I tattoo’d my face with The Basement logo, check out the photos.
Okay, I took a leaf out of Hypebeast’s book and click-baited the sh*t out of the tag line. Sorry.
This year, The Basement was extended an invitation to the London Tattoo Convention. Alex and I headed down to find out more about the culture behind tattoos.
I read an article the other day about tattoos, and according to it, 1 in 3 people have them! A third of the population of this planet have at least one tattoo. Yet there is often discrimination against them in places of work. The connotations surrounding tattoos in the mainstream vary from very few positive, to neutral to a lot of negatives. Yet tattoos have been around since the dawn of time. Early tribes would tattoo members of their clan with intricate patterns and markings to give a group identity (bearing in mind it wasn’t done with a top of the range rotary machine, but with more primitive tools). Regardless, tattoos nowadays still stand to show the identity of an individual, an expression of their interests, experiences and personality. So why are they looked down upon and shunned? Why are tattoos still widely frowned upon, when in actual fact tattooing is an art, a skilled craft, much similar to painting or design. If my trip to the London Tattoo Convention taught me one thing, it was that tattoos are absolutely incredible. Each one is unique to the individual; it’d be impossible to say you ‘dislike tattoos’. Erm, okay mate. Do you hate all paintings too? Do you hate all songs? Well each individual tattoo is an expression of creativity, much like any art. So to say you dislike all tattoos is ridiculous. Rant over.
To start, I had no idea there were so many different ways to inflict pain upon oneself in the name of art. ‘Poking’ is the traditional technique to tattoo someone, adopted by different cultures around the world, such as Buddhism. The needle pokes into your skin, piercing it so the tattoo ink drips into your flesh. Poke, poke, poke. Fun, fun, fun. After we’d had enough of watching people poke themselves, we then decided to watch people hammer the tattoos into themselves. Wonderful. A traditional Maori technique, a blunt object would be used to bang the blade/needle into the skin to allow the ink to seep into the flesh. This honestly looked absolutely excruciating. Anyone brave enough to have a tattoo done this way has my lifelong respect (and I have an extremely low pain threshold which is why I’m sounding like such a flower man).
A couple of yelps and winces (from me) later, we headed over into the main section of the convention. This was filled with an abundance of stalls with artists live tattooing people in front of audiences. Not one person looked like they were in pain, which is funny considering they were having a searing hot needle pressed into their flesh.
Funny (not really) comments aside, what amazed me about this convention was the sense of community we felt there. Everyone had come for one reason: to share with others their love for tattoos and the art behind it. People had travelled from all over Europe to share in this experience. I didn’t get it at first, being outside of the sub culture. But it gradually got to me, that all these people shared at least one similar interest. I guess what it could be comparable to is the community aspect of The Basement and wider streetwear scene. On drop days at various stores, passers-by always stop, confused, and ask what everyone is queuing for. We’d say clothes, but they’d not understand. “Clothes?!’” “Yes mate, clothes.” A t-shirt. Yes I know it’s pissing it down with rain and minus five degrees Celsius, but I need this tee. And I don’t mind the weather because I’m here with my friends. We all share the same passion for that tee we are queuing for, those shoes we’ve camped out to cop. I guess coming from a subculture with that level of obsession for our interests makes it easier for me to appreciate other subcultures, easier for me to understand why people fly thousands of miles across the world for an event lasting just a few hours.
On a real though, going to this convention has given me a real appreciation for anyone who has a tattoo. In the face of discrimination and a chance of hindering employment opportunities, you say “fuck you, we do what we want.” And to that I say: fuck yeah.
Words by Tayler Prince-Fraser
Photography by Alex Williams
Edited by Daniel Hawskworth