Thoughts on tattoos?

August 16, 2020, 11:49 PM · Lately I've been wondering what other people think about tattoos. With the younger generation of musicians and pre-professional students making great use of social media platforms, I've started to see a few of these musicians with tattoos. A former violin teacher of mine even has gorgeous half sleeves. I guess I'm asking: would people, particularly in the classical music realm, see that as unprofessional or a turn off? If you were going to attend a recital or a competition and the soloist had visible tattoos, would that in any way influence your perception of them as a person? I'll note that I'm talking about tastefully done ink work, not anything disrespectful or crude.

Replies (64)

Edited: August 17, 2020, 12:47 AM · They never appealed to me.
But I like the flowers on Billy Connolly's feet.
August 17, 2020, 1:03 AM · It has never been my thing, and I live in NYC, and not much of a prude. But it shouldn't matter, and my opinion should not sway you one way or the other.

Bear in mind many workplaces have certain (generally hypocritical) standards where you would not get hired if your skin showed a tattoo. Certain "conservative" airlines are (were?) very strict about this, though I did see a crew member with a tatto once (likely not a very strict airline.)

In terms of classical, you really do not have the chance to show off tattoos onstage (remember, we will have concerts back at some point) unless you are an outlier. If it shows there, I would deem it "distracting", but considering that some players move around so much regardless, it may not be a big deal. As an orchestra member, I cannot imagine being able to show off tattoos unless these covered your forearms or neck for the ladies.

The more conservative your audience, the more of a problem it will be. Some teachers are very strict and/or opinionated and may not take you seriously if you wore tattoos. I have seen it happen. That said, in my experience, people who wear them likely do not care what others think.

I would advise against them unless it's something that you want to be defined for, and do not mind the possible consequences. I do not generally care what others think within logical limits, but these are something I do not need to express myself creatively. You may be different. Choose what is best for you.

August 17, 2020, 1:29 AM · Classical music is one of the more conservative realms of art, but luckily, with Corona, all those stodgy old people will be dead soon, clearing the way for the 5 millenials left in the audience, who will think about how fun it is to actually go to a classical concert and will find your sleeve to be relatable.

All seriousness aside, I think it's one of those things that people who have a problem will just have to deal with. I like to close my eyes for a variety of reasons, but at least a tattoo just sits there on the skin and doesn't dance around and pull faces like some performers, and yet, even with the ones making obnoxious faces, I always have the ability to close my eyes and really pay attention to what I actually came to the concert for, which is music.

I wouldn't worry, and presumably, you are starting off with somewhere you can cover if you think the vibe is too conservative. I would get "LOVE DONT" Cape Fear-style on my knuckles.

August 17, 2020, 3:05 AM · It would definitely be a turnoff to me, in any realm. But hey, I'm over 50 years old.
Edited: August 17, 2020, 3:53 AM · I like classical aesthetics. I don’t like piercings nor tattoos. But skill is independent from aesthetics. Does it influence my perspective? I don’t think so. I try to appreciate good music, regardless of the looks of the performer. Will it influence opinion of most classical music critics? Probably. It’s a very conservative field, and tattoos are typically seen as rebellious. As an example, the organist Cameron Carpenter was strongly criticised because of his hair styles. And he didn’t even have a tattoo...
Edited: August 17, 2020, 8:03 AM · If you are a fine musician you probably also have a fine taste and that will translate in the kind of tattoo decoration you choose to apply to your skin. At that point it will not be better or worse than any other kind of decoration you choose to wear, like earrings, bracelets, style of clothing, etc. What I want to say is, it will be you as a whole, not the tattoo in itself, that people will react to. Of course the sorry thing about tattoos is that they are permanent (as far as I understand), which makes them very much less adaptable to circumstances, e.g., the kind of music you play, the kind of audience you play to, the style and color of clothing you wear that moment, etc. So I personally find tattoos not offputting but rather very inconvenient, and I sometimes cannot avoid thinking "why did she do such a dumb thing as getting a tattoo". My apologies in advance :-)
August 17, 2020, 8:53 AM · Jean, apart from being able to appreciate what a beautiful woman looks like (and always better without a tattoo!), my taste for art and landscape is appalling or non-existent. But I like to think that I am at least a reasonable musician with at least a reasonable taste in music. So I can't really agree with what you have said.
I would say that the only good tattoo is the Edinburgh Military one.
August 17, 2020, 9:28 AM · I don't care for tattoos but then I'm in the over 50 crowd and presumably will be dead soon from Covid-19 (thanks, Christian).

I think this is a generational thing; many of my younger relatives have tattoos while none in my generation do. My mother had a similar reaction to pierced ears but I got mine pierced as soon as I turned 18--also generational. I do sometimes see things that make me think "why would you do that" but as far as influencing my perception of someone as a musician, no.

Edited: August 17, 2020, 9:38 AM · As to generational, it's not just about mores: when I was young there was no hygiene, and in my naval town, the only tattooists around in the 1960s and 1970s were the ones who did sailors and bikers. A friend was a nurse and they traced his patient's 1985 hepatitis (Australia antigen) to a tattoo he had done in 1965.
Edited: August 17, 2020, 10:00 AM · Mary Ellen wrote:
" I don't care for tattoos but then I'm in the over 50 crowd and presumably will be dead soon from Covid-19 (thanks, Christian).

I am from that generation too, and we most commonly referred to them as "tramp stamps" for various reasons, some valid, and others less so.

When my daughters wanted to get tattoos prior to the age of 18, (which was kind of a thing in that era) I said "over my dead body", as I also did with some other things they had contemplated.
When they legally became adults, they were free to do whatever they wanted to do. Some of their choices have worked out, or even been brilliant, and others have not worked out so well.

August 17, 2020, 10:04 AM · They look stupid. And 30 years down the line, you need expensive laser treatment to remove them, because they stretch out and fade like an old pair of underpants.
August 17, 2020, 10:16 AM · In the more distant past, tattoos and other permanent body markings were used for tribal identity, ownership of slaves, or identifying criminals.
Edited: August 17, 2020, 10:37 AM · Tattoos are becoming increasingly popular. Among my friends (we’re all in our late 20s/early 30s) approximately half of them have some kind of tattoo. Also, if I remember correctly, all of the ones that are tattooed have finished some kind of superior education, while none of the friends who didn’t attend university is tattooed. They all say that I’m a strange guy for not liking tattoos and being clean shaven, but of course, they’re all wrong, and they know it.
Edited: August 17, 2020, 11:22 AM · Gordon, was the patient suffering chronic symptoms in 1985, or was it just that his blood was australia antigen positive and everyone had to treat it with respect? Tenofovir for chronic hepatitis B is not cheap (Some $4000 per annum in the USA, last time I heard - They try to make it available in the third world at a cheaper rate)!
Miguel: and I know it too.
Edited: August 17, 2020, 3:47 PM · Mary Ellen, the stats seem to really hit populations in their 70s. We need you out there making music (hopefully not putting your health on the line)

You know, now that I think about it, so much of classical music is about marketing, not to take away from the musicianship. Speaking of Cameron Carpenter, I went to see him play the Poulenc Organ Concerto, because when am I going to be able to hear that piece? Beforehand, I saw some promotional videos that were almost comical in their pandering to some kind of liberace-style edginess, with all kinds of blurbs about taking classical music in new directions and about being avant-garde.

When it came time for the concert, he played fine, though I wasn't blown away. The contrast between the marketing and the performance was silly, with the normalcy of the playing rendering the whole marketing exercise to be absurdly banal. I don't know who was taken by that, but I imagine that there were people that thought they were witnessing something really out there. Hahn-Bin is another performer that seems to have a perfectly adequate technique and is largely an empty marketing exercise. Is Hahn-Bin in the upper-echelon of soloist? I think not. Is Hahn-Bin doing something revolutionary? All the makeup doesn't really reflect anything particularly groundbreaking in the music-making. (Although maybe Hahn-Bin, ahem, Amadeus Leopold, has evolved in the years since becoming somewhat of a classical-music media-darling, so my judgment could be unfair).

I'm not saying this to be cynical, but I guess if you have the chops, then the marketing can serve to actually expand your reach to a younger crowd. Yuja Wang doesn't have sleeves, but her marketing probably skews a little younger, and she has the chops. So if you decide to get tatted-up, then consider the more subtle marketing possibilities, but don't lean your career on them instead of playing at the highest level. The Colorado Symphony had some concerts a few years ago that were tied in with pot-shops and marketed to tie in with consuming, so while I saw it as silly pandering, maybe it reached people that otherwise wouldn't have considered it.

August 17, 2020, 3:36 PM · Christian, that's it, classical music concerts that smell like rock concerts from the 1970s! Transform the genre! :-)

I thought more than one person here suggested not wearing nail polish to auditions. I can't imagine tattoos helping in a scenario like that.

August 17, 2020, 3:42 PM · I'm over 70 and a Navy veteran. I don't have any skin-art but knew a lot of sailors and others who did. They are interesting as they are both a form of statement about the person as well as a method to incorporate something important to you into your body.

While some people make statements that are designed to be offensive most skin-art is a form of expression about the individual. It is a form of "magic" that brings the wearer some special powers. It is also a very ancient practice of humans - Utse, who died a very long time ago in the alps, had skin-art. What it meant to him, we will never know.

Of course if you want to be a public person in the classical music business right now, sporting skin-art that is visible while you are clothed isn't a really good idea - even with blind auditions.

I had employees with skin-art and most of them were just as good at their work as those who did not. Then again, I selected them to work in my group based on their skills not their skin. We were all back-office folks that the public and our customers never met.

August 17, 2020, 6:24 PM · Neither tattoos nor nail polish would have any effect on the outcome of a professional audition.
August 18, 2020, 12:29 AM · I'm OK with tattoos on other people but I don't want one. I've considered that I could get a small red dot put on my back just below the belt line with a small "RESET" written under it, but that probably won't happen.
Edited: August 18, 2020, 4:50 AM · @John "was the patient suffering chronic symptoms in 1985, or was it just that his blood was australia antigen positive and everyone had to treat it with respect? Tenofovir for chronic hepatitis B is not cheap"

Do you mean chronic or acute? I only have a vague recall of this. I think my friend just said (probably in the context of a discussion about incubation periods and HIV) "we've had a patient with Australia antigen, and it has been traced to a tattoo he had done 20 years ago."

Afaicr, he was sent home without treatment (?) on the grounds that, if his wife hadn't caught it yet, then she was probably immune. I have no idea if his symptoms were acute - probably not, if he wasn't treated - chronic or non-existent, or even why he was admitted to hospital.

Edited: August 18, 2020, 11:22 PM · @Joel: "In the more distant past, tattoos and other permanent body markings were used for tribal identity, ownership of slaves, or identifying criminals." Yes, nowadays it seems to be either "tribal" or "individual" (often got from a pattern-book, lol). When Maori tattoos became popular I mocked people by asking which Maori tribe they belonged to.

If this isn't too tangential, in Herodotus there's the story of Xerxes "branding" the Hellepont, indicating its slavery to X, not X's slavery to the elements. This is interesting because Herodotus actually used the Greek verb for "tattoo" (stizzein), but everyone translates it as "brand". I like to think the idea of impossibly tattooing water makes more sense as a madman's action, whereas the branding would have been merely symbolic and boring.

Edited: August 18, 2020, 6:28 AM · @Mary: "Neither tattoos nor nail polish would have any effect on the outcome of a professional audition."

And someone has mentioned piercings, and the truth is there's a big spectrum of body modification and psychopathology ranging from the harmless rose tattooed on your buttock to beyond schizophrenic body image problems. Where do you draw the line? Luckily, when there are problems, the body mods aren't the only indication. I didn't know Dennis Avner was dead, but it shouldn't surprise.

August 18, 2020, 4:47 AM · I agree with Mary, tattoos, polish, piercings, have absolutely no bearing on talent, auditions, or quality of the musician.

Body modifications are highly personal, and really are not there to be judged by others.

Edited: August 18, 2020, 4:53 AM · I had a gf for a while who had had her lipline tattooed at the age of 50. That was popular for a little while. I thought it was a little bit tacky.
August 18, 2020, 6:31 AM · I've no problem with tatoos - indeed have a quite large one myself - but as a professional travel demand modeler most have no idea it exists. There are many reasons why people make this choice as several have pointed out. It shouldn't have any bearing on the perception of the talent or quality of the musician.

Now, I might be internally judging the quality of the tatooist who did the work - but that's another topic entirely. It might also get the attention of some of the younger generation who seem to have the idea that classical music is too old and stodgy for them.

August 18, 2020, 6:38 AM · Thank you Gordon. In most of the third world, almost everyone is positive for Hepatitis A, which also spreads through infected food, and, whilst worth avoiding (and, nowadays, getting vaccinated against), is rarely fatal. In some parts, Hepatitis B is also endemic. Both forms are generally symptomless in children, but, the older you are when you catch them, get more severe, B being frequently fatal. In a small proportion of infections (much smaller than with Hepatitis C), B can become chronic, resulting in progressive liver damage. Life expectancy in such patients is increased by administration of tenofovir (C requires different drugs, because it is a totally different class of virus).
Why do I know all this? A personal friend of mine has to take tenofovir for the rest of his life, unless something better comes along.
August 18, 2020, 8:02 AM · I've been told that in the British Royal Navy a visible tattoo on a sailor's arm would be a bar to that person's promotion to officer rank. The reason, apparently, is that in the Officers' Mess short sleeves would often be the norm when dining.

I agree with John Rokos's comment about the Edinburgh Military Tattoo.

August 18, 2020, 8:13 AM · I don't mind, I don't care. I personally don't have one or want one.
Edited: August 18, 2020, 9:37 AM · I've no idea about the navy (or officers). I come from a naval town, but my father was a technician in the Air Force. Although my uncle was a marine in Burma (before 1962, I guess), but he never talked about it. My father has no tattoos. I don't know about my uncle.
Edited: August 18, 2020, 9:54 AM · As far as I can see, a tattoo ranges in price from a good set of strings to a good carbon bow (full sleeve £1500). No contest! (lol) Hell, £1500 is twice what my violin cost!
August 18, 2020, 10:37 AM · Parts of the world will reject anyone with a tattoo-- Japan is very twitchy about them, for example, and you may be ejected from a spa if you show one. There may also be branches of the military that won't accept certain kinds of tattoos.

Other than that, it appears to be a nearly-harmless waste of time and money for most. The few good ones aren't fascinating enough to grab my attention.

August 18, 2020, 12:01 PM · 40 year old professional here...I have tattoos on both of my upper arms and my calves. I always have them covered for any performance as I feel the classical music world isn't as accepting. I could be wrong but I always just cover as to not even have the issue brought up.

With that said, I am having them removed ASAP. I want them gone and wish I never had gotten them :)

August 18, 2020, 12:07 PM · Tattoos, not to be judged by others? I disagree. What other reason is there for someone to alter the outward appearance of their body? Except maybe in the cases where the tat is a small one in remembrance of a loved one who passed away or something along those lines.

Nobody's getting tattoos to admire in the mirror, anyway.

August 18, 2020, 12:16 PM · Graffiti.
August 18, 2020, 3:08 PM · Stephen, et al.,

Interesting that you bring up Japan. Skin art in Japan has a very long and not wonderful history. Historically outlaws got skin-art as part of their identification and it is prevalent to this day in the outlaw segment of Japanese society. FWIW: there are public paths where everyone has skin-art. If you happen upon one by accident, bow politely, get dressed and leave quietly. That happened to me once in Kyoto.

That being said, there are young people today that aren't in the criminal class but get small patches of skin-art. As in the rest of the world, it is mostly about incorporating some power into your body. I know one young Japanese woman who has a Totoro tattoo because the character means something special to her. Totoro is a magical cartoon character that is a protector of children.

August 18, 2020, 3:47 PM · I've read through this thread and I'm kind of wondering why it should matter whether a person's skin coloration is intentional or not. I'll bet there are those who find tattoos "off-putting" who would feel (but perhaps not say) the same about someone with visible port-wine birth marks or vitiligo. Classical music is predicated on the celebration of aesthetic ideals -- I get that. But as musicians and music-lovers shouldn't we also be about celebrating our common humanity?

Now if the OP is asking whether getting non-concealable tattoos might be harmful toward career as a violinist, I think the answer is definitely yes because of the systemic prejudice that is on full display right here. And the same applies to many careers, which is why us dads generally advise our daughters against getting them.

Full disclosure: I don't have any tattoos or piercings, but I do enjoy watching Nigel Kennedy.

August 18, 2020, 4:16 PM · I also have no tattoos and no interest in getting one, although I have thought that when getting married, a tattooed wedding ring would seem to be an obvious thing to do (do you dare to fill the crossword puzzle out in pen?!), but I always get a laugh out of the classical-music world's reflexive conservatism, although it never surprises me.

What a weird world of art that people choose to participate in - Beautiful, humane and frozen in amber.

The term that springs to mind for me is "the narcissism of small differences".

August 18, 2020, 8:53 PM · I appreciate the variety of responses in this thread. For the record, I do have tattoos on my left arm, from shoulder to elbow, which were carefully thought out and planned with a fantastic artist. I intend on having my other arm done in the future since they are my preferred choice of personal expression and the designs I choose have a specific meaning to me. Neither my current teacher nor my orchestra director have had negative things to say about it, and during undergrad I’ve performed in at least one recital showing them. However, I usually wear 3/4 or long sleeves anyway because 1) I’m always freezing and would rather perform while being too hot than too cold, and 2) I don’t care to show them off just for the sake of showing them off. Personally, I don’t believe it matters when it comes to evaluating someone’s performance or artistic capabilities, whether the tattoos are concealable or not.
August 18, 2020, 10:55 PM · Tattoos are like boats, the best time is the day you acquired them, and the day you got rid of them!
Edited: August 19, 2020, 1:55 AM · George makes an interesting point. Tattoos aren't just about personal adornment (the pictures on my wall get changed fairly regularly) but something deeper, a statement of personal identity and membership of a clan or minority group. "Incorporating some power into your body"? Yes, in some cases (by no means all!) an implicit threat like openly carrying a gun.

Why after hundreds of years during which they were marginalized have tattoos suddenly become so much more prevalent in western culture? In the more recent past one's mode of attire has been considered statement enough. I'm sure someone is writing a thesis on it as we speculate.

August 19, 2020, 3:02 AM · Tani: Of course, tattoos have anything to do with skill and artistic capability. No one would say that a heavily tattooed athlete has less skill because of that (is Messi a worse footballer because of having tattoos?). But classical music is a very strict field. And at least today, tattoos are frowned upon. I also think it will progressively change, as society does. Young people from today will be the critics of tomorrow.

If you wear 3/4 sleeves, you still have a good margin to enjoy your tattoos without them being noticed.

August 19, 2020, 6:39 AM · I have tattoos. They're fairly common in more than one of my de facto tribes. When in mixed company I wear long sleeves, as would be the case if I attended a classical concert, let alone played in one. (Granted the odds are heavily against the latter ever happening.)

Edited: August 19, 2020, 7:37 AM · If anything will lead to a shrinking future for classical music, just read these responses.
My daughter is doing an evening session tonight with
Greenwood Junior camp featuring Randall Goosby.
20 years ago, and even now there are people who would ‘feel’,
not likely say, that he does not ‘fit’.
One of the most disturbing things I have noticed as my daughter
became involved in this field is the oppressiveness of expectations of looks, dress, etc. Where are the young female players refusing to be dolled up and choosing pants. Why does it seem like female players in general (and male to some extent) need to meet some unspoken level of conventional attractiveness? This along with the transparent economic hurdles, should give us pause.
In whatever area of life, we should expect more of ourselves.
The OP asked whether it would negatively affect a career. Possibly, but that doesn’t make it defensible.

Edited: August 19, 2020, 12:18 PM · It might seem like these are disparate ideas, and trigger warning for people, I'm about to whip out some wokeness ;-), but classical music has something akin to a purity culture, which really might seem like innocuous "high standards", or garden variety snobbery, but is deeper penetrating, and has bigger effects. It's the root system as it were.

Look at the history of the Vienna Phil, who only very recently seems to have made their audition process fully blind, after years of having a final audition round that was not blind, and magically having no female and no non-european players (except harpists), and using whatever phrenological calculations to justify it, where now they are starting to hire women, because they have very very recently made their audition process fully blind. Of course, I've read a call recently that the blind audition process may be an impediment, and that an audition process that explicitly seeks to focus on hiring qualified people of color might be an additional step to address the imbalances throughout the system, and while I understand that call, I'm not sure it's a widespread one, so I won't comment further on that.

Now look at the case of one Anne Akiko Meyers, complaining high up on her perch, with her soloist career, her Vieuxtemps Del Gesu and formerly her 2 Strads at the same time (Isn't it every player's dream to play 2 Strads at the same time?), complaining about the mere existence of a concerto and scholarship competition (The Sphinx Competition) that seeks to give performance opportunities and scholarships to communities that have long been under-served by the classical music system. Why would someone who is half-Asian not feel a certain solidarity? Does she not feel solidarity with all the excellent Asian players that got screened in the last portion of the Vienna Phil's process for years? It's a reminder that even success stories under such a system can feel like they just pulled themselves up by their bootstraps (even though they usually started with well-to-do parents and a myriad of other accidents of fortune along the way) and that others should just enjoy the "meritocracy". So while Anne Akiko Meyers' playing is fine (I've seen her live), she wouldn't be my personal "top-selling artist" based on what I've seen. Sour grapes is additionally a petty look for someone with the biggest vineyard in town.

Now look at the various sex abuse scandals, like William Preucil in Cleveland, pretty much the entire Menuhin School for decades, and many other ones that have been open secrets at various institutions, but have largely simmered under the surface with the aid of various administrators and middle-managers wielding influence to gaslight victims. These things are emergent phenomena from a culture that prizes adherence to certain strict (unwritten) norms, that has long valued the romantic greatness and superiority of men over women, of whiteness over diversity, of conformity over diversity, and blind deference to the rich and powerful over all else.

There is enough petty bureaucracy throughout the system masquerading as it's own aesthetic, or as a sort of moral correctness or prestige, that has so many musicians, whether at various schools or at just about every music competition, or at many prestigious orchestras, spending probably about as much time on music as on politics and intrigue. Of course, you can surely find pockets of real collaboration and thoughtful communities, but just follow the money and the prestige. The best a lot of people can do in such a system is just keep their heads down and mind their own business, but that doesn't change the system.

You can label me a conspiracist, but these things keep happening. How do we change it?

Edited: August 19, 2020, 12:41 PM · Steve asked, "Why after hundreds of years during which they were marginalized have tattoos suddenly become so much more prevalent in western culture?"

Perhaps because the safety of installing a tattoo has improved a lot. It's still not entirely without risk, but it's a lot better than it used to be (doi: 10.3238/arztebl.2016.0665)

Word-replacement is a very incisive way to drill into prejudice. When you see a comment like "classical music is strict and people with tattoos are frowned upon," you should see how it sounds if "people with tattoos" is replaced with "Asians" or "Jews" or "women."

August 19, 2020, 12:48 PM · Mr. Lesniak,

Thanks for your comments above.

We may have progressed a lot, but much remains to be achieved. Further, the hypocrisy in the arts is appalling-sometimes many of these folks claim they believe in diversity, yet deep down hold tight to age-old beliefs towards inherent ethnic advantages/disadvantages that do not exist, were all things equal (which sadly, rarely they are.)

I have encountered violinists that think that some ethnicities are "naturally lazy". I hate hiw bigoted humans can be. Sometimes it is a big blind spot on an otherwise decent human being, but these false "facts" (in their minds) keep being perpetuated over generations.

I do not know what the aforementioned violinist really believes: perhaps she is truly sorry. Sometimes people are not aware of how offensive the "standard" beliefs they have been led to adopt since childhood are, and negatively affect innocent lives.

As for abusers, it is so infuriating that I won't make the pejorative comment I was about to state. May all cases be brought to light. Great artistic reputation does not matter.

Best Wishes to all.


August 19, 2020, 3:18 PM · It's one thing (and not necessarily bigoted, in my view) to hold the opinion that organizations like the Sphinx Competition are not helping us advance the causes of diversity and equal opportunity. (I do not hold this opinion.)

It's just a little annoying to hear it from someone rich enough to finance the Sphinx Competition many times over.

August 21, 2020, 11:11 AM · Apparently nearly 40% of 18-29 year olds have at least one tattoo (Pew data), so it's definitely generationally popular.

People who are old and stodgy -- i.e. most of the current classical music audience -- may negatively perceive tattoos.

For anyone in a public-facing occupation, it's probably wise to avoid blatantly visible body modifications that can't be covered up.

Edited: August 21, 2020, 7:14 PM · I very rarely (but have) seen a tattoo that was attractive, never mind enhancing one's appearance. They don't bother me in the sense of being judgemental of those who for whatever reason chose to permanently adorn their body in such fashion (I served for over 27 yrs in the Navy) but I usually feel that it is a shame when someone spoils an otherwise perfect body and often wonder why one would do such a thing (I've seen many sailors waking up with a tattoo and a terrible hangover though!). In certain cultures (we live in a multi cultural society), tattoo wearing can be associated with criminal gang elements (such as Japan I beleive) and can certainly lead to prejudice. The classical music audience in general I would venture to guess is perhaps more prejudiced in that regards than some, and unless an artist is extraordinarily talented, he/she would very likely be frawned upon and/or discriminated against wearing blatantly visible tattoos. My thoughts... think hard about what there is to be gained by getting a tattoo and save the money for a good bow instead.
Edited: August 22, 2020, 5:43 PM · I really like tattoos and I'd like to get one but my parents would never allow me, and they tell me this often. I'm 17 but I don't think I'll rush out and get one when I turn 18. It's a big decision, so I'll probably wait. I have enough things in life to contemplate as it is, so it would probably be best to wait until I'm older.

I don't see why having a tattoo would have much of an impact on a violinist's career, bottom line should be how well they play. Maybe a stylish modern look with a tattoo could set a great violinist apart from the rest? Maybe not?

Yes, there's a lot super uptight and conservative people in world that are very judgmental and may make certain assumptions about others based on all sorts of stuff. I don't like those kinds of people and when it comes to music, I hope I listen with my ears not my eyes.

August 22, 2020, 9:47 PM · Hear hear, Marie! If Nigel Kennedy can come on stage in a soccer jersey or Maxim Vengerov can dress like a used-car salesman, then you will probably not be too affected in your career.
August 22, 2020, 11:12 PM · I clicked, expecting tattoo related to the Scottish event; uh, is this site not about music? silly me.

Tattoos for mutilation of skin are an abhorrent. They were invented ca BC3000 in Asia as a means to identify criminals. That tattoos are now a fad among millennials only goes to prove how ignorant is that generation.

Beauty is not about the artificial. It is about the pure. This is why Guarneri and Stradivari refused to burn a brand mark into their violins.

I find tattoos to be repulsive.

August 22, 2020, 11:52 PM · Tell us how you really feel, Rob! I find the best way to purify my skin is by scrubbing it until all the insects burrowed inside leave and go back to the underworld - Well that and incense.
August 23, 2020, 1:19 AM · Not a big fan. However if a winsome lass with some tats became smitten with me, would I send her away because of it? Hmm.

Contemplating that years down the road the nursing homes are going to be full of little old ladies with blurry, shriveled lower back tattoos.

Edited: August 23, 2020, 10:30 PM · Marie wrote:"bottom line should be how well they play". Indeed "should" is the keyword. Pro orchestras have blind auditions for a reason, however the world is full of humans and as long as this is the case, discrimination based on appearance will exist. It's in the human nature, we all do it in varying degree whether we agree or not.
Edited: September 6, 2020, 2:42 PM · If you're a violinist, the tattoo on your lower arm should say, "Do not try to read this during spiccato passage."
September 6, 2020, 4:54 PM · "Why would someone who is half-Asian not feel a certain solidarity?"

First, people can have any opinions they choose, and we shouldn't impute any perspective or indirect characteristic to them regardless of their background. Second, some people legitimately disagree with such efforts on the grounds that the mere existence of such efforts can seem to undermine their accomplishments. To have someone think that you got your position despite being second rate because of your race is infuriating to those who don't see race as the first and defining characteristic, and wish to be seen not in that context but another.

I don't really understand the motivations for tattoos myself, but would find it interesting as a form of garish art saying "this what you see is not me".

September 6, 2020, 8:44 PM · Consistent with what Lydia has mentioned: the legal profession is as stodgy as they get, and I would have estimated that about 30% of my law school class (class of '13) had at least one tattoo. That said, I didn't see any tattoos that would not have been covered by typical business attire.
September 7, 2020, 7:04 AM · Stick-on or temporary tattoos:
The best of both worlds. :-)
(I don't recommend using iron-on transfers) LOL
Edited: September 7, 2020, 8:08 AM · J Ray wrote, "I don't really understand the motivations for tattoos myself." I think the usual argument goes like this: A self-dare or micro-rebellious kind of experience followed by a conversation piece or a statement of individuality or, in some circles, a rite of passage or uniform.
Edited: September 7, 2020, 3:44 PM · I like what Marie said, and I agree with her. I also want to add that as a 71 year old man, I really don’t mind tattoos. Your body, your choice. Here in Portland – also known as Ink City - tattoos are as common as leaves on the trees. I’m probably one of only a dozen people in this entire city who doesn’t have a tattoo. They’re everywhere, and I don’t even notice them anymore. Hence, I really don’t care one way or the other, if someone has one or fifty. Also, I don’t make value judgements on people who have them.

Remember, the thing about tattoos is this – once they’re there, that’s it. Removing them tends to leave scars, and costs a lot of money. Know what you're getting into.

Why don’t I want one? Because bodies change. Indeed, they change a lot. While the tattoo is permanent, the surface it is on is not. What is a strong, tight body part in your 20’s, (arm, leg, tush, belly, etc.) is probably not going to be that tight at some point in the next 20, 30, 40, or 50 years. (If you saw me naked, you’d see how depressingly real these changes are.) Alas, as much as we’d all like to think we’ll remain fit and trim, time takes its toll. However, if you don’t mind your tattoo twisting and stretching, then go for it.

Check this out:

Go ahead and get one if you like. Put a flower on your arm. Why stop there? Do your whole arm! Why not? Like I said, your body, your choice. But know this, it’s highly likely things will be different in just a few months, and that tattoo may not have the same personal impact it has today. My son was in a band named after a cat. So, he had a cartoon cat tattooed to his left forearm. Hence, when he played the guitar, the cat could be seen smiling away. Well, the band broke up fifteen years ago but that cat is still has that same goofy grin. It’s a faded grin and looks rather tired.

Please, give it some thought before you get one. I do have one question. Where are you going to go? All the tattoo parlors are shut down because of Covid-19. Good luck!

September 8, 2020, 4:07 AM · Whether tattoos, green hair, or a mohawk, some people are going to have judgments, whether they are overt about it or not. Expecting that that they will not seems a little weird to me. If one doesn't expect some sort of reaction, why bother?

There will also be those who are judgmental about those who have such judgments, which also seems strange to me, when it is presented as some sort of moral highground. Isn't this just a slightly different flavor of basically the same kind of thinking?

Unlike tattoos, hair color or style can be changed rather easily, as ones situations or preferences change over their lifetime. I once had an earring, and hair down to the middle of my back. I'm glad I wasn't stuck with them. Nor am I stuck with them being gone, should I want to do either or both again. Having some flexibility can be nice.

September 8, 2020, 9:21 AM · I find most tattoos too stark and geometrical to harmonise with the human body. And usually very ugly.

How about temporary tattoos like those given free in chewing-gum packets?

Edited: September 16, 2020, 4:11 PM · I always think when I see tattoos on a man he has been in jail, can’t help it it’s the place I was brought up, they would have a swallow on the left hand thumb indentation, and maybe their long list of girlfriends names all down their arm crudely done by themselves with a needle. My own auld fella had mam and dad as well as an anchor and a heart on his arm, but he had been in the Royal Navy. Then again look at Nigel Kennedy, if you hear early interviews with him he has a very upper class accent, but suddenly it changed to an east end accent when he wanted to appeal to a different audience, you could call it a verbal tattoo, didn’t do him any harm if it works why not. I don’t have tattoos, but I do have two ear rings in my left ear. I have friends who are completely covered head to foot, each to their own.

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