Dark-skinned African-Americans with tattoos: why?

At the grocery store in my neighborhood, most of the cashiers are black women. About half of them have tattoos, which to my eyes appears more like a splotchy silhouette than a discernable work of skin art.

I know I’ll probably be flamed for asking this, but a question to black Dopers and those who might be in the know: what’s the appeal in getting a complicated tattoo that will be difficult to see on very dark skin?

I don’t know why you’re expecting to get flamed. Anyway, people don’t know how their tattoo is going to turn out until after it’s done. Also, they might have done it for the same reason people get tattoos that others will rarely see…because they just wanted it.

Probably what Omega Glory said. But honestly, let me say: there is nothing cooler in this world than a white tattoo on dark skin. They look so cool!

Everything I’ve always read says that dark people shouldn’t get white tattoos, because they’ll look kind of muddy after a couple of years. It would be interesting to see one though.

Used to live with a tattoo artist. His thoughts were as follows,“Tattooing a black guy is like skywriting at night. But if he wants to pay for it then I’m there.”

Ah, Capitalism.

Do you have any pictures of this? A friend of mine used to tattoo all the college ball players here, we’re talking thousand of dollars a pop and I would always ask the same thing as the OP, adding why don’t they get inked in white. He always told me it doesn’t work due to " yada yada technical tattoo lingo yada". I googled but didn’t find ,what I at least, have in mind.

“White will not show well on black skin at all. Certain colors such as white, yellow, and other light colors will not show well. Color in general does not look well on black skin, I have had cover ups on every color tattoo that I had. Color, over time, tends to look very muted on dark skin. I suggest to all my clients of color to consider black or “tribal” tattoos."’

Here’s a cite for my second post:http://www.inkedblog.com/archives/2005/07/tattoos_and_skin_tone.html

X!* How the fuck does this even come up with you guys?

Get this through your skulls - white is not the norm for everybody. If you’re used to looking at (and having) dark skin, it’s not going to be difficult to discern even darker pigmentation on it.


I’m not black, but I do have skin several shades darker than ‘white’, and I didn’t find the question insulting at all. Perhaps it’s just me though.

As for me, I’m not interested in a tattoo, but honestly if I wanted to get one I just would. If you’re getting a tattoo only because you like how it looks to other people, I don’t think that’s the right reason anyway, light or dark. You should get a tattoo because it’s personally significant to you, and that’s the reason I would get one.

However, just like everything else, there are dumb people who get tattoos and genuinely don’t think about what they are putting on their bodies and why - simply do it because it’s ‘cool’ or all their friends are doing it. So that could account for some of it.

In my college, one of the black frats would get tattoos. I don’t know if it was a requirement, but you know how the group mind works. “They all got it and I want to be a team player…”

Besides, a tattoo doesn’t have to be glaring to be desirable. In fact, on some of the black guys at my gym, the shoulder-to-elbow tribal markings are better looking because of the subtlety.

Could it be that they either got a tattoo on a place on their bodies that has expanded and contracted over the years, or just got a shitty quality tattoo?

If your buddy gives you a tattoo with ink from a Bic via needle attached to a walkman…it’s going to look like a splotchy silhouette on any skin.

pizzabrat. who are “you guys” and why are you so offended by the question? It doesn’t matter how used to looking at one’s own dark skin they are, their ink work is simply not going to show up as well as it does on lighter skin. A tattoos’s worth being its visual properties, I don’t think it’s an unreasonable question to ask. I know that the handful of artists I’ve hung out with will say it is much less satisfying to work on very dark skin because their artistry can’t be displayed to its best advantage.

Also wanted to point that out as an example of white ≠ universal norm. If you grow up knowing a tattoo as being a subtle, monochrome imprint on one’s skin, you learn to appreciate that aesthetic rather than the glaring contrast of a full-color tattoo on white skin (but for some reason, you don’t learn to sit around and wonder what the fuck is up with the other people who do things differently).

You’re also writing this OP in early fall. Other months of the year, their skin may be lighter and the tattoos more visible. Check back in February, maybe they’ll show up better then.

You ask me why I’m offended and then attempt to give me “rational” reasons why dark skin is less desirable. When will people wake up to themselves?

I don’t think the question is unreasonable either, but sometimes the “why do __'s do such and such/do ____'s like/dislike blahblah” questions can be grating after you’ve heard a lot of them. This isn’t the fault of a person who’s really asking, but sometimes you just wonder what on earth they’re thinking*. I can’t speak for **pizzabrat ** though.

*That statement isn’t being directed towards elmwood.

I didn’t say dark skin is “less desirable”. In my opinion tattoos are works of art to be noticed and admired. Obviously a darker canvas isn’t going to be as *conducive * to showing the contrast. You obviously appreciate different qualities and really could have lead with

That would have answered the OP which, whether you deem it worthy or not, is a perfectly innocent question and I suspect you knew exactly what he was getting at.

There is a light skinned black woman that comes into my place of work, she has “nigga” in very bold, very prominent lettering on her arm. I thought I must have been reading it wrong, but nope, that’s what it said.

Unfortunately, it showed up too well, regardless of her color.

I guess artists canvases being standard as white must be pretty offensive, or even noticing that they are, or the reasoning behind a visually aesthetic method of self-expression be put on in a manner where most of the finer details would be lost.

I agree, tribals do look better on darker skin. That being said, when I see a tattoo on someone, I don’t think about how it looks now to their cool friends, I think about how it will look in 50 years to their grandkids.

What I knew is that the subtext to the OP was that blacks are irrational for getting tattoos.

Do you think the same thing when you see a young person’s attractive face? If so, for what end?