Ink it like the Beckhams: Should your family get matching tattoos?

Siblings Brooklyn, Romeo and Cruz have displayed their love for one another by getting identical ‘brotherhood’ designs. Tattoo artist and academic Dominique Holmes says don’t ask yourself ‘why’... ask ‘Why not?’

Wednesday 11 October 2023 10:43 BST
Brooklyn Beckham’s ‘Brotherhood’ tattoo, which he had done with Romeo and Cruz
Brooklyn Beckham’s ‘Brotherhood’ tattoo, which he had done with Romeo and Cruz (Instagram via @certifiedletterboy)

The Beckham brothers have shown off their ‘brotherhood’ tattoos – and it’s hard to not feel at least a bit warm and fuzzy seeing three young men cement their “sibling bond” and demonstrate their love and respect for one another.

The three have each been tattooed with the word "Brotherhood", in swirling lettering, by the fine line tattoo artist Pablo. And choosing to do it through such a ritualistic and timeless fashion as skin art adds a whole other dimension.

Humans have been decorating our skin with ink as far back as we can trace, with little to no real understanding of why. Ask a tattooed person to pinpoint the reason behind their choice to be inked and you’ll often hear a response along the lines of: “I don’t know, I just like it.” Which, to be fair, is enough of a reason in itself.

But throughout history, one consistent theme that runs through the ages, across all cultures, continents and climates, is that of tattoos as a mark of community and belonging.

In Pacific Island culture, for example, to this day, tattoos depict your place and role in society, your home, your roots, and your family. Throughout the 20th century, sailors have decorated their bodies with imagery that represents their journeys, and their shipmates in acts of sometimes cross-generational connection to something that is more of a life choice than a job. In more recent years a flurry of tattoos representing the MeToo movement has signified the community together in support of victims of sexual assault.

The varying communities that tattoos have historically and culturally represented may be as diverse as the people who choose to get them, but they undoubtedly create a sense of interrelatedness and affinity, especially in this time of late-stage capitalist individualism. After all, connection is a vital part of the human experience and journey.

Speaking from the other side of the tattoo machine, I love a matching tattoo. I love the stories, the ritual, the bonding that occurs during the process, and of course the joy they can bring. I’ve tattooed matching pieces on whole families, best friends, partners, colleagues, parents, with pieces that symbolise romantic love, platonic love, parental love, funny anecdotes, disastrous holidays, a lifetime of friendship, a shared loss or celebration. And it is almost always an incredibly positive experience for all involved.

There are many reasons that lead people to form a forever bond with a sibling, a significant other, chosen family or friend. For some, it is a light-hearted act, a shared memento of a good time spent together, but for others it is more powerful.

One story that stands out for me was a pair of tattoos I did on a client and her sibling. She had found out late in life that not only was she adopted, but her heritage was entirely other than she had believed it to be. She researched, and learned about her background, and in doing so found a sibling experiencing the same journey. It’s difficult to put into words the complex layers of meaning behind the tattoos they decided to get together, and maybe that is the point in itself.

If a picture can say a thousand words, maybe a tattoo says even more, and when you share that tattoo, you share each and every one of those memories, experiences, thoughts and feelings with them through the ink on your skin.

Matching tattoos are somehow becoming the acceptable way of expressing your love for your people. It can be playful, comical, even. But those twinning lobsters tell me that you believe enough in your relationship that you want to commit it not just to memory, but to ink.

There is something wholesome and beautiful in the validation of a relationship through a tattoo – something society sees (rightly or wrongly, that’s a matter of opinion) as a powerful and permanent statement.

Whether it’s the Beckham trio celebrating family, the cast of Suicide Squad immortalising a bond formed through their shared experiences on set, or Cara Delevingne and her multiple BFFs connecting through ink, matching tattoos can be a joyous but powerful way of celebrating relationship with your closest people, or commemorating an important memory.

If you’re thinking about suggesting a family tattoos to you and yours, don’t ask yourself why – instead, ask: “Why not?”

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