Fashion: Getting the needle

On the street; Tattoos like these are too good to keep covered. Hannah Hunter gets under the skin of the faithful in north London

Brad, 31, musician from Edinburgh, lives in east London, wears vest from army surplus shop in Farringdon, walking trainers from Blacks, tattoos from Sacred Art

"You'll find that all tattoos are done for a reason, often a personal one, marking a particular moment in someone's life. The tattoo on my left arm was done eight years ago in Edinburgh in the only parlour that was open there at the time. I think it brought out my streak of masochism. I chose the first tattoo out of a stock of designs in the shop. I'm hoping to incorporate it somehow into the design I was having touched up today. I don't want it to look too linear, or to make too much of a statement. The way I look is very important to me. I am intuitive about choosing clothes, and I always try to get stuff other people haven't got."

Coln, 28, film-maker from Ireland, lives in London, wears clothes and shoes from Interstate in Covent Garden, London, tattoos from Sacred Art

"I'm having a cover-up done today of an old tattoo of a rose on my upper arm. I had it done as soon as I could when I was 18, and had the carp on my left arm earlier this year. The Japanese designs appealed to me the most, I suppose it's just an aesthetic preference. I like the carp motif and it's a standard Japanese design. There are no real deep and meaningful reasons why I have tattoos, other than that they're smart. Some people do think that tattoos are a fashion thing, like piercing. I think most people think about tattoos for a long time before they go ahead, they are a bit more permanent than piercing."

Anna, 28, postwoman, from Stoke Newington, wears combat trousers from local shop, vest from Top Shop, Dr Marten boots from Office London, tattoos by Sacred Art and Evil from the Needle

"I have three tattoos across my upper body and back, and I'm coming back for a `tribal' design across my wrists next Saturday. I want to keep going with my tattoos, and I see it as natural progression, one following and joining the other. The clothes I wear are practical. I don't really think about what I wear. I certainly don't see my tattoos as a fashion thing - I thought about them for a long time before I actually got them. I had the first one done about two years ago, and kept coming back. It's quite addictive. They make you very aware of your body and push you to look after yourself."

Yan,"20 several", tattoo artist from Tower Hill, London, wears T-shirt from Tattoo museum in Amsterdam, trousers from Army & Navy, trainers by Acupuncture, most tattoos self-done

"I started by tattooing myself and a few brave friends. I'm really influenced by American Army tattoos done in the Fifties, and by artists like Keith Haring. People look at the tattoos and think you're uneducated, but I did a degree before I did this. My family are artists - my brother and father are graphic designers and my mother was an art teacher. My mum didn't like the tattooing at first, she thought I was just torturing myself. Now she sees I'm doing it from a more spiritual angle and she feels better. My grandmother thinks it's not what I really ought to be doing. She always asks me when I'm going to get a proper job."

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