I’ve flicked through many-a-page of Elle and yet my first sighting of Rosie Huntington-Whitley’s tattoo in an editorial shot of the magazine took me aback ever so slightly. As an avid reader of ELLE and Vogue (and co) since the tender age of nine, this was the first time, at 15, that I had seen inked skin in a high-fashion magazine.
Why did it take so long for tattoos to enter into the fashion world? They are surely no longer the shameful badges of rebellion they once were, once upon a time when our parents weren’t middle-aged and boring. The punks who used to scratch ‘fuck’ along their knuckles with needles, who returned home from madness in Magaluf with a bit more than sun damaged skin are now entering their thirties, fourties, even fifties.
Who are we kidding, there will always be a few regrettable scribbles born out of teenage anger or drunken holidays, but recently something really has changed. Tattoos are no longer just cool in an “oh my, he has a Harley Davidson and a full sleeve” kind of way: they’ve become cute.
The past few seasons have seen ink spill onto the runway, seeping out of the wrists and napes of necks of everyone, from Jordan to Freja. The very concept of models as ‘blank canvasses’ is changing. It may even be possible that models are communicating individual personalities through the insignias they elect to mark on their bodies. And perhaps that personality is actually becoming a part of fashion.
It only takes a quick Google search of Angelina Jolie’s magazine covers to notice the dearth of images that feature her illustrated skin. Despite her fabulous figure, they almost always focus on her face. Beautiful and chiselled though her jaw line is, it seems that only ‘Rolling Stone’ ever wanted to publish her punk aesthetic. The only cover which does reveal the lines of text on her forearm is the most recent, ELLE US July 2014. The times they are a changin’.
Among the tattooed ‘ruffians’ of the runway this season was Anja K with ‘meow’ seared into her inner lip and ‘C.A.T.’ tidily typed onto the nape of her neck. Sam Rollinson revealed a small stick figure on her upper back, and Abbey Lee Kershaw flaunted the owl on her thumb as well as the stars nestling behind her ears. Even more excitingly, the lion living on Cara Delavigne’s index feature landed its first advertising campaign, clinging to the handle of a Burberry handbag. As if the fashion world hadn’t gotten enough of real body art, designers at Marchesa, Henry Holland and Ralph Laurent even gave their models temporary transfers. Tattoos are becoming a part of the mainstream fashion industry and are changing how we conceptualise models’ bodies.
Rosie appeared again on the cover of Elle’s February 2015 publication, wearing her heart on her sleeve proudly in a third of the shots. I wouldn’t suggest being quite so brazen if you’re going for a job interview with Goldman Sachs, but Vogue? Maybe…