Get your lower back inked at this weekend’s Seattle Tattoo Expo — but don’t call it a ‘tramp stamp’

Aug 19, 2022, 9:32 AM
Photo by Edwin Gonzalez on Unsplash...
Photo by Edwin Gonzalez on Unsplash

This week, 25 years ago, I was a 17-year-old college freshman, freshly launched from the nest, drunk on freedom, and equipped with a fake ID. And the way I chose to celebrate my newfound independence has stuck with me forever: I got a tattoo.

I chose a moon and star design off the wall at Sacred Art Tattoo in Chico, California, and for a mere $80, money earned making sandwiches over the summer, I forever branded my lower back with what is most commonly called a tramp stamp. Yes, friends. This week is my 25th Tramp-Stamp-Aversary.

“I don’t have a problem with tramp stamps, I think they’re great,” said Jeff Cornell, tattoo artist and owner of Seattle’s Hidden Hand Tattoo. “What I have a problem with is the term ‘tramp stamp’ and the son of a $*&^% that invented it. Pardon my French. That area of the body is lovely and decorating it is beautiful. It’s a wonderful place to put a tattoo. Whoever coined that phrase turned a whole lot of people off of what would have been a great idea for them. It made a lot of women feel diminished and marginalized and insulted by way of a derogatory term that I find to be misogynistic and rather offensive. To you, and many other women that have felt like we’re all laughing at them, we’re not. We’re not. We’re all wishing we could find the guy who coined the phrase so we can beat him down and tell him to shut up. ”

Cornell, and Hidden Hand, are the organizers of this year’s Seattle Tattoo Expo, happening all this weekend at Seattle Center. The expo has been a Seattle tradition for over twenty years but, like so many events, it took a two-year hiatus because of the pandemic. Which is not to say that people haven’t been getting tattoos.

“The big trend coming out of the pandemic is so many people getting tattoos,” said Cornell. “Because for so long people had nothing to do. This was their social outlet. This was their cathartic outlet. There weren’t any rock shows happening, there weren’t any bars to go to, there weren’t any restaurants to go to. So if they wanted to go hang out with some people and feel like they were doing something and having fun, we were it, man! You could come to the tattoo shop and hang out with us, listen to our music, get yourself a tattoo, have an experience, and leave with something that you get to keep.”

Cornell’s shop closed for three months in 2020, but since reopening it’s never had a Covid outbreak. And now that the world has opened back up, the trend doesn’t seem to be slowing down.

“So far, I haven’t seen any indication of that happening,” Cornell said. “We’ve stayed very busy.”

If you’re planning on getting a tattoo, and haven’t been inked for a while, prepare to see higher prices.

“One of the bummers, it costs more for us to do our job,” said Cornell. “We deal so much in medical supplies; the gloves, the bandaging, the barrier films, the ointments, and the sterilization pouches, the cleaning solutions, they’ve all just gone up tremendously in price. I think that a lot of people out there might think that we just saw an opportunity to raise our prices, but we quite simply had to. For example, just the gloves that we use, we go through at a madman’s pace, they tripled in price. That’s our gloves that we have to change over and over and over.”

There are many articles out there about people getting pandemic-themed tattoos — a roll of toilet paper, various people and things wearing surgical masks, bubbly bars of soap, and messages of hand washing. But Jeff says he hasn’t seen anything like that.

As for me, my underage, $80, lower back experience has scared me off of tattoos for life. I don’t trust myself to choose a tattoo that I won’t eventually regret.

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Get your lower back inked at this weekend’s Seattle Tattoo Expo — but don’t call it a ‘tramp stamp’