They are expensive, painful and look sad when the skin starts to wrinkle. Given that the tattooee may one day swap the biker's jacket for a Paul Smith suit, getting a winged cross on your neck seems unwise. Research shows that 75% of people who acquire a tattoo come to regret it. You can spend upwards of £200 to mark your love for someone, and then £1,500 and 20 hours under a laser to pretend they never existed. But the tattooist has always had a market. Both King Harold and Archduke Franz Ferdinand went under the needle, and Caesar wrote: 'The Britons covered themselves with woad, which produces a blue coloration... in this manner they are frightful to look upon in battle.' But the art form has now emerged from the dark ages, when MUM, DAD and anchors were scratched into the forearms of sailors (see Popeye cartoons), and its renaissance has left an indelible mark on mainstream flesh. Twenty years ago, there were just 100 tattoo parlours in Britain; now it's 1,500. Whereas counter-culture heroes like Sid Vicious once tempted teenagers into disfigurement, it's now vacuous celebs like Britney Spears and Robbie Williams, and a pretty tattoo on the small of the back is the uniform of young females. With the UK industry now unionised, it's getting respectable. But think twice before doing a Beckham. Unlike Goldenballs, some of us are sackable.
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