Getting Heavily Tattooed at Age 15

There’s debate-inviting interview up on the 2KBT clothing blog that I have quite mixed feelings about — an interview with a 15-year old covered in tattoos. Tattoos that unlike those you’ll find on most 15 year olds, are at least slightly above scratcher level, although still far from the quality level I’d wish on anyone — I was going to ask how he affords this level of tattooing, but I doubt they were costly. I admit I started getting tattooed about that same age, but it’s hard to compare the experience directly since in the 80s it was a different world, one that began with me and a hand-poked needle and was followed by being tattooed out of his apartment by an artistically-minded friend who’d just gotten out of jail and ordered himself a Huck Spaulding kit. As you can imagine, those tattoos have almost all been covered up. Even if I had access to better quality tattooists, I’m not sure that at fifteen I had enough perspective on my life to choose tattoos that I’d be happy with today. Very few of us have the same tastes at fifteen as at thirty or forty. Of course, I wasn’t a whole lot more mature at 18 or 21 either… I don’t think it was until I was maybe 23 that I personally had the maturity to choose appropriate tattoos for myself and my life — which is part of the reason I waited until I was thirty to do my face tattoo. For some people that age is higher and for others it’s lower… But I doubt for many people it’s as low as 15.

Still, I dislike ageism as much as I dislike all forms of prejudice — I don’t like the idea of strangers in some government office telling me or anyone how old they have to be to be able to manage their life. That kind of misguided protectionism has often resulted in kids who are handed responsibility at 18 and rush into it, just as incapable of handling it as they would have been at 15, but with a whole lot more self-righteousness. Well, as I’ve said elsewhere, people get the tattoos they deserve. All we can do is continue publishing information on what good tattoos should look like and how to find a good artist — that information is widely available and any kid with basic internet access and a modicum of self-respect is perfectly capable of doing the research these days… All that said, if I was a tattoo artist, I don’t think I would be ethically comfortable tattooing someone at fifteen that I didn’t know extremely, extremely well. A sleeve to the wrist is starting to cut off some options in life — I wonder what would happen if the kid decided he wanted his face or his neck tattooed? It’s not a big step in today’s world for a kid to think that might be a cool thing to do. Even without worrying about tattoo-bigotry, it’s a very big load to put on someone — if their tastes change, a sleeve and a chest is a lot to steal from them.

I don’t think there’s any easy or definitive answer here — I don’t think there’s a universal age where someone is mature enough for tattoos, and personally, the less the government sticks its nose into body modification the better. Responsible artists, a community that strives to educate newcomers, and a general culture of self-respect seems like the right way to tackle this issue.

The tattoos by the way were done by Mike Casale, I believe of Unity Tattoo in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. I have no idea what their local laws are or if this interview will come back to bite them in the ass — they seem to be part of that grimey lower-echelon of tattoo shops that prey on less discerning customers, at best a stepping stone for learning artists, but unlikely a home to artists whose work is likely to get much press beyond this sort of shocked “can you believe this crap” coverage…

Click the photos to jump to the interview.

tatties15

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About Shannon Larratt

Shannon Larratt is the founder of BME (1994) and its former editor and publisher. After a four year hiatus between 2008 and 2012, Shannon is back adding his commentary to ModBlog. It should be noted that any comments in these entries are the opinion of Shannon Larratt and may or may not be shared by BMEzine.com LLC or the other staff or members of BME. Entry text Copyright © Shannon Larratt. Reproduced under license by BMEzine.com LLC. Pictures may be copyright to their respective owners. You can also find Shannon at Zentastic or on Facebook.

19 thoughts on “Getting Heavily Tattooed at Age 15

  1. Those tattoos are absolutely terrible. There’s no artistic status to a terribly done tribal sleeve.

    As for legality, if Wiki is to be believed, there is no minimum age in PA to get tattooed as long as you have parental consent (18+ without).

  2. i am of the firm belief that just because you CAN do something, doesn’t mean you SHOULD do it. Shannon is right, if i got tattooed at 15 i would be covered in hippy stars, my little pony, rainbows and band lyrics that mean nothing to me now, as well as that i would have had a beating off my mum and dad for being stupid.

    i understand we’re living in an age where children are growing up faster but that doesn’t mean they are mature enough to say “yeah, i can live with that on my skin forever” and these aren’t exactly little tattoos, it’s not like he can have them covered when he’s older if he “out grows” them. i do say if, because on the other hand there is a chance he won’t out grow them and will be happy with them forever.

  3. I’m not a fan of kids getting tattoos, mostly based on the growing body and ideals between the ages 15-18 can be pretty big. But what makes me not so accepting of this is how it’s applied. His tattoos are very sub-par? And to cover all that skin for all of that just seems bad. Like many rappers, rock bands, cool-kids and so on, it seems like he’s following the quantity over quality rule. Less of an art and more of a status symbol.

  4. well, at least he didn’t do his hands, neck, or face…yet

    15 is too young to make a decision that is going to affect the rest of your life. especially one of this magnitude.

  5. No insult intended to the 15 year old but I have seen better quality tattoos come out of the Australian prison system

    Coolest kid in highschool… enjoy those few years because its the only “good” I could see coming from this.

  6. It’s hard for me to tell, but it’s a bad idea to have something like this done on such age. An small tattoo is ok, but a full sleeve? I’m sorry, but it will be a problem in the future as he gets more mature. This kid don’t have any idea even about what he wants to do for living, we can’t close our eyes and think that in ten years you will be able to be a lawyer, a doctor, an engineer or a lot other things with tattoos. Tattoos close many doors.

    While I respect the decisions anyone do on their lifes it’s something I think is going a little too further. It’s the same case as I saw the beautiful Mary Jo piercer and even the jefferson saint with their eyes tattoo. They are just on theur twentys to get a decision like that. Mary Jo is just 19 years old… and she already has her face and eyes tattooed.

    I don’t know what to say. I respect their right to do whatever they want but I have a bad feeling about such have mods on young age. I’m 34 years old and while I want a full sleeve on my arms I didn’t get it yet because I don’t feel I’m ready for this. Even if I already have a stable life…

    You can see if someone is matura a lot by seeing if they have doubts about anything they do. Smart guys knows that things changes all the time on life and 15 is not an age you know enought about life and world to do such decisions. I hope I’m wrong about this teens doing this things…

  7. I echo the comments above, 15 is very young for such large pieces of tattoo work. Besides the fact we can all agree on the “quality” and the whole growing out of it, I have minimal face piercings and some small & medium-ish tattoos on my arms and wrist and still have a hassle dress code wise for work. Even retail & min wage jobs would turn you down seeing this, welcome to wearing long sleeves =/
    What happened to parents being PARENTS? Both mine have multiple tattoos & piercings and thankfully made sure I wouldn’t regret what I did to my skin

  8. The only reason I personally would pull the age card (other than changing tastes) is because at that specific age, the human body isn’t done growing. For males, that occurs around 25-I digress though. Sure the tattoos may fit his body now, but what about once he grows more? Honestly I foresee this kid regretting THESE tattoos, as a) it looks like scratcher work, and b) his rationale for getting them seemed to be “yeah, my parents have tats, they look interesting”. I kind if wonder if he considered this from a health standpoint.

  9. Man oh man, people were getting vicious with one another on the interview’s comment area, eh? People are just so mean and nasty to one another, as if no one has feelings.

    Anyways, I always say to each his own, but personally believe firmly in being at least 18 before getting a tattoo, especially if we’re talking about a full sleeve! My goodness. I worry that his body is going to grow and distort the work. The quality of work is questionable as well, and I wonder how differently the debate would be going if his work were really high-quality. Would people be more forgiving of it? Who knows.

    Even at nearly 27, I worry about getting something that I’ll hate in 10-20 years. I worry that I’ll hate what I already have in 10-20 years sometimes. It’s scary. We’re constantly changing creatures, you know? But I like to think that the person I am at heart will remain the same, and that I still will be a free spirit and an outside-the-box, creative, independent-minded individual. It’s an unknown. But, I think that we are much, much closer to the “true us” once we’re out of adolescence. When you’re so young like that, you’re in the deepest part of figuring out who you are and what you like. To me, that’s not the time to make a permanent commitment. And if someone does decide to do it that young, at least go small with it, you know? A sleeve is such a big commitment.

  10. Ageism and moral questions aside, i wonder how he payed for all that… I saved up part time job money for two years in high school to get my back piece done after graduating. That’s a massive amount of tattooing on this kid, if he’s going to a good shop like he says that wouldn’t be cheap. If he’s paying for them himself i guess that shows some commitment to what he wants?

  11. @nixiie he cldnt have paid much. Those are horrible tattoos. I hate to rag on anyone’s tattoos but these are so bad. I know a scratcher who does 100 times better than that and that kid is going to be getting most of that stuff covered up at some point. I’m more mad at his parents than the tattooer. I would have been sort of okay with this if the tattoos were well done.

  12. can i point out, this kid wants to join the army. i dont know about the USA but the UK doesn’t like heavily tattooed persons applying for the army.

  13. Even if his tattoos were done well this would be depressing since any design runs the risk of being warped & distorted as his (still very young) body matures.

  14. Generally, I don’t think getting tattoos at 15 is a good thing either.
    Even ‘though, in middle age, I’ve got 180 of ‘em -all over- starting when I was young too- with almost no regrets.
    But I also think it’s not for people like me or us to Judge.
    Enjoy your Ink kid!
    RYAN

  15. The cultural differences are really interesting because here in Hawaii where there are lots of Pacific Islanders, teenagers are often tattooed but the quality is really high and they often involve family names and symbols and sometimes even traditional hand poked tattoos. While there are still the home poked, juvenile justice system ones as well, I see teenagers with beautiful tribal designs frequently and I have never heard anyone comment or judge them. How do modern Caucasians tap into a tribal instinct anymore? How much of this behavior ties into that? His reason for loving tattoos (he says because his parents have them) makes a kind of tribal, link to my group sense. Maybe not the best execution and maybe he will regret it, but getting something on your body for life always carries that risk, at age 10 or 90, so using that logic seems kind of flawed (although I do agree, we change the most between early and late 20s) especially since people always underestimate how much they will change regardless of how old they are (people in their 40s change more in ten years then they think will too). Life is uncertain. Wanting to belong, to know who you are and why never really changes. Maybe he will regret them later but I don’t know if he will regret trying to feel close to and loved by his family.

  16. There just makes me cringe. There’s a reason that age limits exist for certain things- the brain isn’t fully matured until the early 20′s, and decision making is impaired & faulty until that time. Teens getting piercings is one thing, those can be taken out & they only leave a tiny dimple, but tattoos are forever. If I had gotten all the tattoos I wanted when I was 15, I’d have a full recreation of all of Marilyn Manson’s tattoos, with wizards, dragons, and castles on my back.

    Yeah, he’s going to regret this later on.

  17. Well, i don’t really agree with the idea of a 15 year old getting tattooed this extensively either. But, at least Lucky Diamond Rich has proved us that the skin can continually be reworked. So maybe he does change his mind about these tattoos in ten years, if he still loves getting tattooed he can at least go over it again. lol.

  18. It comes down to motive for getting a piece done. Will that motive still be relevant in 5, 10, 25 years ?

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