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Booed, Screwed & Tattooed… The Sparkly Decline of Tattoo Art

Dallas Boyd
Dallas Boyd

A friend and I rocked up to the movies on a Tuesday night to check out whatever was on.

The movie we watched began with some sort of disturbing pop music montage and Zac Efron. (“This better not be god dam High School Musical!” we said.) In the movie, squeaky clean Zac Efron gets called a douche bag for wearing a bedazzled Ed Hardy t-shirt. It planted a niggly little seed in the back of my head, which has been niggling ever since. 

Ed Hardy - who is he? Donald Ed Hardy is a tattoo artist from California, who, like most tattooists, doesn’t look very scary. He set about publishing a series of books called “Tattootime” which helped popularize tattoos. It was not long before he was approached by a company who wanted to create a clothing line based on his awesome art. Of course this is something you say yes to… but did he realise 99% of these clothes would be covered in sparkles??? 
Christian Audigier (previously of Von Dutch) has been producing the high-end Ed Hardy line and has been marketing the clothing and accessories to celebrities. I hold him responsible for the tacky Rhinestone overkill. Thanks to him, amazing tattoo artwork has declined into something that even dorks like Zac Efron get hassled for wearing. 
I’m all for mixing fashion with tattoos, in a confused Keith Richards, I-mean-for-my-hair-to-look-like-this sort of way, but I feel like we’ve just lost The Beatles to Paris Hilton fans. Very sold out. 
When did tattoo art start to decline into something less?
During my last year of High School I pursued what I fondly refer to as “piss around subjects” - design and photography. (I failed both, but still got an A Bursary, thanks to being a geek in general). My design portfolio was a work inspired by music and tattoo art. I contacted my all time favourite artist for inspiration, Martin Emond, who was working with the NZ Illicit family. He actually took the time to write back to me. He told me, “I don't have any advice for you because what you are doing is it. There is no right or wrong path , just the one that you end up being on at the time. Keep up the love and keep looking for things in unusual places that keep you excited and inspired.”
A few months later I found out that he’d killed himself. 
What do you do when you lose your inspiration? Even Illicit has changed since Martin left. Illicit Clothing, once produced to advertise the artwork of Emond, Misery, and Co. has now become less about the awesome designs and more about lame attempts to sell shirts with some swear word scrawled over it. In both of these cases, with the Ed Hardy and Illicit lines, it has become less about the art and more about money.
I don’t care what I wear.
I just want my bogans back.

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