Key Tattoo Trends: Fab or Fail?

Categories Lifestyle


Japanese tattoo master Kian ‘Horisumi’ Forreal (above) from Authentink Studio in Surry Hills, Sydney gives Men’s Style his verdict on the tat trends that are going to be huge in 2017.


Canadian-born Kian fell in love with the Japanese style of tattooing before studying for two decades to master the art — and he says the ancient motifs are becoming more popular with people looking for a timeless tat rather than just jumping on the bandwagon.

“it’s been around for hundreds of years but it’s always been a more underground style, so a lot have people haven’t even seen it let alone thought about getting it. So now with social media and people getting more and more into tattoos, they’re digging a little bit deeper and seeing the style exists, so it is becoming more popular.”

© Kian Forreal

Kian is proficient in huge designs like back pieces and full body suits, and says this huge canvas affords plenty of room for creativity.

“You can do a snake and flower back piece a thousand different ways and still be within the realms of traditional tattooing . . . We’ve got a set of rules for traditional stuff, but within those boundaries, the sky is the limit.”


He’s less complimentary about the watercolour craze that’s exploded this year, though. “We have people here [at Authentink] that do it, and it can be done well, but 95% of it’s shit and it’s not going to look good in two years, because if you put colours without a black outline, it tends to wash out a lot and tends to look like it was drawn on by a crayon — not solid — so it doesn’t last the test of time. It’s like building a castle on sand, you know what I mean? It just washes away. The same with the colour realism stuff — looks great for the photo, maybe looks good for six months, but it disintegrates really quickly because there’s too many colours layered on top of each other and no solid foundation.”


Geometric designs

Another style that’s been plastered across social media in 2016 — and Kian agrees that dots and patterns can work nicely. “There’s a lot of stuff that’s very popular — dot work and geometric work is very popular. That stuff’s pretty popular now, and it’s getting even more popular as people see more of it. It’s nice to get just patterns and decorative textures.”

Stick and poke tats

The technique once exclusively used by prisoners has also become trendy — but the Japanese master explains that the process is too slow to ever take off with larger tats. “You can do that hand poke stuff on smaller pieces, but it’s so time consuming, because of each individual dot . . . it’s more of a novelty here, it’s very time consuming and very slow.

© Kian Forreal

Clocks, compasses and maps

Kian groans when we mention these cliched designs people keep demanding. “The compass with the world map, the pocket watch with the chain . . . people want it, but it’s going to be very dated stuff. People are going to look back on that the way we look back on tribal armbands and go, ‘Oh, you got that in 1995’. People will look back on the compass with the map tattoo and go, ‘Oh, you got that in 2016, when that was trendy on Pinterest’.”

Tattoos in general

Kian is adamant the whole tattoo phenomenon itself is no fad — after all, you can’t exactly wash them off. “It’s not going anywhere . . . it’s like fashion, you know what I mean? Same thing, except for you’ve got to wear it forever, right? You’ve got to find that story behind the style that you want.”