Express Yourself: Why Geeks Love Body Art

In case you've wondered what C's right shoulder looks like...

At first glance, I look completely normal (appearances can be…deceptive). My conservative day job means no wild hair colors, and my uniform consists of a neatly pressed button-down shirt and dress pants. *yawn* See me outside of work, in a Plus 5 to Sexterity tee and a pair of d20 earrings, and my geekdom is revealed, but I still look like a mild-mannered, jeans-and-t-shirt kind of girl.

But as summer approaches, and tees and jeans give way to tanks and shorts, and more skin is revealed… HOLY CRAP! That geek girl has tattoos!

As of this writing, I have six tattoos, and extensive plans to get more. My husband has four. And judging from the amount of ink and piercings we see at every con to go to, we’re obviously not the only geeks who have chosen body art to express ourselves. In fact, from my very non-scientific observations, it’s really quite popular among us. Why? I think several factors are at play.

Creativity Has No Bounds

By our very nature, geeks are a creative bunch. We create all the time, whether we’re rolling up RPG characters, writing fanfic, crafting, making music, etc. Many of us have very artistic minds, even if we lack the talent and/or skill to put that art to paper. That creativity can manifest in our appearances in the form of pink hair (oh hai, bosslady!), impressive beards, or a wardrobe worthy of Penelope Garcia.

Some of us take the body art route instead. Skin – especially the fish-belly white porcelain skin that I and so many of my fellow geeks have been blessed with – is a perfect blank canvas, waiting to be covered with any design and assortment of colors you could possibly want, so you can wear your creativity as a sleeve (or armband, or tramp stamp). Those who prefer to express themselves with jewelry get multiple piercings instead of tattoos, so they can show off more of their collection. Some even do both!

Sometimes body art has a deep, personal meaning. Sometimes, it’s just something pretty. Whatever the reason behind getting it, it’s as much a show of the bearer’s creativity as their clothing or hairstyle. It’s part of them and helps define who they are.

The Ultimate In Fan Dedication

We all have t-shirts declaring our love for certain games, comic characters, and TV shows. Our homes are full of memorabilia, from inexpensive posters to high-end statuettes. We’re on internet forums daily talking about what we love. Those are all great ways to geek out, but what about something more permanent?

Search the internet and you’ll find images of thousands of geeky tattoos – fans paying the ultimate homage. I’ve lost count of how many One Ring armband tats I’ve seen, or the Dark Mark of the Death Eaters. Many geeks get far more creative, going for something that’s one-of-a-kind (or at least less likely to have been done by a million other people already). I’ve seen epic comic book character battles played out across someone’s back that rival the most dramatic Marvel or DC covers, and manga characters turning a leg or arm into a beautiful piece of art (I once saw a Sesshomaru full-calf tattoo so gorgeous that only my empty purse kept me from running out and having something similar done).

What if after you get that tattoo, the fandom doesn’t mean as much to you anymore? Well, that’s a risk for any tattoo (ask anyone with an ex’s name inked somewhere on their body). Instead of asking, “What if I reach a point that I don’t like Star Wars anymore?” ask, “Does Star Wars mean enough to me now that even if I lose interest in it a few years down the road, the R2-D2 tattoo will serve as a fond memory of that time in my life?” If you start getting tattoos (rare is the person who gets just one), you may find your skin becoming a scrapbook of your life. If something is important enough to you that you’d put it in a scrapbook, you can put it on your skin.

What geeky things to my tattoos pay tribute to? Well, there’s Wolverine on my thigh, the 4 Winds Fantasy Gaming logo on my calf, and the little guy on my shoulder pictured above. That’s Wyndlescamp the faerie dragon, divine animal companion to one of my clerics of Sharess. My husband has one-upped me by getting one of his characters inked – Rachael the halfling bard, who you may recognize from the art accompanying this earlier post of mine.

You Know They’ll Love You Anyway

The geek community is one of the most open-minded, accepting ones I’ve ever known. So long as you’re following Wheaton’s Law, you can wave your freak flag high and proud, and so long as you’re clean and don’t smell funky, you can dress and groom yourself however you want.

Remember that look of disapproval/horror you got from your parents when they saw your first tattoo? You won’t get that from your fellow geeks. All the tattoos and piercings you have to keep covered up at the day job can see the light of day when you’re out among your geek brethren. These are your people! You can be yourself among them.

That’s not to say every geek loves the look of all tattoos or piercings. I have to admit that most piercings, especially the stretcher ones, look so painful to me that I have a hard time looking at them (if I make a ridiculous amount of eye contact with you, it’s because I’m afraid to look anywhere else!). But where some people would avoid talking to a pierced or tattooed individual altogether, I’ve never seen even the most conservative geek turn another geek away because of their body art alone.

Inked And Pierced Geeks, Unite!

If you’re a geek with tattoos or piercings – you are not alone, my friend! If you’ve been thinking about body art, but have worried that your fellow geeks wouldn’t accept it – have heart, you will still be loved. Neither body art nor the people who have it are scary, and if anyone understands that, it’s geeks.

Do you have tattoos or piercings? Have you found a prevalence of body art among your local geek community?

About c

By day, Connie Thomson (aka Ariel Manx) is a mild-mannered shoe salesgirl, geeking out about insoles, outsoles, and shanks. But when night falls, she takes her turn at the helm of 4 Winds Fantasy Gaming, where she writes, edits, and does layout for table-top RPG products. Regardless of her persona, C is always a fangirl, bookworm, and craft diva. (Email C or follow @arielmanx on Twitter.)

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