Pub Spy: Tattoo sleeves…I have some questions

Tattoo sleeves are very common these days

I was knocking back a few sherberts in the Seven Stars at the weekend and noticed just how many geezers are now sporting these tattoo sleeves.

Whole arms covered from wrist to shoulder with green ink in all sorts of patterns and designs are de rigeur these days it seems.

Indeed, it’s difficult to watch any sporting event without seeing players adorned in this way – even the cricketers are at it.

We know Becks is covered in tats – and maybe people like him are the key to this extraordinary rage.

You don’t need me to tell you that fashion is an incredibly important motive in human behaviour.

Now, I come from a time when lots of the men I played football with in east Kent had green splodges on their arms resembling nothing. One bloke had “Ashford Mods” written on his arm.

The best one I recall was a player with a topless woman draped around a dagger the same size as her. That was entirely tasteful and not in the least bit sexually aggressive or weird.

But these tattoo sleeves are taking things to a whole new level.

As someone who’s never thought of getting someone to inject green ink in my skin, I do have some questions for those with them.

Are you worried about what it will look like when you’re 70 or 80 years old?

Are you worried that one day, you’ll have a change of mind and decide you don’t want it any more? After all it’s not like getting rid of a floral patterned shirt by incinerating it in a metal drum in the back garden.

And are you worried that a tattoo of any kind might have any kind of implications elsewhere in life?

I ask because I truly am fascinated by what drives people to do the things they do.


  1. When I was but a callow yoof I worked on Sealink Ferries as a Steward’s Boy. About half of my crew mates were tattooed, many of them having acquired their tats in the Royal, or Merchant Navy. As I recall, very few of them (they were then in their 30s/40s) were pleased with the results and most regretted getting tattooed. Ignoring advice from the old lags, a fellow Steward’s Boy got a tattoo on his forearm which, over the next 24 hours, went bad on him. He’d contracted septicaemia. Skip a week’s sick leave, a course of ABs and his return to work, the poor lad was taken up to the bridge to be seen by the Skipper. The mis-shapen, blooby thing on his forearm cost John a week’s pay and a logging, as formal written warnings are referred to at sea. Tattoos going bad and getting sunburned are, rightly, viewed as self-inflicted injuries in the RN and Merchant Service.
    I met John a few years ago (then aged around 40 and a dad) and asked how his tattoo was. He showed me and it was dreadful. By then, his teenage kids were obsessing about tats and no words of discouragement, nor the showing of what was supposed to be a lion’s head, seemed like deterring them. Ah well, the misplaced enthusiasm of youth eh?
    Even now, getting tattooed can see you being fired by your employer. You have no recourse to an industrial tribunal and of course, quite rightly, you can’t ask the NHS to reverse the tattooing process. As my dad (a regular soldier) put it “a tattoo is an indelible reminder of a poor decision.”
    Wise up…
    There’s a good reason tattoos are called tramp stamps in the US and twattoos over here. Tat is a synonym for rubbish – Need one say more!


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