Ed Hardy shirts, Affliction shirts and the ever-increasing amount of tattoo-themed (and oftentimes fight-themed) clothing have gone through an interesting phase. I had no idea Don Ed Hardy had even introduced a clothing line into the world, until my boss at the last tattoo shop I worked at bought me four, quality, genuine Ed hardy t-shirts for Christmas five years ago. When I first pulled those shirts out of the box and tried them on, I was baffled, not only by how comfortable the shirts were, but also by how fucking cool they were. I wore them daily; four shirts on a regular rotation. I told people who Ed Hardy was, gave them a brief biography and showed them examples of how so many current tattoos are based on his early drawings and tattoos, and going even further, where his influences came from.
Ten years ago, tattoo-themed clothing could primarily only be bought at tattoo conventions and tattoo shops; five years ago, that staple in the fashion industry had grown substantially, but today, we can walk into any department store and find shirts, hats and hoodies laden with skulls, nautical stars, koi fish and ships. Although this basically equates to greater social acceptance for the tattoo industry (and maybe one day tattoo acceptance all workplaces?), it also means that anybody with twenty bucks in their pocket is going to spend that to look like he’s got the inside scoop on “dope tats.” This is beneficial for the tattoo artist insofar as it sparks interest in tattoos a near-mass level (thus, more income for tattoo artists), but the tattoo artist shouldn’t depend on a department store selling a lot of t-shirts in order to have a steady income.
To get straight to my point, I will tell you that I stopped wearing my Ed Hardy shirts a few years ago. Those fine and unbelievably comfortable pieces of cotton now lay in a drawer where I might wear them if I don’t plan on leaving the house because, well, leaving the house wearing an Ed Hardy shirt will make me feel like a douche bag. There – I said it. This isn’t to say that anybody wearing an Ed Hardy shirt is automatically a bad person for doing so; it just means that I don’t want to blend in with a crowd of people that I see as trying to squeeze their way into the tattoo industry and coolness by wearing those clothes. I know a lot of tattoo artists who avoid doing the same thing and a lot of tattoo artists who wear Ed Hardy shirts, Affliction shirts and similar fashionable items and think they’re just as cool as when they were first introduced. Fine. Whatever. Want to wear it? Then wear it.
But for the people on my side of the debate, does this also mean we should avoid wearing football jerseys if we aren’t pro players, or avoid wearing band shirts if we aren’t in the band? Of course not, but the analogy still doesn’t transfer for me. Although I’m sure the twenty year old guy wearing an At The Gates shirt is not a member of the band, and the skinny guy wearing a Giants jersey isn’t playing football professionally, I still avoid wearing tattoo-themed clothing because I don’t want to look like I’m trying too hard. The fact that I’m extensively covered in tattoos will do all the speaking for me. I don’t need to wear an Ed Hardy shirt to tell people I’m into “sick-ass tats,” and if you’re into “sick-ass tats,” then get a tattoo. That will show your dedication far more than a shirt you can take off when you get home at night.
I know that for some people this can be a controversial subject, especially if you’re the person wearing an Ed Hardy shirt or the person selling the Ed Hardy shirt, and for those people, I will clarify: I’m not telling you to stop wearing it – not even insisting. I just have reasons I won’t wear the clothing. Tattoo-themed shirts are always much cooler and appealing when you buy them from an individual shop or an individual artist. Mass-produced clothing has less appeal, less soul, less flavor. If I’m wearing a shirt with giant skulls plastered all over it that I bought from a department store, I have the nagging fear that I’m going to run into somebody wearing the same exact shirt and somehow feel less like an individual, more like a copycat; less like me and more like them. You can call it a fear, but I will call it a strength.
Sure, I could take the passive, middle-ground route and say, “Hey, how about everyone just wears what they want and we agree to disagree, ok?” But that’d be kind of boring. Taking the middle-ground all the time will lead you to a mediocre destination and I think most tattoo artists chose their career because they didn’t want a mediocre life. And part of avoiding that mediocre life it would appear, would be to choose to wear tattoo-themed apparel you bought at your local tattoo shop or the last convention you visited, rather than walking into your nearest department store.
Having as many tattoos I have, it’s hard to sound credible saying this, but looking cool isn’t really a priority of mine. We choose fashion because we choose to look fashionable, or rather, in touch, cool, hip, acceptable, so on and so on, and sometimes, trying to look too fashionable just results in an opposite effect. We’ve all known someone who has tried too hard, tried so hard to look cool and hip that we ridiculed them once they left the room, or even directly to their face. Have you ever seen runway models or fashionistas with a wardrobe that’s so out of out of touch and ridiculous that you can’t take that person seriously? Well, that’s not exactly how I see mass generated tattoo-themed apparel, but it’s getting close to that. I’ve always seen trends in the way that, once everyone jumps on the bandwagon, you should have already jumped off. Being an individual is always much cooler than going through the easy route. Always stay one step ahead of the game and you’ll have that much more respect. Avoid needing to look cool, and you’ll look much cooler for doing that.