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July 23 2012

Can you be too old to get a tattoo?

Lady Steel, the wife of former Liberal Democrat leader David Steel, has revealed that her 70th birthday present to herself was a pink jaguar tattoo





June 26 2012

Tattoos: the hidden meanings

Teardrops, swallows, cats and dreamcatchers … what do they all mean? Here's our guide to tattoo terminology

Tattoos talk. Rather than meaning something literal and universal, the art on our bodies is often personal and complicated. A magnificent panorama of an underwater world is unlikely to simply declare the bearer's love of trout. However, some designs still shout a very particular meaning – to jaundiced eyes, at least.

1 Teardrop

True to stereotype, the teardrop appeared in the dock this week. During the trial of Kiaran Stapleton, accused of murdering Indian student Anuj Bidve in Manchester, the prosecution alleged that tattoo parlour staff remembered Stapleton's visit two days after the murder because they reminded the 21-year-old that a teardrop below the eye could mean the wearer had killed someone. Teardrops can be associated with death and prison. In gangland, an unfilled teardrop may signify the death of a friend, with the person shading it in when they have avenged their loss. Teardrops may also mean mourning – Amy Winehouse's teardrop was said to symbolise her former husband Blake Fielder-Civil's stint in prison.

2 Anchor

By the late 1800s, 90% of those serving in the British navy were tattooed and sailing iconography is still influential – particularly with the trend for retro "romantic" tattoos. "Tattoos display an individual's membership to a particular group in society," writes sociologist Tony Lawrence. Practically, tattoos could help identify drowned sailors. Their meanings, however, depend on the era and even the specific ship. An anchor could mean crossing the equator, the soul of a dead sailor or symbolise hope – we may no longer take perilous journeys on high seas but still seek to "anchor" our self. According to Dr Matt Lodder, art historian at Reading University, rather than having a particular meaning, the anchor has also become an icon of tattooing – like the broken heart and the swallow.

3 Swallow

Swallows never fly far into the ocean and so their sighting was a sign that land was near – a symbol of hope and achievement for sailors. Endless variations followed: two swallows indicated a journey of 10,000 nautical miles while a swallow with a dagger through its heart was a memorial for a friend lost at sea. A bird on a hand or neck can also say "jailbird". A friend with swallows flying across his arm lives a respectable life and yet is still routinely asked whether he has "done bird".

4 Dolphin

Before the explosion of 21st-century inking, tattoos were "mainly associated with those belonging to a lower social class – criminals, sailors, whores, soldiers, adventurers, perverts and the like – and at the other end of the scale with the eccentrics of high society, the rich and aristocratic," wrote Schiffmacher and Riemschneider in 1000 Tattoos. Hence our fascination with Samantha Cameron's tat. Dolphins may mean prosperity but also represent duality – a creature of the water, and a breather of air. They suggest we are in two worlds at once – perfectly encapsulating Sam Cam's commute between 10 Downing Street and her pad in the Cotswolds.

5 Cat

Danzig Baldayev, a St Petersburg prison guard, spent three decades documenting the body art of inmates. His life's work, the three-volume Russian Criminal Tattoo Encyclopaedia, is captivating. We learn that cats can symbolise a thief's pedigree. A single cat says they acted alone; several cats together indicate a gang.

6 Hidden codes

Canada's Border Services Agency has a guide to tattoos that provides amusing evidence of how the authorities may stereotype tattooed gentlemen. AFFA ("Angel Forever, Forever Angel") on the knuckles screams Hell's Angel. A noose is favoured by KKK fans. VL stands for "vida loca" – my crazy life. Then again, never assume the worst: one man claimed "hate" on his knuckles stood for happiness all through eternity.

7 Clown face

According to the Canadian authorities, clown faces can mean "Laugh now, cry later" and "play now, pay later", which probably sums up the poor gang members' emotions when caught in customs with an enormous bag of drugs and guns.

8 Spider's web

When placed on elbows or shoulders, the spider's web traditionally denoted being caught in prison. Other prison motifs include clock faces without hands, tombstones with numbers and a prison wall with bricks falling outward. What on earth could that mean?

9 Butterfly

Psyche is Greek for both butterfly and soul, and butterflies are symbols of the soul in many cultures. Through the wonder of metamorphosis, a wriggling worm becomes a winged angel and so butterflies most often denote transformation or change. A butterfly tat need not be girly: a friend knows a tough boxer who sports a tattoo of one of Britain's daintiest butterflies – the small copper.

10 Dreamcatcher

One of Miley Cyrus's 14-odd tattoos, the dreamcatcher, is also sported by Zac Efron. According to Native American mythology, this is a protective covering for infants that stops the bad (in this case: paparazzi, scandal, stalkers) while letting the good (cash, fame, screaming fans) pass through. Urgh.

So what are my chances of being mugged if I meet a man with a teardrop falling from the eye of a cat caught in a dreamcatcher? I can't be sure. "A common mistake made about tattooing is that there is a simple link between a symbol and a message," says Lodder, who points out that there is a third person in the relationship between tattoo and its bearer: the tattooist. Just like a work of art in a gallery, a tattoo may say more about its creator than the person who displays it. And the meaning of a tattoo may only be created after its bearer keeps being asked, what does it mean? "Sometimes you just want a cool tattoo," says Lodder.


guardian.co.uk © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds




March 23 2012

The Measure

What's hot… and what's not

Going up

Kitsch light-up bunnies and china dogs Ornaments, having skipped our parents generation, are back. In the age of the iPod, the Nigella app and the Kindle, how else can we fill our bookshelves?

Mondrian/Nicholson at the Courtauld Want a Celine AW12 sweater? Get your fix of the look for free, until the exhibition closes on 20 May

The iPad case as day clutch Nicked this idea from Paris fashion week audience, and we like it

Cropped trousers with Mary Jane shoes The perfect ankle exposure for March, and on-trend for next season

Oasis floral-print collection In store this week, and you will love, trust us

Going down

Asking, 'Is this decaf?'… When you asked the barista for decaf. Yes, of course it is. No one is trying to spike your latte. Chill

The reign of Brangelina The ex-sexiest couple in the world, now that we've got Ryan Gosling and Eva Mendes to perv

Liv Tyler's L'Oréal advert Way to make split ends sound like severe emotional trauma, Liv

Chandelier earrings Ooooouch. Our ears need a break


guardian.co.uk © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds


February 20 2010

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Beauty Pressure - youtube permalink

Anmerkung: Prinzipiell bin ich strikt gegen jegliches virales Marketing und Werbung im Allgemeinen, aber dieses Video über Schönheitsideale ist echt subversiv und sehenswert.
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