Spoiler alert: The tramp stamp is back!
I absolutely love thinking about my tattoo plans for the year ahead. What do I fancy getting tattooed? What style do I want it to be? And where do I want it to sit on my body?
Look, I don’t necessarily believe in following fashion – especially when it comes to tattoos – but it is interesting to think about what’s trending right now and if there’s any patterns coming up.
You know, recurring tattoo designs that crop up and gain popularity, or maybe more people are getting certain areas of their body tattooed more often than others.
There’s been many over the decades – who remembers dolphins, fairies, foxes, pocket watches, tribal, nautical stars…? They’ve all had their moment in the spotlight.
Not to mention, the so-called “tramp stamp” of 90s fame – peaking out of those low-rise jeans. I will never forget my own first tattoo that I got in the early noughties, a dancing Alice in Wonderland that sat on my lower back (since covered by my back piece, RIP tramp stamp, I miss you).
So I got in touch with some tattoo artists to get their commentary on the latest tattoo trends and what they think is going to be big for 2023.
Yep, you guessed it, there’s some noughties comebacks. Are you ready?
#1 Heart print everything – especially animals
“Heart print everything, especially animals,” says tattoo artist Andrea @nolseytattoo, who works at The Blackhouse Club in Brighton. “It’s a trend that grew bigger last year and I’m sure it’s staying for a long time.” But where did it come from?
“Traditional tattooing,” explains Andrea – who says the inspiration is tattoo artist Rosie Camanga, who created horses and bulls with hearts inside them during the 1950s. “It was unnoticed until last year when it became super popular again, one of the things I’ve tattooed the most has been heart cows.”
#2 Animals doing very human things
“Humanising animals” says Andrea. “Tattoos of animals doing things like smoking, eating, wearing clothes – the sillier they look, the better. With tattoos being more accepted in society, I think there’s less pressure of being judged so people are feeling more free to choose simpler things that make them laugh, or happy when they look at them – without being ashamed of ‘not having a deep meaning behind’.”
#3 The butterfly tattoo
Butterfly tattoos by Sarah Louise
Butterflies are a classic tattoo design that first gained popularity during the Second World War. Conjuring an image of freedom, they've fallen in and out of fashion over the decades – but right now, they are back.
"Butterflies have definitely become the new tribal,” confirms tattoo artist Sarah Louise, who works at Sacred Coven in Nottingham.
#4 90s/noughties revival and the return of the “tramp stamp” (AKA the lower back tattoo)
Lower back tattoo by Sarah Louise
The 90s comeback isn't restricted to fashion (hello, cargo pants and cycling shorts) and hair (looking at you, the iconic "Rachel" and claw clips) – it has made its way to tattoo trends too.
"A lot of young people are getting work that was popular 20 years ago,” continues Sarah Louise. “Definitely for placements – I’ve done lots of lower back tattoos.”
“There will always be classic designs and placements on the body that are timeless,” says tattoo artist Grace Neutral, who owns Femme Fatale in London. “I think that’s why some ‘dated styles’ have come back for a big revival in recent years. From a tribal tramp-stamp to a colour dolphin doing a little splash!”
"There will always be classic designs and placements that are timeless" - Grace Neutral
#5 Abstract tattoos that throw out the tattoo rulebook
“There seems to be a lot more abstract tattoos that don’t follow the rules of tattooing,” observes tattoo artist Dexter Kay, who works at Inkhouse London.
“There is a direct reflection to fashion with the marbling, fluid aesthetic and harsh black graphics people are getting – like acid wash punk T-shirts. Perhaps it’s reflective of the amount of vector images online or a kind of punk rejection of classic images and styles. It’s the first time I’m noticing the high street trends bleeding into the tattoo trends.”
#6 Tattoos are getting smaller
The want for bigger pieces seems less, continues Dexter. “I don’t know if this is a reflection on the cost of living or the sheer number of people now in the tattoo scene who started doing hand poke in lockdown so are unable to do bigger pieces. The visual language is smaller pieces – much like it was the anchors and cut-throat razors 10 years ago, people tend to just copy their pals.”
#7 Blackwork tattoos
“I’ve noticed a resurgence in black work,” says Sarah Louise.
Blackwork chest piece by Sarah Louise
Trends no longer exist?
"Just being a tattooed person is the real trend" - Grace Neutral
Trends in tattooing are a thing of the past, according to Grace. “The world of tattoo styles is way too diverse for any individual style to be considered a trend. New styles are born all the time," she explains. "If anything, just being a tattooed person is the real trend!"
"I think people are more open to the idea of charging their body / mind by adorning themselves with specific symbols. People are opening their eyes and hearts to the power of magic and manifestation, and marking symbols on your body permanently goes hand in hand with that kind of spiritual work.”
Want more tattoo inspo? Check out these 13 ear tattoo ideas for 2023.