London is the cultural capital of the UK, with tourists flocking to the city all year round to see the history and the heritage that is on offer. It’s not surprising that tattoo culture in London is something that shouldn’t be missed. London tattoo shops are no longer a back street enterprise with tattoo seekers trawling the alleyways to find someone who will ink their body freehand. In fact, the number of London tattoo shops are increased massively and the clientele frequenting these studios has diversified over the decades.
The Beginnings of London Tattooing
Historians haven’t managed to find an authenticated record of a London tattoo shop before the 1880s but that doesn’t mean people weren’t getting tattooed! Body ink became a staple stereotype for criminals, bikers and troublemakers, but in London, a subculture developed, with tattoo studios becoming territorial and London tattoo artists developing their own following and dedicated clients.
Musical Influence on Tattoo Culture
The music scene was a huge influence on tattoo culture and as London was the centre of much of music development, it is not surprising that this filtered into the London tattoo shops at the time. Rockabilly, punk, Bowie, are just a few that have influenced tattoo culture with the tattoo artists that could adapt to this subculture demand thriving.
Diversity in London Tattoo Culture
Looking back, Camden Town was the place to be if you wanted a tattoo during the 1990s but as the types of people turning up at tattoo shops has changed, so has the places you can find a tattoo studio. It is hard to miss a tattoo studio walking down a high street in London these days and the International London Tattoo Convention demonstrates diversity in its 400 artists and 20,000 visitors. With people from all walks of life descending on the capital to show off their ink and add more! Tattooists still have dedicated clients but the culture in London is less territorial with many London tattoo shops having resident London tattoo artists but also welcoming guest artists from across London, the UK and the world.
The Impact of the Internet
The internet has also had a massive impact on tattoo culture and London tattoo artists have had to keep up with the demand for the unlimited range of tattoo designs found online. This demand for intricate, complex design has led to a new shift in tattoo culture. Many London tattoo artists have now graduated from art college with qualifications in various type of art, before pursuing their career as a tattoo artist. As with most cultural changes, it is not the regulation of the industry that has caused a shift towards studying art informal settings, it is the demand placed on the artists to be able to produce anything and everything that can possibly be imagined.
London Culture Remains
With all the changes and diversity, the one thing that has remained is the demand for tattoos that reflect London culture; the buildings and iconic imagery associated with the capital are still requested by Londoners and tourists in their hundreds!