Jayne Dawson: It’s happened – tattoos now have the stamp of approval

Felicity Kendal.
Felicity Kendal.
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Do you remember when it happened with chefs? When they stopped being the person who lurked in the kitchen, throwing knives at the heads of hapless underlings, and stepped out into the light.

All of a sudden a chef was a somebody. Superchefs emerged who would march terrified diners to the door for daring to ask for salt, or for their steak to be in a state that couldn’t be revived by a good vet.

It was good fun, wasn’t it?

And the superchef is still with, in a calmer form. These days, the sweary, fiery bruiser has been replaced by a jollier sort.

Which is just as well because he or she now has a rival for that prized package of prestige, status and closed waiting lists - it’s the super-tattooist.

You may be scoffing. You may be thinking of the humble tat parlour down your way and concluding my prophecy is never going to happen - but you would be wrong.

Think for a moment, if you will, of hairdressers. There was a time when hair salons too were local, humble places. But then along came Vidal Sassoon and everything changed.

Hairdressers were like pop stars only with hairdryers and rollers - until chefs came along.

And now it is the turn of the tattooist. Already there are practitioners who have closed their waiting list to new clients, since they are years long already.

Others are global, international figures who fly out to ink their celebrity clients and in front of whom lesser clients prostrate themselves gratefully and humbly.

They have premises that look smart and chic rather than merely menacing, and their clients are wholesome and affluent, not young and sulky.and

Yes I know, it’s a long way from an anchor on your arm or a rose on your rump.

But tattoos have busted right through the respectability barrier. Everyone you pass in the street has one. They are no longer being thought of as badges of rebellion, instead they are talked of as works of art.

And tattooists are being talked about like artists, with different and identifiable styles. Their tattoos are “pieces” not “job stoppers” or the even more unpleasant “tramp stamps”

With these people, you do not pick your choice of Chinese character out of a book, you design an artwork together. And you show some respect.

And once you have your tattoo you become part of a huge trend because it is estimated that 20 million adults in the UK now have one, that’s a third of the population.

That figure includes almost every celebrity, from David Beckham with his tattoo “sleeves” to Cheryl who-used-to-be-Cole and her blooming bottom, all covered in stormy roses.

But it’s not just the participants of popular culture who are making stars of tattooists, we ordinary people are doing it too. We council workers, retailers, bankers, nurses and doctors are all joining in.

And then there are the unlikely personalities like Helen Mirren, Samantha Cameron, David Dimbleby, Felicity Kendal and Even that nice Ben Fogle have all succumbed to the lure of the tattoo too. Dolly Parton is rumoured to have several.

On many high streets now there are more tattoo parlours than butches and bookshops, and their fortunes are rising as the last negative connotations of the tattoo fall away.

Soon it will be seen as a legitimate business to aspire to, as more tattooist emerge in designer clothes and with a nice line in chat. The “job-stopper” is spawning a huge industry, and if the newly-respected practitioner is an inky monster - you created him.

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