We, at Being Modern, may be no Ben Goldacres, but we nevertheless maintain a healthy scepticism towards the scientific studies that occasionally ping on to our news radar. Such was the case a couple of weeks back vis-à-vis a story suggesting nearly one in three people regret their tattoos, a statistic apparently gleaned from a survey of East Lancashire dermatology patients.
Now we hate to cast aspersions on the populace of that fine region, but how long have they been labouring under a rock exactly? Otherwise, they would surely know that far from being epidermal errors, tattoos are the very emblem of sophisticated living these days. And where once body-branding was the cultural preserve of sailors, gap-yah casualties, and assorted scary folk, now everyone – from Ascot ladies to Wimbledon players, Justin Bieber to Felicity Kendal – is inking up, providing as it does the perfect expression of "I'm free-spirited, me."
Which is not to say there aren't some fundamental precepts to consider. First and foremost, under no circumstances should you opt for a Chinese symbol: cod-mysticism went out with Kula Shaker and what you thought represented love and understanding will inevitably translate as "pendulous dogs' testicles". Other certified no-nos include: Celtic armbands (too footballer-ish), anchors (too ironic) and cartoon characters (yes, we're looking at you Marc "Spongebob" Jacobs).
And, if you're worried that body art has lost some of its provocative cachet, then best to avoid the Mike Tyson-like facial tattoos – never an easy one to pass by mum, whatever your age – and head to the other end of the subtlety spectrum with a white-ink decoration. Favoured by the likes of Lindsay Lohan and Kate Moss, they are barely visible to the naked eye and therefore the avant-garde acme of narcissistic pointlessness.
Of course, this is all assuming that you can bear the pain of the needle. Otherwise, we hear Barbie does an estimable range of sticker tats these days.