Fashion Masochist: Tattoos

With the fashion world embracing body art, Rachel Baker gets (temporarily) inked.

Illustration by Clare Mallison.

Illustration by Clare Mallison.

Sporting designer logos on bags, belts, and other clothing has been, for the past decade or so, an acolyte’s favorite way to boast brand loyalty, if not personal spending power. But lately those status symbols have been coming in new, more primal forms: body art. At spring fashion week, many style-minded attendees professed their undying love for labels like Marc Jacobs and Lanvin with permanent ink, while Rodarte featured tribal-looking body paint along with its designs. But the real showstopper? Chanel’s onslaught of models branded head to toe with temporary tattoos.

Until now, I’ve never even considered a tattoo. (Maybe it’s because I’ve been too busy feeling lucky for not getting sucked into the tramp-stamp-a-thon of the mid-’90s.) But suddenly I can’t get my mind off Chanel’s real-looking peel-and-press options. Could they be the gateway to the genuine article?

I swing by Chanel’s Newbury Street boutique and buy the pack that manager Mary Nobile-King set aside for me ($75 for 55 Lagerfeld-approved designs). Boston isn’t exactly an ink-tastic city (Massachusetts legalized tattooing only 10 years ago), but even so, there was such a run on the Chanel temporaries that they’d otherwise sold out. (The good news: More shipments are on the way!)

Tasks that involve measuring and dexterity have never been my forte, and I want my tats to look stunning. So I enlist a professional to help with the installation. No self-respecting tattoo artist wants a rep for applying temporary tattoos (“that’s kid stuff!”), but a young artist named Jamie at Allston’s Stingray makes an exception. He and I spend an hour and a half in his medical-looking station strategizing, applying, and otherwise gabbing.

I leave with a sleeve of bud-covered branches and Chanel double C’s on one arm, a bracelet and a sparrow on the other, and a Chanel anklet. My chest and neck are the focal point, showcasing two sparrows and a tattooed necklace complete with the Chanel double C’s. Thanks to Jamie’s help, the designs look professional and permanent. I am a badass.

I proceed to shower with soap, but the ink doesn’t budge until I wash with the prescribed baby oil six days later. In the meantime, friends and coworkers surprise even themselves with the positive feedback. Everywhere I go – the Pru, Rocca, the Butcher Shop – fashionista strangers can’t help but approach and gush, “Are those the Chanel ones?” I even get the approval of Jamie Bissonnette, the tattoo-covered chef at Coppa and Toro. Men over the age of 50, however, are horrified, channeling my dad. Three different male higher-ups at the office give me double takes, then stunned play-nice grins, then some version of “Are those, uh, new?” They’re visibly relieved when I say the word “temporary.”

I couldn’t have enjoyed my tattoos more, though I must admit: I’m happy to take them off and start planning my next batch of designer ink. Fashion is always reinventing itself, and I’d like to reserve that right for myself, too.