10 Things People With Stick-And-Poke Tattoos Are Tired Of Explaining


Tattoos erupted onto the mainstream eons ago, largely stripping any remotely ~rebellious~ quality about them. Although stick-and-poke tattoos have also become way more widespread and common among people (even some who have never actually been emitted to prison, thus the prison tat moniker is not even relevant), there's still a bit of stigma surrounding them. Since this is unfortunately the case, there are some things people with stick-and-pokes are simply sick of explaining.

I have just one stick-and-poke so it's not like I'm an enormous advocate or anything, but I do have experience getting and giving these ink alternatives. I have a small gator with a bloated belly etched into my right thigh, just over a then-emerging varicose vein (not an accident). It's a friendship tat and symbol I share with two buddies also from Florida (although theirs are on their chests—profoundly more brave than my placement, for real). Anyway, since mine is usually tucked away, I don't get guff too too much. But as summer approaches, I'm reminded of everything I do not need or want to hear about stick-and-poke tattoos from people (usually strangers). To be safe (and exhaustive), I also crowdsourced from my rich pool of decorated pals on Twitter. Here are some of the many things people with stick-and-poke tattoos are sick of hearing:

"Did that hurt?"

Yes. Stabbing skin usually hurts. This time was no exception.

"But like, MORE than a normal tattoo?"

Actually, yes. Most homemade stick-and-poke supplies are driven by a sewing needle—the thing that actually deposits ink into your body, thus leaving you with a tattoo. Anyway, these are a little different from professional tattoo guns and needles and have the tendency to pull skin a bit more when being lifted out. Still, though, why would a person need to know unless they are currently considering their own?

"That's like a prison tat."

Sort of. In the sense that it was done using methods traditional to tattoos done in correctional facilities, you're right. In the sense that I chose my design and method without that in mind at all, you're not.

"Is that safe?"

Depends on how scrupulous your artist is while working on you. Same as any other body art studio. For example, I went to a professional studio in London as a teen to get my lip pierced and another artist in the room was smoking during the procedure. See? People can be gross in all arenas of body modification. Not just the ones set in your friend's Bushwick apartment. (Though to be clear, there are some basic hygiene rules you should know before going through on this on your own.)

"So it's kinda rushed."

Actually, not at all. Even though many finished stick-and-pokes can come off a bit jangly, they are far from a quick task. On average small, simple stick-and-pokes take about 45 minutes to start and finish.

"Is this a trend thing?"

Like all tattoos, stick-and-pokes are permanent. As is, they last forever. So maybe someone would get one as part of a trend, but chances are good they're hip to this forever factoid and asking such a dim question isn't winning you any respect.

"Will you give me one?"

Again, these take at least 45 minutes. And mostly strangers or brand new acquaintances ("people trying to holler") ask this pretty hefty favor. In short: no.

"Were you drunk?"

Possibly. But at least in my experience, I've been actually tipsy while under the professional gun in a legit tattoo parlor. I was sober for my stick-and-poke. Just like the forever thing applies to both kinds, so does the sobriety variance. (Even though obviously parlors have limits...so hopefully you're not getting a stick-and-poke while blacked out. Also hopefully you're never blacking out.)

"It looks like sh*t."

Maybe. If it does, I know. And I don't care.


Why not? Some people prefer stick-and-pokes because of the obvious economic edge over professional tattoos (even opening a professional gun costs at least $50 and many costs have a $75 minimum; all the supplies for a stick-and-poke should be around $10 and the ink well itself can last a while). Others like the DIY quality. At the end of the day, is it really anyone's business what motivated a person to decorate or adorn their body a certain way? It does not.

Images: Getty Images; Giphy (5)