Diego Lafuente’s personal blog

February 16, 2014

10 types of tattoos you should never get

Almost everyone knows it in some way, but no one says it outright: there are ugly tattoos. There are tattoos that are marked with an "X" by the vast majority of society and that fill galleries of compilations of horrible, regrettable, amusing, and pitiable tattoos. These tattoos fall squarely into the category of aberrations and will ruin your representation as a human being 100% of the time. It is likely that your mother and family will feel lifelong shame for them. No, I am not referring to tattoos of roses, dolphins, butterflies, or the Superman shield. If you came to this article to clarify some ideas before getting a tattoo, do not hesitate: do not get any of the tattoos on the list.

I am well aware that tattoos are a personal choice. In theory, there is no obligation to tattoo anything specific, and everyone can get whatever they want on their body. But even if you get something tattooed for personal satisfaction, it doesn't mean that no one can criticize it, in any sense, respectfully or not. For many, you will have a shitty tattoo for life.

I am writing this article for several reasons. First, to have a healthy laugh about the subject. Second, because my amazement has never been so small as to ignore this topic, and I have been planning to write about it for months. It is worth delving into and discovering what led someone to want to tattoo the face of Hugo Chávez on their body, or Gadafi, to mention just a few things that defy all levels of reasoning. Here is the list of the 10 tattoos that you should never, absolutely never, get.I am well aware that tattoos are a personal choice. In theory, there is no obligation to tattoo anything specific, and everyone can get whatever they want on their body. But even if you get something tattooed for personal satisfaction, it doesn't mean that no one can criticize it, in any sense, respectfully or not. For many, you will have a shitty tattoo for life.

Face tattoos

Although some facial tattoos have cultural origins, such as those made by aboriginal people, in 99 out of 100 cases, facial tattoos are at the top of this list. It doesn't matter if it's a star, a flower, or a penis; they all ruin your identity as a human being. Although some tattoos might be passable, the truth is that, in the eyes of the rest of society, a facial tattoo is a tremendous aberration, except, of course, in circles where tattooing is a culture and accepted as a tattoo convention or in an aboriginal tribe.

These tattoos also have a direct relationship with various crime organizations that I don't even want to mention. But it's common to see these types of tattoos on gang members in Central America, certain areas of the United States, and in Russia. These tattoos have intense representation among members, and their use is only related, in many cases, to the level of involvement, fanaticism, and dedication that select members have shown.

If you live in a civilized area, are not a select member of any criminal organization, but are still considering getting a facial tattoo, I can only say this: think it over carefully; consult your pillow well. Unless you want to move to some African or Amazonian tribe or join some organized crime group, you don't have to embarrass yourself by getting a scribble on your face. Your mother will thank you.

Uppercase gothic letters tattoos

Who would have thought that Bishop Ulfilas back in the 4th century, that a few hundred years later his magnificent work would be used to make ugly tattoos and be part of an article about horrible tattoos! Well, if you want to be the laughing stock of the neighborhood, you can never go wrong getting a tattoo with gothic letters in uppercase. It doesn't matter what you want to write on your skin: if you put it in gothic uppercase letters, it will be crap. According to the barometer used, it's second on the list of tattoos considered aberrations that society sometimes naively desires and in many cases, proudly commits them, as if they were the most beautiful thing in the world! So, unless you want to look like a medieval scribe or a wannabe vampire, better stay away from gothic uppercase tattoos.

You may say, "anyone who laughs will have to deal with me." But the problem is that you don't need people laughing in your face. This issue applies to all examples of crappy tattoos. Plus, you can't go around hitting everyone who has a smile on their face, nor can you expect everyone to be focused on you, you know what I mean? But one thing is for sure: this type of tattoo is very popular among younger generations with little education, all kinds of vandals, and people with questionable values. If you were thinking of getting one, keep in mind that you will be classified into these profiles, as nobody who walks by and sees your tattoo will stop and administer a Wechsler Intelligence Scale test. They will simply think that you are just another ignorant person from the neighborhood.

The great critics will always agree on one thing: Gothic typography is beautiful, but it requires a professional to do what is known in tattoos as "good lettering." A good tattoo with Gothic letters doesn't necessarily have to be in uppercase, mind you. Even the monks didn't make abominations in uppercase.

Brand tattoos

Yes, yes, yes... I know, it could be in first place, but let me explain why not. Culturally, even some brands have their romanticism, but within the decalogue (if there are 10 types of shitty tattoos), getting brand tattoos generates a great deal of shame towards those close to you, and in a large percentage of cases, it will be a shitty tattoo.

And now that you know, yes, it's true: there are people who get brand tattoos. They're around you. They're in the same subway car you take every day to go to work, they share the same lunchroom at the restaurant, and even your coworker sitting next to you all happy with their laptop working may have one of these tattoos. But don't worry, stupidity won't rub off on you if you force your brain to avoid this topic. Think of daisies, of a sunny day, but don't imagine yourself with a brand logo on your arm, walking all tough on the beach trying to impress the ladies: it will be your downfall.

Despite the fact that we can see these tattoos on the internet, just last summer I saw a guy with a DC Shoes logo tattooed on his shoulder. My automatic reaction was: 'poor thing.' But yes, there are even more daring ones, like people with Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Microsoft, Apple, and other brand logos tattooed on them.

It's not that logos are bad graphic designs. The problem with tattooing brands is the same as tattooing the names of girlfriends: one day they can represent morally acceptable ideals and the next day, not so much. I've witnessed a case of this kind up close. Maybe many of you don't know Cory Doctorow, but he's a great person, very popular, and has written a few books. He has an Apple logo tattooed on him and in an article, he blurted out:

"If this 'feature' appears in a commercial version of Apple's operating system, they're going to lose me as a customer - I've been using Apple computers since 1979 and I have a Mac tattooed on my right bicep, but this is an ultimatum."

"Today, you may think you're a rebel by tattooing the XXXXX Inc. logo, but tomorrow this company may do something horrible and you'll want to rip the skin off, or someone else might do it for you, of course.

If you were thinking of getting a brand tattoo, take a deep meditation, consult with your pillow or closest friends, in private, of course, because if you ask anyone for their opinion on the idea, you'll only get one response: 'it's a damn crazy idea.'"

Getting a tattoo of your boyfriend or girlfriend's name...

Carla, Carolina, Mabel, Marta... All of them have something in common: they are, symbolically speaking, ex-girlfriends of someone who decided to get their name tattooed and then retattooed over the other names of their partners. Well, no need to exaggerate too much, one ex-girlfriend is enough.

Tattoos with girlfriends' names —even wives' names— is another of the worst ideas that a more or less mentally fit human being can do. You are never safe from one day arriving and seeing your wife with someone else, or your boyfriend banging your best friend, yes, that person you have decided to imprint on your skin forever, well, or until you shell out a few bucks for the removal treatment (which is expensive as fuck).

This type of tattoo is in fourth position because the seriousness of the subject is important. Human relationships are unpredictable, therefore, they are subject to these unforeseen events that can form a black part of history.

The only way that this type of tattooing is not a problem is when the person's name represents a deceased person. Many people get tattoos of people who have died as a memorial. Outside of these areas, tattooing for love is the worst one can opt for as an option.

Phrases in another language

This section is undoubtedly one of the most interesting. Among the list of dangerous tattoos are those made with words or phrases in another language, and even the reverse example: literal translations of phrases. If you were thinking about getting that phrase tattooed in Chinese, it's better not to.

"What does it say there?".

It always happens. One wants to get a tattoo of something and in the end, they get tattooed with just about anything. Over time, they don't know how to explain it and the situation becomes even funnier. More than once, I've been told 'I think it says… in Chinese'. These people are usually victims of the indifference of tattoo artists. Many people believe that a Japanese or a Chinese person understands Spanish culture, and whether you believe it or not: they don't. Going to a Japanese person and asking them to tattoo something that only a Spanish person would understand is like giving a sharp knife to a child.

This horrible practice mainly occurs for three basic reasons: you don't understand the language; you've never turned to a professional to write it for you, and the person who tattoos you doesn't understand the language to warn you that it has errors or that it doesn't say "freedom" in Japanese, but rather says "idiot."

Within this category, in addition to phrases in another language, there are those that are translated literally. And there's nothing worse than using Google Translate (among other services) to transcribe that "cool phrase in English." The truth is that in many cases, the opposite happens: it sounds horrible to read a phrase translated literally. Look at this example:

"Hello, could you translate the following phrase for me: 'Los dolores de ayer serán la fortaleza de mañana'? ...In English, it could be: 'The pains of yesterday will be the strengths of tomorrow'."

It often happens that we see people with phrases in other languages and with many grammatical and spelling errors. Even if the translation is correct, the phrase may not be for an English speaker, and only philologists could explain it with ease.

Many people point to the language as the problem, but reality shows that it is not the case. It doesn't matter if it's Arabic, Chinese, or Japanese: mistakes also abound in English. Some people even tattoo themselves in fantasy languages like Elvish or Klingon, and all of this is like smoking in a dry powder keg. For example, a friend of mine tattooed a phrase with a huge spelling mistake, and the tattoo artist (who was Spanish) apparently didn't speak English well enough to warn him that the phrase had a problem. As a consolation, as long as he doesn't leave Spain, nobody will notice.

To avoid mistakes by the tattoo artist or yourself, try to avoid tattooing phrases in languages you don't know well. It's very likely that you could ruin everything if you misspell a word or use the wrong letter, or even worse, while you think your chest says "I am the best" in Elvish, it actually says "I am a jerk."

If you really want that phrase in Latin or in English, turn to a teacher and explain to them what you want to tattoo. They will surely help you.

Stupid quotes

Tattooing phrases or words in other languages ​​has a high component of madness, but tattooing "rebellious" phrases as I call them is, plainly speaking, another typical shitty tattoo that you may regret having done when you mature a little.

"Only God can judge me"

Excuse me... but no. Whether God exists or not (that's another debate), I can judge you. And my verdict is that you have a horrible tattoo.

There are several reasons why getting these tattoos doesn't lead to good outcomes. The first is that one can radically change their opinion or realize the truth after some revelations. Imagine that one day, in a moment of lucidity, you have the great idea of tattooing a phrase, such as "live and be good. Justin Bieber" and after 3 years, Justin Bieber kills someone for pleasure, or worse, it is discovered that he is a pedophile, well, you understand why tattooing phrases can later lead to a type of regret or direct contradiction of your principles.

On the other hand, there are people who tattoo obvious phrases that add nothing but indifference. Yes, reading things like "everyone dies," "no one can judge me," "nothing lasts forever," "I'm beautiful, you just can't see it" just makes the viewers feel sorry. No one will learn anything wise by reading phrases like these. It is better to avoid tattooing phrases altogether.

Another important component of this movement is wanting to teach something specific. Often, these phrases seem to teach something, but in reality, they teach something else. An example is "do what you want," a big fallacy. We know well that one cannot do whatever they want in a society where everything is practically regulated. If we followed the instructions to the letter, we would see that it is actually a fallacy. In many cases, you can go to jail for following these premises.

If I had to tattoo something to educate people, I would tattoo this phrase: read, think, understand. I believe there is nothing healthier than that.

Tribal tattoos

On the list of bad tattoos, tribal tattoos couldn't be left out. But don't kill me, I don't mean all tribal tattoos, but rather those tattoos that westerners have transformed and called Western Tribal Tattoos.

Throughout my 35 years, I remember the first day I saw a Western Tribal Tattoo, my reaction was "wow." Over time, I have seen people with tribal tattoos again and realized that they ruined their bodies with black, sharp blotches. The effect was totally the opposite, in fact, I think it was a very ephemeral and poorly done genre of all styles.

These tattoos give, let's say, the individual that strong, rebellious, and crazy look to anyone who has enough guts to cover their body with as many sharp strokes as possible, the more, the better, and the thicker, the braver the owner. These tattoos were the hallmark of many bodybuilders. The truth is that it's hard for me to see a well-made Western tribal tattoo because it lacks history and development.

Original tribal tattoos, if they really are, are great works of art because they are made by cultures that have developed the style for centuries. There are plenty of examples: Maori, Mayan, Japanese, Chinese, African, all have beautiful patterns, shapes, and a lot of symbolism beyond the thousands of lines you can get. Although it may not be proof that gives credibility, in my personal opinion, I have grown tired of seeing covered tattoos, most of them were attempts at tribal tattoos, tribal tattoos of all kinds, and really horrendous shapes.

Western tribal tattoos, besides being outdated, I consider them tattoos with very little substance. If you want a tribal tattoo, choose real tribal styles, not the typical ones you see in cheap tattoo catalogs.

Nationalist tattoos

Following the string of examples of tattoos that you should never get are the famous "nationalist tattoos". There are several reasons why you should not get tattoos of patriotic symbols, political parties, faces of national heroes, or flags.

Even in 2013, people are still tattooing faces of dictators, genocides and white-collar thieves. People of whom no one with two centimeters of encephalic mass could accept as an "example" and show pride. Yes, there are people who have tattoos of Hitler, Hugo Chavez, Gaddafi to name a few easy to remember but there have also been tattoos of Saddam Hussein and even George Bush, of course! and let's not forget those who, infamous, have swastikas tattooed and other symbols that represent disgusting values.

Really, nationalist tattoos are pitiful and will mark you all your life as a fundamentalist fanatic with whom you cannot dialogue or with the chauvinist of the moment. In all likelihood, you will suffer quite a bit of prejudice when confronted with people and will probably feel excluded just because you have that country's flag or that politician's face visible on your body.


How could I forget the stars! One of the most abused tattoo motifs ad nauseam. For sure, tattooing stars is to secure a place in the ranks of the obvious.

Star tattoos, as you say, are a complicated subject. They are always associated with violence in general. Russian gangs tattoo stars, for example. Many pro-violence characters wear them and many rampaging youths use stars to wear what they think is "important" or "the best".

Tattoo stars usually represent just that: importance. They are an excellent placebo for the ego: "Hello, I'm important" is the intended message, even if they deny it. The stars are directly connected with this term, above all they are linked to the sporty, the high standing, the exclusive.

But stars, among all tattoos, are the most inoffensive. Many people tattoo stars that represent the people they love the most.

Sport tattoos

Last on the list are sports tattoos. I'm a little too fond of them to leave them at the bottom of the list, as they are the most innocent ones, but I also consider them a disaster of a tattoo choice. They border on the same level as brand names, especially when people get tattoos of players who then leave them for the opposing team. Sporting passion changes over time, shields change skin, players move on to other teams and there are even teams that cease to exist, tomorrow, if there were a competent government in Spain, many of the top clubs should close due to the immense public debt they have, but of course, for the moment they are safe.

But beyond this, sports tattoos evoke fanaticism and at the same time, fanatics evoke from dismay to fear. That's why getting sports symbols tattooed is a tricky business if you were planning to be liked by everyone or expect to be invited to all the parties, people in good standing try to avoid people like you. Many people have removed or covered up these symbols because over time they have matured and no longer feel like hooligans or no longer see militancy with the same appeal they started out with.

Before a tattoo, better a t-shirt, which you can put on and take off whenever you want.

Tattooing your body is an excellent experience. It is a good way to remember something and to beautify the body with art, that is why ruining it with meaningless symbology has no place in the good things. It is always better to consult with professionals, if you want to venture into the exotic, and with friends or family if you want to get something more radical tattooed as exemplified in this Decalogue.