joakim urma

Tattoos as a luxury product / the things we are willing to put effort into

Recommended Posts

"Tattoos are luxury products. It's not something that anyone really needs."

I remember reading it just like that somewhere for the first time and I have heard people expressed the idea since. I've thought about it a lot since and tried to formulate my thoughts on it. I'm not sure yet that I have a definitive comeback that I'd let people quote me on but let's explore the theme for a while.

If you talk about different sorts of needs, in most cases I'd say tattoos are not fundamental to life in the way food, clothes and shelter are. Getting tattooed probably ranks pretty close to the top of Marslows pyramid of needs for most people. Of course there is circumstances where having certain tattoos could save your life (or make you lose it), just think of prison culture in many parts of the world. Many of us have seen the sensational documentary about tattoos of the criminal Russian subculture. You could also argue that sometimes tattoos can help in sexual interaction and from some evolutionary perspective help the poor genes in your body keep life going past your death.

Then there is all the sociological aspects of in-groups and out-groups and how most people try to fit in someplace, if not in the mainstream then somewhere else. Some biologists talk about how having a sharp intellect is an aid in evolution, that it's an important factor in the sexual selection. The intellect in turn would be expressed in external symbols, status symbols, titles, behaviors, the clever words we use to impress each other and tell the world who we are. I've read people arguing that often art: both appreciating (the right) art in front of others (or symbols there of) and the performance/creation of art (or the symbols there of) is also a evolutionary strategy in order to find a mate and make children.

Of course us humans enjoy thinking of ourselves, and humanity, as something more complex than that. At the same time sex and violence/love and death is at the core of both art and the human experience. Right now I am reading a book about evolutionary theory and one of the main points the author makes is that we have to bridge the gap between biology and the humanitarian sciences. Religion and art for example, has it's roots in evolutionary processes but has in part branched out and become so complex over time that often we forget it was created by the human brain, which was in turn formed through evolution.

Maybe that was sort of a side track, decide yourself. Truth is you can not eat your tattoos, they won't shelter you from the elements and keep you warm. (But many people have in different ways made money from making tattoos or having tattoos, to put food on the table in their cave or hut) If I was really running low on cash, say I lost my job, getting tattooed would pretty quick be had to put on hold. So I could eat and pay rent. However, I suspect most people who do get tattoo regularly, especially those LST-forum members, can probably afford to live a pretty comfy lifestyle by a global standard (or even just comparing with people in their own country) and on top of that spend money on this kind of luxury.

Sometimes I can feel guilty about it, like this money could pay for "real things" that could prove helpful. I know my parents think I should be saving money for an apartment to own, and such things, as if I wanted their way of life. Or just put money in the bank for "the future". Once my aunts man asked me how much I paid for a tattoo on my arm and when I told me he exclaimed "But that money could get you a moped!". But I don't want a moped... I said. I think many are provoked by heavily tattooed people for this reason, to different extent.

A funny scene to illustrate this happened last week. By chance I ran into my friend Olle (some people might know him as @tattoo_pilgrim on instagram) outside of Systembolaget (state owned chained of stores in Sweden, the only one who legally can sell alcohol stronger than %3,5) We ended up standing right in front of the store, talking for 10 minutes. All the time people are going into the store to spend money on alcohol. Both me and Olle have tattoos showing, and right next to me sits a Roma woman, begging the shoppers for money. On my foot next to her I have a tattoo of a sleeping bum with a cloudy speech bubble containing the acronym C.R.E.A.M. I don't know exactly how it ties to what I am writing, maybe not at all in the sense of language, but I thought it was an absurd scene to be part of.

I think most middle class people, and even working class people in some countries, can afford to spend huge sums of money on objects, interests and pursuits that are not crucial to their day to day existence. One example I often find myself using is that it is not considered weird to want to spend 20.000 euro on a car, or to lust after a watch for 500 euro. In fact it's culturally sanctioned and encouraged by advertising and other instances of our society.

For me tattooing is great joy on so many levels. I would not be the person I am today without the tattoos, impressions, thoughts and experiences I've collected since 2009 when I got my first piece. I could never have imagined then what it would spiral into. I remember the first time I formulated for my father that tattoos could be a hobby even if you are not making tattoos, or to my new friend in Italy that tattooing was art. It was strange to put those words in my mouth then, I was not sure if I really had thought it through enough. But now, years later, I know that this what I think and feel is good for me.

So spending that money and effort is all worth it. In the same way people enjoy fancy cars, travel the globe to see their favorite band perform, slave away at the gym, put hundreds of euros a month on clubbing, alcohol and drugs, and all other things that may or may not be luxurious to indulge in. And maybe in a way we are doing it because we believe that in this culture it will set us apart in a way that allow our genes to live on. So even if the acts are "un-natural" or superficial, the motivation is very human and basic. It's up for debate

Hmm.. maybe this blog post-length rant is not going anywhere really. As I wrote, this is like a loosely weaved net of ideas that is still shifting in shape and content. Feel free to discuss whatever I wrote or introduce your own ideas tied to the theme.

PS. I studied sociology for a while, but probably not enough to make any sense, perhaps you can tell D.S.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank you @mmikaoj

I hear ya, perhaps my own thoughts would not have been articulated so well !

I get the stigma too...people look at me covered in tattoos and they think I'm a high roller with a lot of disposable income. So what if it is a luxury we spend our time and money on? That's our business! What people don't get to see is that I've got an education and a respectable profession that I've earned through focus and hard work. That's part of what my tattoos represent to me (I'll explain the root of that feeling below, about my parents ultimatum) Yes, a nice house and nice things. I've been driving my one and only vehicle for the last ten years. I know exactly how much I've spent to cover myself in my tattoos and honestly if you spread that over a decade of getting tattooed it really isn't that insane. And I wouldn't change any of it. We all probably know people that spend an equal amount of time and money on their own passions...like comic books, fast motorcycles,vintage guitars, designer clothes, $50 barber haircuts every other week, cocaine habits...

Tattoos are very interesting from a social perspective...you see lots of struggling folks (who we would stereotype as having a rough time putting food on their table and roof over their head) have many tattoos. Maybe not the highest quality, but nevertheless, a tattoo is a tattoo. Rich folk have many tattoos, good and baaaad quality, some that equate it as a fashion accessory like wearing a sleeve to carrying a Luis Vutton handbag. Through history, where royalty would have exotic tattoos made after trade trips to the Orient. Nomadic people have had tattoos made for centuries. Tattooing really transcends social class and I think the whole tattooing process - from the inception of the idea of "I'm gonna put this picture on my body" to the painful experience of making the tattoo and healing it - appeals to a lot of us and gets us in touch with the human experience. It makes us feel alive. I'm just as interested (if not more) in the scratchy old tattoo the friendly homeless guy on the block made on himself 30 years ago than the rig-worker who got a neo-Japanese sleeve mish-mashed with a samurai, hanya, snake and dragons that yeah sure looks dope but doesn't really mean anything. The jail house tattoos are as equally important as my extensive parlour made ones. Everyone has got a story, I want to hear and see your story!

I laugh to myself...when I think back about the infamous parent-tattoo-ultimatum. They said if I could spend my money on the tattoo then I could surely afford paying my own way, living at home or on my own, cover room/board on top of saving for my tuition while I was a student. Perhaps if I would have got one little tattoo and got the taste of rebellion that would have been it for Bongsau's tattoos. So I waited. And waited. And saved. And waited. And got my first tattoo days after my last engineering exam. I worked hard, got a good job and secure profession and started making bank roll and suddenly my vision of being covered in tattooing wasn't out of reach. Thanks mom n dad ! haha (my dad also said when i was out living on my own, i could sit around and smoke as much dope as i wanted, but not under his roof lol, whoops!)

One thing that has always remained very important to me about tattoos...is that NOBODY can take them away from you..(with the exception of maybe a mad man with a belt sander /jk). Once that tattoo is in your skin, it's all yours. Your parents can't undo it. The bank and the tax man can't take it away from you. The government can't take them away from you. Rich or poor that tattoo is in there! Your life can go to shit in an instant but your tattoos and the stories they tell remain.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Very well said! I love my tattoos! Even the shitty one I got from my neighbor who was still learning his trade! I feel extremely lucky to know my tattooist personally and professionally. I know that he's going to do amazing work and often times he brings his daughter with him to play with mine.

Being so close to my tattooist also comes with the benefit of being able to afford bigger tattoos that would cost double what I pay for them from anyone else.

I too, want to know everyone's story! I love the art that people put on their skin and I feel thankful that I get to share my story so visibly. My parents don't really agree with my ink. My dad however loves my new chest piece while my mom is always telling me to "cover up" (which I don't ever do ). She wants me to stop getting them, but I'm only at number 5! I've got lots of canvas left to hold more stories and I cannot wait to fill it in!!

Sent from my QTAQZ3 using Tapatalk

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Tattoos are a luxury good, but they are also in a way the anti-luxury good. I hate having a lot of possessions, and I hate how society encourages us to buy new, not reduce the amount of things being put into production. Tattoos are anti-production because they are a luxury we can have, that go with us to die, and leave no additional lasting fingerprint afterwards (anyone who's had to deal with what to do with a loved one's possessions after they have passed will understand the struggle!). I like the idea of them being a statement against physical goods and against wastefulness.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Tattoos are definitely a luxury good, by definition. If any of us were to win $100,000 tomorrow, we would surely want another tattoo, probably one larger or better than we have had before (as long as enough bare skin remained).

And yet as each year passes they become less and less luxurious. Cell phones were once exorbitantly expensive and truly "luxury", now they are all but necessity in our culture and owned by many people who we would otherwise say were extremely poor around the world (most people I met in Haiti had a cell phone, though they often didn't have electricity of their own to charge them). I'm not certain, but 'poor/lower class' people in the West are probably more likely to have a tattoo than a "wealthy" person.

There are also many tribes/cultures around the world where by our standards they live in abject poverty and yet they have tattoos - they spent time and resources on them even though they aren't needed. Unless, maybe, they are on some level?

Tattoos are also unusual because they are flexible/ scaleable in a way that many goods are not. A quarter-sized bird silhouette is "a tattoo", and so is a Battle Royale full backpiece. But a Hot Wheels is not "a car" the same as a Cadillac. So classifying all tattoos in the same way (luxury/normal) isn't fully accurate.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Luxury in that I don't need them to live. I can not get tattooed and live a functional life. I won't be nearly so cool looking or feel so pretty w/my many colors..but they're not like water.

But they're a need for me in that it's a way of self expression. I have huge issues w/my appearance and feel...not good about myself. But I love my tattoos and like how they make me feel about myself.

Money wise...I am on a jewelry forum and some of the people there have crazy insane budgets, and others, like me, need to decide what's important and spend some time socking money away in order to get an heirloom worthy piece. Just like w/tattoos, you get what you pay for, and you need to research where you go. I did my research and got myself an heirloom worthy piece. Sadly I can't pass my tattoos on to my kids haha.

I do feel guilty about the money we've put into our tattoos. (and my jewelry) W/that I can tell JD if he divides the cost by the number of years we've been married, he's got me at a bargain. W/tattoos, I figure-what else can you spend that money on and have forever?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Everyone has brought up a lot of good points! I agree with them all too, no, I don't need a tattoo to survive, but I need them emotionally. This last one I got has seriously boosted my self esteem by a lot. They make me feel unique and sexy and frankly, they have helped me to over come a lot of tough shit.

The only thing I've got an issue with is the "you get what you pay for" which 98% of the time is true, but like I said before, my tattooist is a very close friend and I pay half of what he charges other clients ? I'm very lucky!

Sent from my QTAQZ3 using Tapatalk

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Man, this is a good discussion!

So from the standpoint of a tattooer, tattoos are far more necessity than luxury, if not even investment. Because not only do I need to be heavily tattooed to be taken seriously by both clients and colleagues, but also so that I can relate to people as I am working on them and assure them that I know what they're going through. And even additionally, you learn so much on a technical level from getting tattooed. So the way I see it, I need to keep getting tattooed so that I can be a better tattooer and continue the success of my livelihood. Even at this point, I have so much open space yet I'm in the process of getting one of the largest tattoos a person can get, but even then the need will remain afterward!

I think the term luxury is very relative to the individual circumstances. Also, in general, people do not consider the psychological and spiritual merit of goods and services. Does anyone publicly discuss necessity and luxury in terms of what the soul needs? Because we all know how transformative getting tattooed is, and I think many of us on this journey can say that, without a doubt, getting tattooed has improved the overall quality of our lives. Did we not need that, did it not help us learn how to be who we need to be? Perhaps it did, and perhaps it didn't, but the answer to that question will tell you whether your tattoos are a necessity or not.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Very good idea for a thread, @mmikaoj and there's so much great discussion here.

My wife is as into tattoos as I am so what I spend on tattoos isn't a contentious point in our relationship. For all the things my parents have said about my tattoos, they've never really brought up money. I recall my mom once made a comment once about how they must be expensive, but when I confirmed that without offering any specifics she didn't make any judgmental comments or say that I could be spending my money on better things or anything like that. They have all kinds of feelings about my tattoos and particularly the extent to which I'm getting covered, and surprisingly not all of them are negative anymore, but they've never tried to make me feel guilty about spending money on them. My inlaws would be super judgmental, but that's why they don't know either of us have tattoos. So basically I don't feel any guilt or have any bad feelings about spending my disposable income on tattoos, and when I think of things that I spent money on before I started getting tattooed (booze and records!), tattoos are a much better use of my time and money. Tattoos given me experiences, growth, stories, and friendships that I wouldn't have had otherwise and they've enriched my life in countless ways.

I agree that tattoos are a luxury in that they don't shelter or feed you--tattooers will rightly disagree with me here--but I like what @cltattooing is getting at above about them meeting a psychological and spiritual need. I don't think they're entirely frivolous in the way that I think that, say, buying the latest electronic gadget is. It's fascinating how tattooing is something that has been around probably as long as humans have been around and yet still persists. We all have our reasons for getting tattooed but I think there must be some deeper, primal drive down there at the root of it and that getting tattooed and being tattooed is a fundamental part of what it means to be human.

I am not so sure about tattoos being a "product" though. Yes, there's an exchange of money for a service rendered, but it's not the same as going to a car dealer and driving off the lot with a new car, or buying a TV. Obviously the process is entirely different but there's something more happening there and tattoos have a different economic character than most goods. Economics isn't my strongest subject, so somebody here who does understand economics is probably going to bust my balls here and say that I am totally wrong because I am applying economic analysis of commodities to something that isn't a commodity because I'm a fool, but it seems to me that tattoos don't have exchange value and that sets them apart from most goods we spend money on. I can't trade in my old dated tattoos for the latest most fashionable ones. It's not like art collecting in that there's no speculating on the future value of my tattoos. If we want to compare tattoos to other things we spend money on, I think tattooing shares more characteristics with spending money on education than it does with spending money on things. Or maybe it's more like spending money on a vacation or something like that? I don't know. I'm thinking out loud here and poorly articulating half-baked ideas.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
If we want to compare tattoos to other things we spend money on, I think tattooing shares more characteristics with spending money on education than it does with spending money on things. Or maybe it's more like spending money on a vacation or something like that? I don't know. I'm thinking out loud here and poorly articulating half-baked ideas.

Actually you have an excellent point - that they have no exchange value! I think that education and vacations aren't quite right as examples though - education improves your skills and a vacation is something you actively go out and do. The education is exchangeable in a sense too (you could teach someone else). And short of being there with you, others don't really SEE the results. Being tattooed IS a life experience though, so it does have that in common.

In some sense, it is like getting your hair/makeup/nails done (none of them a need either). Or maybe those guys who trim shrubs into shapes? Piercing too, which is maybe the closest comparison. A combination of service rendered, and art. But with a uniquely permanent result.

I actually lay awake last night thinking about the economics of tattooing.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
But they're a need for me in that it's a way of self expression. I have huge issues w/my appearance and feel...not good about myself. But I love my tattoos and like how they make me feel about myself.
So basically I don't feel any guilt or have any bad feelings about spending my disposable income on tattoos, and when I think of things that I spent money on before I started getting tattooed (booze and records!), tattoos are a much better use of my time and money. Tattoos given me experiences, growth, stories, and friendships that I wouldn't have had otherwise and they've enriched my life in countless ways.

...

I am not so sure about tattoos being a "product" though. Yes, there's an exchange of money for a service rendered, but it's not the same as going to a car dealer and driving off the lot with a new car, or buying a TV.

...

I think tattooing shares more characteristics with spending money on education than it does with spending money on things. Or maybe it's more like spending money on a vacation or something like that? I don't know. I'm thinking out loud here and poorly articulating half-baked ideas.

I think it's more like a medical procedure -- particularly cosmetic surgery, which is why I quoted both of you.

Cosmetic surgery isn't often viewed as 'necessary' (though in some heinous cases of disfigurement, that point is certainly arguable), but it has the potential to add immeasurable quality of life to someone's existence. Sure, there are cosmetic procedures that the majority of the population would consider 'frivolous,' but at the end of the day, the only person who can put a value on it is the person wearing the results. People spend GOBS of money of veneers, facelifts, breast implants, etc., but those also have no exchange rate (and few people these days consider that outré, barring extreme examples). Both cosmetic procedures and tattoos are tied to our self-ideation heavily.

Tattoos differ -- quite possibly from any other comparable material purchase -- because there's a whole amazing culture, with a history that feels rich, full of fascinating characters, and the time we spend actually being tattooed is as much a part of the process as anything. I know fuck-all about the history of plastic surgery, but I'm pretty sure I wouldn't consider any pre-op time with the doc to be an integral and cherished part of the experience, lol. In that sense, there's probably just no comparison!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

For me its simple, tattoos are not a necessity. I do however derive personal fulfillment from being tattooed and sharing/discussing tattoos. I have always liked/had the desire to be tattooed. I share more personally when in a setting talking or getting tattooed substantially more than I do in other settings. On occassion my personal situations actually help others. Not long ago I was talking tattoos and the talk of loosing a loved one came up and I shared my losses and my outlook on them. He let me know some weeks later that what I said really helped him along. Tattooing is a positive thing for me, maybe some people feel better with a TAG watch and it helps them with self esteem or worth. For me I appreciate tattooing and art done by them and in a very small way I feel I help them continue their craft all the while allowing me to look way cooler than I am and actually interact with people in an unguarded way.

For me that's more than a luxury .

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I think most middle class people, and even working class people in some countries, can afford to spend huge sums of money on objects, interests and pursuits that are not crucial to their day to day existence. One example I often find myself using is that it is not considered weird to want to spend 20.000 euro on a car, or to lust after a watch for 500 euro. In fact it's culturally sanctioned and encouraged by advertising and other instances of our society.

How is luxury defined? I'm not sure. It seems like even people who are barely getting by are expected to be familiar with and covet things associated with status and luxury, hence things like Target collaborations with big-name fashion houses and so forth.

If we're defining luxury simply as "a nice thing that a person could easily do without," then would it fall under the category of self-actualization re: Maslow's hierarchy of needs?

Like you, I'm also struggling to figure out how to say what I think about this question!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

@polliwog

I'm not sure if this helps clarify but I feel like what you guys are trying to get at on "the other side of the coin" is usually represented by the culture of poverty. One aspect of this is often filling your life with small trinkets that when you look at them make you feel like you have "a lot"

Of something. The snippet you quoted above is almost the first thing that came to mind when reading that and your response about it being encouraged to spend when you may not have on cars, watches, clothes, tattoos, etc. falls in line with that thinking.

It's how the people in the neighborhood I work in are on all kinds of government support with a brand new Range Rover/ bmw/ Mercedes. However I also define ALL cars as a luxury good because public transportation is available at a much more reasonable cost, and they way many (even go as far as saying most) people truly can't afford to maintain and repair a car speaks to the luxury aspect for me even if it's an old beat up Honda. The bald tires and bad breaks not being replaced says something

I liked the point made about cell phones, and I heard a very similar one made on Gavin Mcinnes' podcast. Even still I see a deep line between want and need with cell phones that people are not able to part with. I could probably still make due with that old Nokia that only had snake and sucked to text on. (Side note: got nostalgic for my old Nextel 2 way the other day. I liked that much more than texting and it was much more fun)

In my heart I feel like tattoos are a luxury and that the logic and reasoning we put behind them justifying our purchases only reinforces that for me. Reading that they emotionally support is like

The women that treat shoes as therapy, it's silly just say you really want it. (Not being sexist because I will totally blow money on vintage video games, skateboards, and most geek stuff)

I constantly contemplate taking a break from being tattooed because I feel selfish spending what I do on it. I just make sure all my bills and family get first priority and my small fund left over is put to good use

Just thoughts who knows I may be very wrong.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Evolutionarily I like to equate tattoos to the coloring on venomous animals. And the mating habits of birds. Not necessarily essential for the individual, but an inextricable part of effectively living a good life... My body doesn't need it but my soul does

@Graeme makes a good point about tattoos not having an exchange value... There is no real economic interaction between clients and tattooers except for flash. The thought of tattoos appreciating in value, though, makes me wonder how much the stuff from tattoo city and what back in the days would be worth now

To call them a luxury item is a bit silly to me... Anyone can tattoo themselves or someone else for free, with an original image or with some old flash. I guess theres kind of a division between tattoos and luxury tattoos.

Is spending thousands on a backpiece part of the human experience? Or is finding a friend/being a friend who will tattoo you part of the human experience? Or is receiving/wearing the tattoo part of the human experience whether you paid admission or snuck in?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

@mmikaoj I have got to say that you start some killer discussions man. This, alongside the conversation you opened up about big names in the industry (contentious as it was!) is what this forum is all about. It seems to me that taking refuge in the false safety of consensus is always a dangerous thing- and its through these kinds of lively debates between passionate people that we are able to better understand our relationship with tattooing. I remember reading when I first came to this forum someone say that tattoos are like currency here, and I think you are in a really good position to open up these conversations as someone who has made the effort to get a lot of rad tattoos. So I guess I'm just saying thanks, really.

I think the topic of whether tattoos should be seen as a luxury product akin to buying a car or a watch is really interesting, I have to admit to myself that I come at this from a very biased perspective. I'm not into cars or watches, so for me there is far more intrinsic value to a tattoo, as others have mentioned, the craftsmanship and and history of tattooing gives it a rootsy charm that I just don't see in other mass produced 'luxury' items. However I'm sure there are people who are super into all kinds of things that seem dumb to me but are beautiful and significant to them. I have a friend who is crazy about raw denim, spends thousands of pounds a year importing different weaves from Japan and charting the way the denim ages with wear. Now to me that is bordering on the autistic but for him its got all this significance and it makes up a large part of his identity- he sees another bloke on the bus who is wearing a pair of jeans by FullCount and they start talking about fades and all kinds of stuff!

But even as I type I can't help feeling that there is some kind of extra significance involved. I had booked in to get tattooed by Steve Byrne at the London Convention last year, but was forced to cancel my booking at the last minute due to a family tragedy. For a long time afterwards I felt intensely guilty about not just getting tattooed but having tattoos, as if in the midst of what was going on I was just this walking monument to my own narcissism! As time has gone by that feeling has faded and I'm actually on the brink in the process on confirming some large scale work with Paul Dobleman which will require a lot of travel and expense. But its a consideration that is always somewhere in the back of my mind, because unlike jeans which eventually will wear out, tattoos are a permanent reminder of something you decided on purely for your own benefit and sense of self. And its been a good lesson to learn for me that there is nothing wrong with that- as Virginia Elwood says 'its for me'.

I don't know if that makes any kind of sense but i'm really enjoying everyones ruminations.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
How is luxury defined? I'm not sure. It seems like even people who are barely getting by are expected to be familiar with and covet things associated with status and luxury, hence things like Target collaborations with big-name fashion houses and so forth.

If we're defining luxury simply as "a nice thing that a person could easily do without," then would it fall under the category of self-actualization re: Maslow's hierarchy of needs?

Like you, I'm also struggling to figure out how to say what I think about this question!

Wikipedia says that a luxury good is "a good for which demand increases more than proportionally as income rises, and is a contrast to a "necessity good", for which demand increases proportionally less than income." So in an economic sense we've been mostly using "luxury" wrong because there isn't a correlation between income and desire for tattoos.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Wikipedia says that a luxury good is "a good for which demand increases more than proportionally as income rises, and is a contrast to a "necessity good", for which demand increases proportionally less than income." So in an economic sense we've been mostly using "luxury" wrong because there isn't a correlation between income and desire for tattoos.

But there IS a correlation between income and ability to actually get tattoos. Demand isn't just wanting something, it's that 'want' being acted upon by offering something (money) in exchange for it.

When talking about tattoos, I think we do have to distinguish between different types:

Scratcher/DIY/"free" tattoos are an inferior good - That is, people will want less of them as their income increases.

Professionally done tattoos are a luxury good - as our income increases we (meaning people who purchase tattoos) will spend proportionally more of our income on tattoos.

For example, if at a given yearly salary we may purchase 1 tattoo per year at a cost of $x. Given a $10,000 raise/bonus, we will now purchase a larger tattoo worth $2x, or two perhaps two or more tattoos. So we've at least doubled our spending on tattoos despite our income not doubling.

Tattoos run into problems that other luxury goods do not though. If one's income increases high enough, there's really no limit to demand on something like boats or shoes or watches. Even if you have bought the most expensive/luxurious one available, you can always buy another one. No matter how much we like tattoos, we really only get one chance to buy a full back piece or body suit (smaller areas can be covered up or blasted over, but you know what I mean).

Looking into this area gave me the chance to learn about Veblen goods too - items whereby the demand increases because the price is higher. I think that this is possible with tattoos - this one being the one that comes to mind. Would Ms. Johansson have chosen that tattoo if it were done for $60 by somebody's friend's bro? Probably not.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

^ true, there's a reason I'm getting (the majority of) my tattoos in my forties. I couldn't afford this stuff when I was younger. I did have a desire for them, but I'm glad I waited as opposed to going cheap. It's for sure a want, not a need... like so many other things we buy in life. Clothing may be a need, but do I need 20 pairs of jeans? I seemed to think so at the times of purchase. If art is a luxury product so be it. Nothing to defend. We like art. We like a certain type of art, many types of art. Art rules!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Luxury or not there is a particular stigma about money and tattoos that doesn't seem to apply to other goods and services. I had a friend (who has tattoos and knows what they cost) say to me when I started my sleeve something like, "You guys must be doing pretty well," which kinda stuck in my craw. I mean would anybody say that to someone if they pulled up in a Lexus instead of a sh*tbox car? Both take you from point A to B. Why go out to dinner when you can just eat rice & beans from the bulk bin for every meal?

For me the experience of getting tattooed is definitely worth something -- like going to a spa or something. But when you get a massage you don't walk away with anything except a good feeling and that fades. There are also few things in life that are truly one-of-a-kind other than a painting or a sculpture, but with tattoos you carry the art with you all the time.

As far as the money goes, I do feel guilty about it sometimes for reasons I can't quite explain. Then again since I quit drinking and smoking weed, tattoos are pretty much my only vice, and if I added up the $$$ spent on booze and certain illicit substances, I can say with some certainty I'm well ahead of the game!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

To me they are a luxury in the sense that ... let's be clear ... paying the mortgage or paying for my son's needs (yes, his wants as well as his needs) are ahead.

I have a few paintings that have accrued in value since I bought em- enough that I guess they count as an investment. I hesitate to say tattoos could be an investment in that sense ... for obvious reasons. No re-sale value.

But...

I would prioritise spending my truly disposable income on them because, as Graeme said, they're gonna be there till death. You get "use" out of your tattoos daily. So much enjoyment and good memories.

In terms of their perceived value: It's interesting to me that most people here (Ireland) don't consciously recognise the cost. When I see someone with big work then - if they aren't obviously patronising scratchers - then I know they are *probably* either someone with a good enough income that they can afford it out of disposable income OR someone who can budget and exercise restraint to save up. Either way, I admire / approve of that.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.