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Tattoos to Avoid

With tattooed skin and new tattoo shops popping up all over Chicago, it’s safe to say that the tattoo industry is booming and more customers are getting inked up than ever before.

According to the PEW research center, “Nearly four-in-ten [people in the millennial generation] have a tattoo (and for most who do, one is not enough: about half of those with tattoos have two to five and 18% have six or more).”

But with a growing tattooed population, originality can be hard to find.

“There’s not too much originality left,” says tattoo artist Eamonn Carey.   Carey has 13 years experience working as a tattoo artist and co-owns Basement Ink in suburban Oak Forest.

From the ‘burbs to the city streets, here’s a look at the five most cliché tattoos in recent years the experts see all too often.


Photo by Gillian McGhee, tattoo by Eamonn Carey


“The most common one throughout my entire career and is becoming bigger is lettering,” says Eamonn Carey, 32.

Lettering and script tattoos encompass a huge variety of different styles.  This includes anything from one word to long phrases to names in any font style the customer wants—from calligraphy to typewriter.


Both Carey and local tattoo artist Kevin Owings say it’s important to keep in mind that demographics matter to an extent when distinguishing what tattoos are cliché.  Frequently requested tattoos are going to vary from shop to shop based on location and clientele.


When Carey worked in Hammond, Ind., an area that has large Hispanic and Black populations, he frequently did “Only God Can Judge Me” tattoos.  However, working in rural Bloomington-Normal near Illinois State University was a totally different story.

“I got a lot of “Live, Laugh, Love”’s and bible verses,” he says.


Getting someone’s name tattooed is still a huge seller—even if clients come back and get them covered up.

“I really believe it is a curse,” laughs Owings, 35, owner of Mind Crusher Tattoo in Rogers Park.  Though he has only been tattooing for four years, Owings owns two other tattoo shops and has won multiple awards for his work.

Another recent trend within lettering, Carey says, is to incorporate the infinity symbol to the text.

Rib Tattoo


Photo and tattoo by Eamonn Carey

Both artists agreed that this location is the latest in the evolution of the “tramp stamp.”


Owings cites the ankle tat as the first incarnation of the tramp stamp, a tattoo with an unflattering stigma as the name suggests.  The trend went on to the lower back (when the term was coined), to the tops of feet and finally to the ribs as the current hot spot.

Unlike some of its earlier forms, the rib tattoo is not specific to women.

“It’s like the tramp stamp but it covers both genders.  So, it’s really kind of weird,” Carey jokes.

Despite its gaining popularity, Carey says the ribs are one of the most painful spots to get tattooed—reminding us once again that beauty is pain.



Photo and tattoo by Kevin Owings


If a female customer comes in and wants a flower, Owings says he can usually guess the exact tattoo.

“It’s a tiger lily with shooting stars,” Owings says. In the last four years, Owings says this tattoo has been brought in at lest 150 times to Mind Crusher.


While Carey never mentioned the tiger lily, he has noticed an increasing number of people wanting cherry blossom branches.

Birds, Feathers and Butterflies


Photo and tattoo by Eamonn Carey


“We’re been getting a bigger influx of feather tattoos recently, and people want things broken off into birds a lot,” Carey says.

He says this is attributed, to some extent, to the new phenomena of women bringing in tattoos that they find on Pinterest.

“That website is basically taking over the female tattoo community,” Carey says, who has a substantially female clientele.


Owings says the butterfly is still going strong as a cliché among Mind Crusher’s female customer, as well.



Photo and tattoo by Eamonn Carey

This cliché tattoo trend is definitely more popular among men.  Like lettering, tribal tattoos can vary in size, location, and pattern.

According to Tribal Tattoo Meanings, the tattoos are not only visually striking, but highly symbolic depending on the pattern.  Some examples of patterns are Maori, Celtic and Aztec.

While Owings personally doesn’t do many tribal tattoos, he said people are constantly asking for them at Mind Crusher.

How can you stay ahead of the curve?

For those who are concerned about their tattooed image, Carey offers a simple solution: custom tattoos.

“If you wanna be more original about it, get a custom artist and get that work done,” he said.

Whether a tattoo is considered cliché or original, Carey says labels should not stop people from getting the ink they want.

“You definitely shouldn’t care about the category.  You’re getting it because you want it and it’s your body,” he says.

“Ultimately, most of us want you to wear it well and look good doing it.”

Take the Poll: What kind of tattoo would you get?


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The Hub Bub is a collection of articles, videos, audio, photo slideshows, interactive maps and other media produced by students enrolled in journalism courses at Loyola University Chicago's School of Communication. For more about the School of Communication, our award winning faculty, and our state of the art facilities located in the heart of Chicago, visit our website.