Jeff Corbett on being young, dumb and covered in tatts | Opinion

SOMEONE has to call it, and so I am today. We have reached peak tattoo. The great herd of morons that has been massing at the front of the pop-up tattoo industry for 20 years is now massing at the bottom of the chute out the back wondering what the hell happened.

What happened to my stand against conformity? To my expression of individualism? To my urge to be different?

There are stragglers, of course, and you'll see them waiting out the front of the tattoo parlour, or studio these days, to be put through. They're usually frumpy teenage girls in black desperate to be different like all the others and young skulkers in saggy pants trying to buy manhood.

Not many clean-skin young fellows will be craving a sleeve of tribal motifs or more meaningful cartoon characters, not many unstamped tramps of any age will feel the need for twirls across their lower back, and all those who were going to be sucked in for a discreet butterfly or the Chinese characters for sweet and sour pork when tatts went temporarily posh have been sucked in.

And as you know that great financial contributor to the tattoo industry, the baby bonus, is no more. Among teenage girls in the more heavily inked areas the baby arrived before the tattoo, which may have had as much to do with the minimum age for a tattoo being 18 as with the need for the baby bonus to pay the tattooist.

Of course the absence of tattoos in someone under 40 now, especially in men, is a reliable indicator of uncommon worth and independence, of someone with enough nous to travel clear of the herd.

The idiocy of the tribal sleeve on other than Pacific islanders must be painfully obvious now to those who were so idiotic, the tramp stamp that dives into and out of skin folds must appear now in the mirror as gruesome to the tramp as it always did to the rest of us, and the posh will giggle that they were so silly.

Then there are those who have moved on from the floozy or stud in the love-you-forever tatts found usually on a calf, shoulder or upper arm, and that the smitten have been stupid enough to declare their eternal devotion so indelibly must throw doubts on the circumstances of the devotion. Is it to someone who shared their stash one drunken night?

And what can persuade an adult that a dragon is a good thing to have drawn permanently on their leg or arm is beyond me. Is it because they read books about dragons as a child? Because their theme song is Peter Paul and Mary's Puff The Magic Dragon? There's no good reason for any sane person to have on their arm a dragon drawing that will wash off in the shower that night, let alone one that will never wash off.

Art, some say. Body art. If these so-called works of art were on paper no one would buy them, yet people pay thousands of dollars to have this worthless art stamped forever onto their skin! How can something that has no value as art when it's on paper be art when it's on skin?

In the second decade of the tattoo madness it became a measure of devotion for those who need such measures to have the face of a child or lover or parent etched onto the leg for all to admire, the face surrounded by swirls of vine and other such artistic stuff. Sometimes the face was accompanied by a drawing of a gravestone.

My children will be thrilled that my wife and I haven't so honoured them, and my wife and I are as thrilled that they won't be honouring us with tattooed memorials when we're gone, none of which should surprise you.

But we all make mistakes, and, sure, it is unfortunate that all these feeble-minded followers will be wearing forever the evidence of their gormless days, when others can simply unhook the nose ring or toss the safari suit and move on. It is especially unfortunate that the more severely graffitied among them will be trapped in their station in life, denied the opportunity to improve their lot. Most of us benefit from consigning our embarrassments and periods of idiocy to forgotten history, but no such privilege for the inked. Not, at least, unless tattoo removal becomes cheaper and more effective.

But there is nothing unfortunate about the stigmatising of some. These are the people the police would force to wear a flashing red light on their head if they could, but no need now to even dream of that. These people have identified themselves with the next best thing, face and neck tatts. I imagine I hear sirens every time I see them.

So effective are these neck and face tattoos that I believe they should be publicly funded.

Anyway, vale tattoo mania. The vacuousness of man has seldom been so stark.