Tattoo skeptics often ask, “Would you still want that design on your body when you're in the old folks' home?” Answer: yes. We'll be covered in tiny taco tattoos, delicate rings and bracelets, and hyper-realistic pet images when Gen Z and millennials retire. “People are a lot more in-the-moment and aren't as concerned about how something will age,” says Portland tattooist Ian Haight.
As tattoos become less forbidden, placement and style concerns evaporate with the stigma. “The City of Roses no longer has ‘good tattoos’ vs. ‘bad tattoos, who tattoos. Industry gatekeepers, trendsetters, and tattoo police are gone. Internet fragmentation has created armies of specialists doing their own thing and niche audiences that engage with their work.
Memphis patterns, with their vibrant, bold shapes floating in space, are typical of ‘80s graphic design. “Think Trapper Keeper,” Haight suggests (or watch the Saved By the Bell opening credits). Everyone is embracing late ‘80s and ‘90s design nostalgia. Memphis tattoos may feature a pastel triangle, neon green squiggle, and vivid lightning bolt.
Our next trend breaks rules again. New York City tattooist Ana Guzman has seen clients request two-dimensional and realism tattoos together. Realistic tattoos capture the subject as they are in life, while two-dimensional art is flat and purposely fake. This piece plays with reality and fiction, defying categorization. With his realistic vase and cartoon-esque two-dimensional flowers on his left arm, Bad Bunny is promoting the trend.
The sticker sleeve is more about tattoo placement than style. It involves several little tattoos randomly placed up and down the arm. “Instead of big pieces that take up a lot of real estate, a collection of small pieces allows room for more and more,” says New York City tattooist Rosa Bluestone Perr. The result is “cute and delicate.” Because you can build a sticker sleeve with tiny tattoos instead of saving up for a big piece, this technique is also budget-friendly.
In Portland, Haight has also seen the growth of the sticker sleeve, and his clients collect “small, simplistic tattoos.” He calls it lo-fi tattooing, generally spontaneous tattoos with simple designs. He attributes the change to tattoo stigma reduction. Haight says “you're seeing a lot more silly tattoos that are completely meaningless”. Requiring meaning in every tattoo is overrated. Do what you want with your body.
Permanent jewelry, necklaces, anklets, and bracelets with welded clasps have become popular in recent years. Bluestone Perr pioneered the tattooed jewelry trend with exquisite rings and bracelets. The designs generally resemble bracelets, with dots that resemble silver or gold chains. “They are a beautiful adornment to the body,” she explains. “I love that they are loss-proof jewelry.” Her tattoo-inspired rings and earrings bring the trend back to jewelry.
Our top tattoo trend of 2023 was micro-realism, which features tiny, hyper-realistic patterns. While the genre remains popular, Guzman has noticed an increase in one subgenre. Clients want realistic pet photographs to convey Fluffy's natural spirit. Most pet lovers get their portraits tattooed so they may always have their dogs with them.