Tattoos used to be seen as a mark of rebellion; something only criminals, baddies, people who were marked against their will and "women of ill repute" would get. That time has long passed, though, and tattoos are now as commonplace as hair dye or glasses!
In fact, some tattoos have downright adorable backstories.
Reddit user elscharfe asked:
The stories that follow are some of the cutest, sweetest, most heartwarming tattoo tales we've ever heard! There's talk of love, friendship, strength, survival, and coping with loss. It's a fantastic exploration of human wholesomeness. Brace for impending "aww"!
What's Your Name?
For this one, it was homemade (way back in the 80's) and I was both the canvas and the artist.
In college, as we were about to separate for the year, two of my friends and I decided we wanted tattoos. Being in a small town and broke college kids, we decided to do them ourselves. This actually did not go badly as I am diabetic, so we had clean needles to use. We all got a design of our initials - J, M and D - intertwined. I never saw Dave again after that year.
Funny story and why this tattoo is one of my favorites - I have several professional ones I love - is what happened when I met my now husband. He was my one (and only) attempt at a one night stand. He asked about the tattoo on my hip and I explained that is what a design made up of the initials J, D and M. He looked at me funny and asked - "Why do you have my initials on your hip?" I asked him - "What is your name?"
We've been married 26 years now. I guess it was just destined to be.
My sister did a huge tattoo of a unicorn for a bloke whose 14 year old niece was very sick and loved unicorns. He got it to show her before she passed away.
The Hospital Trip
I've been a tattoo artist for 13 years. Older gentleman client, I'd worked on him and his wife dozens of times. She drops him off to get inked and heads off to run errands. About two hours into the session a call comes in to the reception desk at my shop that his wife had gotten into an accident and was in the hospital. OH SH!T. I wrapped up the line I was running, wrapped him up immediately, and since their car was now totaled I drove him to the hospital myself.
She was ok, we finished his tattoo a few days later.
A Sister's Smile
Not a tattoo artist, but I am covered in tattoos. Probably the most meaningful one on my body is done by a professional stick n poke artist (yes those exist). It's a drawing that my little sister did when she was 11, it was a little sketch on the back of her sketch book and it's still my favorite. She's incredibly talented and she constantly looks down at her art because she never feels good enough, mostly because of others around her bullying her. So to see her reaction to her seeing her art as a tattoo was everything. She was so thrilled.
A couple years ago my grandmother (80's) and my aunt (late 50's) came to visit my family. My mother and her sister had agreed to get tattoos. After theirs were done grandma liked them so much that she got one too!
When grandma got back to her nursing home all of her lady friends that lived there with her were jealous of her tattoo, so they got the staff to set them up a trip and they all went and got tattoos.
My grandma is one of the sweetest ladies in the whole world!
A friend of mine is a tattoo artist. She got a guy come in with a photo of a tattoo on someone and insisted it be placed in the same place, exactly the same. It was a pink butterfly on the right wrist. When she asked him questions about it, he got defensive and just wanted to get it done. He was a big guy with a nearly full body of tattoos getting a pink butterfly on his wrist.
Anyway, she does the tattoo - only took about 30 minutes - and when he saw the finished tattoo he started to cry. It was his daughter's tattoo, one he took her to get. She had died a couple of weeks before in an auto accident, and he wanted to get her tattoo as a memorial. When he tried to explain beforehand, he kept getting choked up and got defensive automatically (as guys often do).
Englishmen In The States
My ex is a tattoo artist. The most wholesome thing she ever did on someone was two drunk English guys walked into the shop a few minutes before closing. They were best friends on a road trip across the states with the ashes of the 3rd friend that was supposed to go with them. They had been planning it for years. They both got his name tattoo'd on their butts.
The plan for them was to show their @ss to historical places. Apparently the friend wanted to moon Mount Rushmore. They decided that they'd show their butts to all of the historical places they were visiting.
I read a couple months ago about a tattoo artist who had a grandmother and grandchildren come in. The grandchildren wanted tattoos that match their grandmothers.
The grandmother was a concentration camp survivor.
The tattoo artist did the tattoos for free.
It's hard to pick a particular one, because people come in for sentimental reasons all the time. Certainly any memorial piece can be emotional for the client, and since I'm a sympathetic cryer I always end up explaining their aftercare with the 'trying not to cry too' wobble in my voice.
Recently, I did a portrait of a woman's husband with his signature reproduced underneath. She brought in a memory book of photos she'd made of her and him together.
She'd given it to him on his last birthday before he passed from a sudden cancer (two weeks from diagnosis to death). Once the tattoo was done we flipped through the book together and she explained where they were and why he was so wonderful.
Throughout the next few weeks I've had half a dozen people come in raving about the portrait and how much everyone loves it and sharing memories with me about the guy. He was very well loved by the community, and I'm honored I got to tattoo him. :)
She Said Yes
Tattoo artist for about 2 years here. Last winter I had a happy couple in their 20s walk in wanting tattoos. I didn't think much of it because we take walk ins everyday. The girl goes first and got a small heart on her wrist. The guy goes second and gets a traditional diamond tattoo. It's basically just a really simple cartoon version of a diamond. I ask him why he wants this and just says he likes the design, alright no problem. They both leave happy.
A week later I get a message from the girl thanking me for making their tattoo day so special. The guy had proposed to her later that evening after being together for 5 years. He got the tattoo to commemorate their engagement while she had no idea that he was going to propose. This still warms my heart every time I think about it. And also I'm glad she said yes because that would've sucked for him.
I was a piercer and during my apprenticeship I worked counter and sat in on tattoos. Dad let a kid draw whatever he wanted on him because the kid had cancer. The kid drew an outline and was having trouble so It wasn't an exact drawing the kid did but the artist stayed in the outline asked questions like " do you want me to color it in?" "do you want it real or like a stuffed animal?"
He basically used both their creativity to fill out the middle of the outlines the kid did and it actually looked really good. Dude has a pink and purple fat stuffed unicorn with its tongue sticking out on chest over his heart. The artist took a photo and it's was in the binder you can look through of his work on the counter but the story is not.
My best friend died in an accident right after we started college. Her dad is a tattoo artist so we always talked about getting our first ones together. What I wanted changed pretty much constantly, but she always wanted "This too shall pass" on her wrist. A few months after she passed I went to her dads shop and he tattooed it on me. It was always going to be a special one, but having her dad do it made it much more.
I had a kid come in that was moving from home, probably for college, and he had to leave his kitty behind. So he wanted to get her paw print on the spot she normally rests her paw. It almost brought tears to my eyes because I adore my cat and couldn't imagine leaving her.
Scars Into Beauty
I did a big flower piece; a cover up of self harm scars that went all up a girl's forearm and she wanted to have them covered before her college graduation ceremony. Her mom came in a few weeks later and got tattooed. Mom told me how important that was to her daughter and how happy she is to no longer have to see the bad memories on her body.
Both have been steady clients since and always remind me how much that tattoo changed her self confidence and helped her move past that part of her life.
Honestly being a tattooer can desensitize you to how much certain tattoos mean to people but situations like that always bring me genuine positive vibes x1000 knowing that my work can have such a lasting impact. Much love to all those overcoming a rough patch.
The Last Letter
I tattooed a girl, her aunt and mother... all the same day. The girl had gone through chemo and was waiting on results of her cancer.... I was tattooing the phrase "just let go"
I kid you not, as I finished the last letter and wiped the tattoo the girl got a phone call before I could even clean it off. It was her doctor calling - she had been cleared of cancer and cancer free!! It was emotional for us all. But what timing it was to get the call just as the last letter was done. I hope she is doing well.
Obligatory not a tattoo artist, but I asked the woman doing a time-intensive piece on me what her most unusual experience had been and her answer was really interesting and sort of ties in with this question, so I thought I'd share.
She had done a few of the nipple-replacement ones on mastectomy patients that others have mentioned, which is really cool, but she had done something sort of equivalent and *much* less common on a guy... See, he had a lot of vitiligo patches all over his body, and he was darker skinned. It had taken him many years to get over the self-esteem issues that had arisen from this, and he had finally, *finally* built up enough confidence (in his early thirties) to start talking to ladies. He was a really charming guy, and after a few false starts, had met a lady who he really liked, and the feeling was mutual. They had been dating for a few months and things were getting pretty serious - he really thought this was his soul mate, his happy-ever-after. There was just one problem...
The very worst of his vitiligo was over his groin. He'd never had anyone but a doctor see it, and he was terrified that this woman he wanted to marry would reject him when she saw it. So my tattoo artist spent a couple of months painstakingly (and painfully!) filling in all these vitiligo patches all over his crotch, over his testes and his penis. Nothing at all fancy, just literally very carefully colouring in all the white until it matched the rest of his skin and you had to look really closely to even tell. Took an ungodly amount of time because, well obviously he could only handle very short bursts, but when it was finally done, he cried and cried and cried.
She got an invitation to his wedding about 8 months later. Said it was the most amazing feeling she had ever got from tattooing anyone, seeing the difference it made to him.