even do), women have a name for your disability.

They call it a “c**k blocker”. 

To be “blocked”, in the parlance of women, means you are so lame that whatever laughably inept or ridiculous trait or image you bring to the table, they simply cannot ignore it.  It is such a turn-off (for the most tolerant group of people on the planet) that they would rather set themselves on fire after poking their own eyes out with icepicks than even entertain the idea of having sex with you. Star Wars tattooed fanboyCredit: uglytattoos.comFanboys are virgins.

And they can’t seem to understand why: “I’m a great guy, why can’t I get any?”

C’mon, what woman doesn’t want to proudly walk down any street in public with a guy who has theDarth TaterCredit: Vic Dillingerâ„¢, © 2012 whole Fantastic 4 team tattooed across his forehead?  Comic book characters or a badly rendered Xena, Warrior Princess, are not turn-ons to women.

In the world of geekdom the Star Wars® franchise reigns supreme, breeding even bigger dweebs than the Trek-verse did.  Unfortunately, fanboys don’t know this.  Fanboys love Star Wars®, and they wear that love loudly and proudly.

Beyond this guy’s back hair problem and the flab-o-hammock of love-handled flesh used as a canvas, his tattoo work is horribly executed.  The colors are terrible, the artwork is awful, and it’s poorly composed.  Also, what’s with that big lump of butterscotch-and-chocolate Jell-O pudding with eyes and a mouth over there on the right?

Enjoy your stay in the land of male virgins: you’re blocked, Obi “One-Ton” Kenobi! 

“I Have a Really Tiny Thingy”
As with Mr. “Awsome” there are others who self-aggrandize to the point of absurdity in their tattoo art.  The simple fact anyone would even consider having the words “I’m Awesome” (misspelled or not) inked on their torso is a clear indicator that person is anything but awesome. [Women do it, too—sloppy chicks with the word “Diva” stamped on their flabby, stretch-marked guts, for example.] 

Similarly, the other extreme of over-compensator tries to make himself out to be badder than he really is.  Not only does he look stupid, it is also a surefire indicator, in the immortal words of William Shakespeare, “Methinks he doth protest too much.”

Overwrought aggrandizing is a clear sign of low self-esteem, a pitiable need for attention, and a guarantee of never being able to get a job.  And it also means the guy has a really tiny thingy.He's Bad?Credit: uglytattoos.comAlthough I’m sure he thinks he looks really tough, this guy will be the first of any fresh fish in a prison to get prickly things stuffed into his orifices his first time in the shower.

What a jackhole!  Uh, excuse me—I guess I shoulda said, “What an icehole!”

Difficulties Ahead!

Tramp Stamp
Yes, women fought for the right to vote (being brutalized and jailed) just so this spoiled brat could have a tramp stamp that says she is somewhat . . . uh . . . “difficult” Tramp Stamp (Queen Bee)Credit: uglytattoos.comto get along with.

You’ve come a long way baby, indeed.

Is there any woman in the world who would like to be thought of in such a negative fashion?  “Difficult”, demanding, self-centered, manipulative, nagging?  No?  I guess it’s just her then.

Tramp stamps are the tattoos I hate the most.  They are designed to be coy or cute and turn out to be neither.  They are unattractive and useless.

If I’m in that area of any woman’s body, I don’t have time to stop and read an instruction manual—I know what I’m doing, and I got stuff to do there.  I also don’t need the distraction.  A woman’s unadorned lower back is pretty enough—tramp stamps ruin that expanse. Tramp Stamp (Burger Queen)Credit: uglytattoos.comAnd speaking of expanses, the slope of this chick’s lower back, combined with her nascent love handles, tells me she’s got too much junk in her trunk.  She clearly got her message wrong. 

She’s a queen all right: “The Burger Queen”.

Jesus Takes Another Beating
Portraiture generally never comes out well on human skin.  You’re dealing with a flexible, three dimensional surface, and working in a difficult medium.  Precious few tattoo artists can pull off good portrait work that not only looks like the subject but is good artistry as well.

Religious iconography ranges from the poser’s Eye of Horus, to the poser’s Ra symbol, to the poser’s ankh, to the Christian poser’s crucifix. 

Jesus (as rendered badly as a tattoo)Credit: uglytattoos.comBut it is in the world of religious tattoo portraiture that the most horrific work can be seen, and Jesus takes a lot of abuse at the hands of bad tattoo artists.

Jesus just can’t get a break.  After being mercilessly beaten and crucified in 36 CE, he gets skewered and beaten down again in the modern world of tattoo “artistry”.

For starters, no one ever correctly depicts him as the swarthy, stocky Jew he really was, with his dark curly hair, dark eyes, black beard, and deep olive skin.

Instead, they always go for the White Bread version of Jesus, the fake image created in Western Europe centuries ago to make Whitey feel better about him: long, blond, flowing “good” hair (no Jew-Fro for our boy!), blue eyes, and white skin.

That would all be well and good if and only if the end results even came close to looking like those iconic images.  But they never do.  Jesus always looks like Kenny Rogers, or Grizzly Adams, or somebody else. 

The image of Jesus in this section carved into pinhead flesh nagged me a very long time.  It was very badly done, and it sure didn’t look like any Jesus I ever saw (including the hitchhiking one).

Who did he look like?  It was making me nuts.  Then, I figured it out.  He looked like this guy:

Eric Stoltz as Rocky Dennis inCredit: Universal Pictures, 1985

Get it Right, Icehole!!

In general there is absolutely nothing wrong with tattoos or getting tattooed.  It is the people involved in the process that makes for bad tattooing. 

There are many considerations to make before even getting in the front door of a tattoo parlor. If you have never been tattooed before, find out if you are allergic to any of the inks. What Your Tattoo Says About You (cartoon)Credit: A. Bogus Although only a small percentage of people have tattoo ink allergies, if you are one of them you need to know in advance.  Red is the color most commonly associated with allergic reactions, followed by yellow, green, and brown. 

Make sure your artwork is both professionally sketched and of a proper size and placement. No, not everybody thinks your facial tats are cool.  In fact, they’re the worst placed of all.  It is the first thing people see, and like it or not, people do judge by appearance.  Discretion is the better part of tattooing.  Tattooing a map to your house on your face is stupid.  Put it on your shoulder blade—that way, you can at least still get a job in a bank if you had to. 

Pick icons or images that are true to you, not a “flavor-of-the-month”.  A spurious choice in artwork will haunt you forever.  [I cringed when David Spade, years ago on Saturday Night Live for his first tattoo ever, selected “Calvin” from the now-defunct “Calvin & Hobbes” newspaper comic strip.  What an idiot.  And he let actor Sean Penn tattoo it for him.  Doubly stupid!]  

Don’t get your boyfriend’s, girlfriend’s, wife’s, husband’s, door-man’s, grocer’s, or parole officer’s names tattooed anywhere on your body no matter how much they whine and beg. Yes, I know you love her; you really do—at least, this week.  Relationships are transient for many, and had I bothered with such naming tats, both my arms would be ridiculously sleeved with cross-out lines through a long list of female names.  Names on skin are just dumb.

Under no circumstances have your tattoo work done by your buddy, girlfriend, boyfriend, prison wife, or mail carrier.  Ask around your town.  Find out who’s the absolute best tattoo artist available in your area and spend the money to get it done right by him or her!  Tattoos are not necessarily cheap (pricing varies and considers things like color changes, intricacy, size, etc.).  A lifelong reminder of your own stupidity, however, carries a much higher price tag.

Choosing timeless imagery, tasteful design work, and proper placement means your body art will never be a source of embarrassment and public ridicule.

Especially if I’m around to see it, point, and laugh!


Joe Dirt (speaking of David Spade!) AND Jesus get beaten down in this vid of other crummy tats again!

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