Badly drawn boys and girls: The celebrity fad for do-it-yourself tattoos

The celebrity fad for inkings has taken an alarming turn: now they’re doing it themselves, says Rebecca Armstrong

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The Independent Online

Ever visited the dentist and asked if you could have a go at extracting one of his or her teeth? Or gone to the hairdresser and offered to trim your stylist’s fringe?

I’m guessing not, because they’re the professionals who know what they’re doing and you’re the customer/patient/client who’s paying them for that expertise. It would be like going to get a tattoo and ending up giving your tattooist a permanent record of your visit. Crazy, right?

Not if you’re Justin Beiber, who, to be fair, has been doing sterling work on the crazy front of late. Last week he swapped places with his inker and gave New York tattoo artist Bang Bang a really rubbish tattoo of a mouse (I think) accompanied by the word “Swaggy”. Now, as well as having a dodgy tatt, Bang Bang is rumoured to be at risk of a $2,000 (£1,300) fine for letting someone without a licence loose in his parlour. And Beiber’s not the first of Mr Bang’s celebrity clients to handle a loaded tattoo gun – Katy Perry, Rihanna and Chris Brown have all added to his collection of body art.

Harry Styles has also been getting in on the DIY action, letting Ed Sheeran add to the permanent miscellany that is increasingly covering his skin. Far be it from Trending to stand in the way of anyone’s artistic self-expression, but this is all kinds of stupid. Apart from the embarrassment of putting some ugly assed anchor on the body of some poor chump (professional or otherwise), this is behaviour perilously lacking in hygiene. And thanks to the internet, it’s never been easier to buy cheap tattoo equipment and have a go at home; stars posting selfies of giving or getting amateur tats is borderline criminal. I’ve had tattoos that cost more than the £42.95 one site is offering a tattoo machine “starter kit” (shudder) for.

Kevin Paul, who’s been a tattooist for 22 years and has tattooed Styles and Sheeran, is concerned about fans being inspired by the stars’ do-it-yourself approach. “Over the last two years I’ve become known as a celebrity tattooist. I tattoo the celebrities and then all the fans who want to copy their tattoos want to talk to me,” he says. “When Harry Style’s getting his friends tattooing him at home it’s a worrying thing. I’ve got kids and I’d hate to think of my kids getting tattooed by their mates, unprofessionally, unsterile, round the house. There are so many dangers.”

He’s campaigning for tougher regulations to curb amateur tattooing via the Tattoo Regulations 2013 Facebook page – at – and on He also has a story that will make the parents of One Direction fans feel afraid. Very afraid. “I had a teacher in who told me that a lot of his pupils were tattooed. He taught a girl of 13 who had a big design of flowers and swirls tattooed up her ribs. He reported it and spoke to her parents but he said they told him: “Yeah, our mate did it. He’s just bought a machine.” He added: “It’s illegal but no one is doing anything to prosecute people.”

Here’s a thought. Perhaps the pop superstars should stick to the day job and let the professionals stick to their guns.