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The Eight Things You Need to Know Before Getting a Tattoo

Categories Lifestyle

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Japanese tattoo master Kian ‘Horisumi’ Forreal (above) from Authentink Studio in Surry Hills, Sydney gives Men’s Style the good ink on what tattoo virgins need to ask themselves before going under the needle.

Be really, really sure

Don’t get seduced by talk of laser removal — tattoos still don’t exactly rub off in the shower. “The thing is, people have this idea that now with lasers, nothing’s permanent, right? It is. Tattoos are there forever,” Kian says. “You can get them lasered, but to get them fully removed is next to impossible — it’s also very, very painful. You have to ask yourself, is this something that I want for the rest of my life — not just something like a T-shirt or for a seasonal thing or because it looks good in this singlet I’m wearing. You’re marking your body for the rest of your life, so it’s a very serious undertaking.”

Find the right style

It’s also important to be wedded to the idea for life, not just because it will give you an Instagram rush this summer. “Is the design or motif something that’s timeless, that I’ll carry with me forever that I’m happy with? Not a spur of the moment, trendy thing or a celebrity copy or a boyfriend-girlfriend name. These are all things to take into consideration, with the seriousness of the situation,” says Kian, explaining it’s also crucial to find the right artist for the right style. “There are people like me who specialise in Japanese, and that’s what I do. But I can’t really do portraits very well. Doesn’t mean I’m not a good tattooer, I’m just not a portrait tattooer. It’s important that you go to the style of tattooist for the tattoo that you want.”

Do your research

This is a lifetime decision, so Kian’s advice is to ask plenty of questions. “I always tell people, go talk to your local bartender or hair stylist or barista, look at people who have good tattoos and ask them where they got them, ask them who did their tattoo and was it a good experience. That’s a great way to find a good tattooist.”

Visit a tattoo shop

Kian reckons the best research is done within the walls of the tattoo shop you’re considering. “Just go hang around, have a chat with the counter staff, ask to see their portfolios, look around,” he says. “Does it look clean? Does it smell clean? Are the people friendly? Are the staff helpful? Do they answer questions? This is a really good place to start if you’re asking ‘Should I get tattooed?’ Start with that.”

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© Kian Forreal

Go big

It’s tempting to dip your toe in the water with just a little ink on bicep, but the problem with that, warns Kian, is that “you’re ruining your whole arm for a sleeve down the track. Same with the back. If you’re sure about it, find the right guy you want, and do it right . . . If you bought a beautiful piece of beachfront property and you didn’t want to commit, so you put a little one-bedroom bungalow right in the middle of it, you’re going to have to tear that down to rebuild.”

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© Kian Forreal

Invest in quality

‘You get what you pay for’ — it’s a cliche, but it’s true. “There are guys out there that are cheap and they’ll do crap work, I’ll guarantee it,” Kian says. “The problem with that is twofold — if you get shitty work by shitty artists, most good guys won’t touch it to fix it. The only way to get rid of it is to laser it, and that hurts like hell and it’s expensive. And you’re still left with a shitty, faded, chewed-up tattoo that you need to cover.”

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Dodge social media cliches

The whole point of a tat is to stand out from the crowd, and you’re not going to find many original ideas trawling through Pinterest and Insta. “Pinterest is always where young people go when they’re getting their first tattoo. So they go to Pinterest thinking they’re getting something unique — little do they know, we’ve already done that tattoo 10 times this week.”

Avoid the hands and neck

Tattoos aren’t the same kiss of death for your career they might have been a decade ago, but Authentink still refuses to ink exposed areas like the hands and neck. “Even though it’s more acceptable to be tattooed now, some stuff will limit you — maybe you can work at the Apple store now with a neck tattoo, but you’re not going to upper management, you know what I mean?” Kian says. “I judge people — everyone does. If you’re waiting in line at the bank and the guy in front of you has his hands tattooed, you’re going to look at that guy and you’re going to think something. It’s not even that you think they’re a bad person — it’s just bad decision making.”

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© Kian Forreal