Swamp Talk: The Dos And Don’ts of Getting Inked and Having Tattoos

By Brock Seng

Image Courtesy: Brock Seng
Image Courtesy: Brock Seng

You’re in college and you’re ready to get a tattoo. Your parents aren’t around anymore. Who’s going to stop you? No one. It’s time to get inked. So, you walk into the shop and there are big burly guys everywhere. They’re covered in tattoos from, literally, head to toe. They have chains hanging out of their tunnels in their ears. You walk up to one guy and say “nice gauges” instead of plugs and the music stops, everyone turns and looks at you and they notice you for the first time: you’re virgin skin.

I am not “virgin skin.” I got my first tattoo three months after my 18th birthday and now, at 21, I’m wearing two half-sleeves on my arms and three tattoos on my legs. I have two appointments for January to get a half-sleeve on my leg.

Now don’t get me wrong, I was once in your shoes. I was virgin skin. I called plugs gauges and I didn’t know how to be proper inside the shop. But now, I am experienced. I know what I’m doing inside and outside the shop. And there are many do’s and don’ts to getting inked and having tattoos. This little mini-guide I’ve thrown together will save you embarrassment and probably a couple of bruises and black eyes. It’s a quick look into the world of tattoos. Now, I’m not going to tell you every little secret about being tattooed and how to act inside a shop. Just like learning to tattoo, it takes time to learn how to act.

The Shop:

DO: Tip. Your tattoo artist chargers $50 an hour for a tattoo because that money goes almost directly to the shop owner to pay for bills and supplies. Tattoo artists get paid nothing. Their tips are their wages. If you’re sitting in their chair for hours getting a nice, huge tattoo you should tip accordingly.

DON’T: Be afraid. Your tattoo artist understands you’re nervous. They were in your shoes one time many, many years ago. Now you’re here. Don’t be afraid to speak up and talk with your tattoo artist. If you need a break, let them know. If you don’t like the design, speak up!

DO: Make sure you know what you want. Just because you woke up on a Friday and said “I love Batman. I’m going to get a Batman tattoo.” doesn’t mean you need to go get a Batman tattoo. Sit down and think about it. Tattoos are permanent marks on your body. It’s like clothes you can never change.

DON’T: Be a dick. Simple as that. If you walk into a tattoo shop with an attitude and act rudely toward your tattoo artist don’t expect your tattoo to look like the work of God. Sadly enough, according to the show Ink Master, tattoo artists can crank up the speed of a tattoo machine to make it hurt a lot worse than it has to without hurting the quality of the tattoo. That means it sucks for you while they still get return service. Don’t be a dick.

The Streets:

DO: Show them off. You paid money for them. Show those tattoos off. If they’re appropriate. Walk around proudly and let the world know you have a tattoo and you are proud.

DON’T: Show up to your grandmother’s funeral with a sleeveless shirt and your tattoo of a naked devil with boobs out showing to the world. It’s disrespectful. It’s wrong. And the fact that I saw this in person is utterly repulsive. This is where tattoos get a bad rap. Right here. In situations like this.

DO: Support your tattoo shop. If someone asks you where you got your tattoos, let them know and send them business. It’s a way for your tattoo artist to keep getting work and stay in your town. Too many times have I seen tattoo artists come and go at shops due to the fact that their clients aren’t promoting them and they aren’t promoting themselves.

DON’T: Be disrespectful. If someone asks you about your tattoos, don’t be rude. If you don’t want to show them or explain the meaning, tell them that. Don’t be a dick to them about it. They probably don’t know any better and think that all tattoos are meant to be explained.

Shops To Check Out:

Crawling Panther
Ocala, Fla.

Death or Glory
Gainesville, Fla.

If you have any questions about tattoos or tattoo etiquette, feel free to email me at bsengiv@ufl.edu.

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