David Beckham is thought to have more than 40 tattoos. For his latest, he has chosen a solar system. (That’s a solar system, not the.) The design covers the left side of his scalp and is visible because he has reverted to a version of the mohawk he inflicted upon fashion-forward men in the early 00s.
As with so many things, Beckham was an early adopter. You could say his journey through ink tracks the modern evolution of the tattoo as a fashion accessory. It began after the birth of his first son in 1999, when he had “BROOKLYN” inscribed on his lower back. He went on to get a guardian angel, his wife’s name (misspelt) in Hindi, some Roman numerals, Jesus on his way to the cross and Jesus being lifted up by three cherubim, who were supposed to represent his sons.
He is not the only celebrity to enjoy a trip to the parlour. Britney Spears has a cross, a fairy, some lips, pink dice, a star and Chinese symbols. Samantha Cameron has a dolphin on her ankle.
But is it possible to become addicted to getting tattoos? The psychology professor Viren Swami, of Anglia Ruskin University, has become something of an expert on the issue. He has some birds, a flower and an ill-advised tribal design, done at 18, that he would like to have removed.
Swami says there is no such thing as tattoo addiction, but adds that “addiction is a really broad term. You can be addicted to the pain, or to the pleasure of people commenting on the tattoos, or to the pleasure of the artwork.”
The number of people getting tattoos – it has been reported that 40% of adults in the US have one – means that it is hard to make any rules about ink fans or those who, like Beckham, have opted for multiple designs. “Before the 80s, you might have been able to personality-profile a tattoo fan. There was some work done suggesting they were more aggressive, smoked more, had higher rates of drug use and were risk-loving characters. Now, though, you would essentially be looking at the average person.”
There is one factor that Swami thinks may contribute to the fact that, for many of us, loyalty cards for our local parlours could come in handy. “When someone first gets a tattoo, their body image improves temporarily and they feel they have more uniqueness.” Surely an easy feeling to get used to. Poor Beckham could have saved himself all that bloody needle-buzz, then, if he only had a bod worth writing home about.