How One Direction Inspired My Love Of Tattoos

And my love affair with ink thereafter.

by Sebastian Zulch

My love affair with One Direction began during my senior year of high school. I was a typical fangirl, and one of the many One Direction fans who sobbed and screamed uncontrollably at the mere sight of those five boys. The band took up a lot of my time, and between Tumblr memes, fan fiction, and the music, I was a busy kid. I managed to make my way to a concert of theirs just outside of San Diego for free by some strange miracle i. I even missed class sometimes when a new One Direction video would premiere — watching it in my bed on repeat, sobbing into my pillow.

Besides being hopelessly in love with them (well, mostly Harry Styles, Zayn Malik, and Liam Payne, in that order), One Direction also inspired me stylistically. Harry always particularly impressed me with his androgynous style, and I tried to channel his statement jacket-and-boots combination as much as I could. Having masculine style role models was super helpful for me, as I felt particular pressure to adhere to feminine beauty and sartorial standards at this time in my life. But perhaps what impacted me the most about One Direction was Styles and Malik's total obsession with tattoos.

Words cannot begin to describe how much I obsessed over these boys' tattoos. I had preferred Malik early on in my One Direction obsession because of all the beautiful ink on his body. But once Styles went under the needle for the first time, he just couldn't stop. By the time his tattoo count reached about 50, I was deep in the throes of my devotion for him. I would keep track of every tattoo he got, and researched the meaning behind each one. At one point, Styles was getting a new tatt just about every week, so I was never bored in my crazy fangirl bubble. His tattoos even became a part of dinnertime conversation, as I dabbled with the idea of finally taking the plunge and getting my first tattoo.

Fans all over the Internet criticized Styles for being too impulsive and random, while I totally admired his spontaneity and love for art. Admittedly, not all of his tattoos are super meaningful or even aesthetically pleasing, and they do seem to pop up at random all around his body. His explanation for the birds on his chest when Ellen DeGeneres asked was simply that he liked birds. I mean... c'mon.

Since I embrace that spontaneous spirit, though, I don't care so much that every tattoo didn't hold a super deep meaning for Styles. Tattoos are art for your body that develop meaning over time, and that don't deserve to be questioned by anyone. But it was Styles' lack of organization, care, and artistry that led me to appreciate Malik, who's intricately detailed and vibrant sleeve (which he designed and planned much of himself) was quite the masterpiece. I loved the designs so much that I decided to imitate one of my favorites.

My favorite tattoo of his to this day is his comic book-esque "Zap!" piece. I adored it so much, but the design's nod to graphic novels did not align with my own interests. And since it was my first tattoo after all, I didn't think I wanted to do anything too fancy or colorful, but rather stick to a basic black ink tattoo. So I decided to get something coinciding with my love for Eastern religion and need for balance in my life, and chose the yin yang. I found a tattoo artist, and on my 18th birthday I got my first tattoo ever. Quarter-sized and placed on my forearm (like his), it was definitely a nod to Zayn Malik.

As you could probably tell from the picture, I felt amazing! My first tattoo! I had always admired tattoos from afar, but was worried about getting them myself. The beauty of Malik's tattoos combined with Styles' carefree attitude about his encouraged me to take the plunge and give it a try. Sure, that sounds super irresponsible. But for someone who was incredibly anxious and terribly afraid of trying anything new, this was a blessing.

So I'd heard it before, and I've seen it play out on the boys of One Direction — tattoos can be addicting! As soon as I got my yin yang, I already began planning my next tattoo. I thought I might get a bird or meaningful initials inked on me, like Styles had done before. However, I went my own path and began finding designs that were both meaningful and beautiful to me without the help of the boys of One Direction.

I became, and still am, pretty obsessed with getting inked. The feeling of the needle, choosing designs, and the pride of showing off my new tattoo — I was obsessed with it all! Still inspired by Styles, just in a slightly different way, I felt very spontaneous and began getting a new tattoo (both professional and stick and poke) about every month.

Like Malik and Styles, I became well-versed in using my skin as a space to express my personal beliefs and aesthetic preferences. With each new tattoo I got, I felt a little bit more like me, more complete.

I still love and obsess over all of my tattoos, but getting them started feeling like a race. So now, I go at a more steady pace, waiting about three to five months between each tattoo. They are permanent after all; might as well put a little more thought and patience into them.

With all of the beautiful ink I've acquired, looking back at my yin yang makes me realize how imperfect and amateur the design is. It's not a perfect circle, the shading is inconsistent, and you can hardly see the small hole on the "yin" or dark side of the design. But after three years, I still don't have the heart to get it covered up. Like my obsession with One Direction, the tattoo reminds me of my formative years and the things that helped me learn who I am. I keep it to honor the child in me, the less wise boy band-obsessed Meg, stoked to get their first tattoo ever.

Images: Getty (2); Giphy; kris_hitchy/Twitter; the_ladyjane/Instagram