Johnny Moore: Only cool tattoos survive

I've been having my tattoo removed which has been much less fun than having it put on. Think boiling fat being poured on your skin.

The removal is offending my old school buddy Tattoo Jim.

"It's a part of your history bro; you took it all round the world with you," he says. "Besides, you were the first one to get a tatt. You were bad ass when you were 15."

Tattoo Jim sees it as an affront to tattoos. He can take this position because his tatts look excellent and suit him to a tee. They are as much a part of his persona as his Chev and beach lifestyle.

Mine on the other hand represents a kid choosing a then-fashionable Celtic symbol from a selection in the tattoo shop window and hoping the tattooist would not ask for ID. The key consideration was locating it so my parents and teachers would not notice.

I had grown up in Christchurch in the 1980s when only bad asses had tattoos. Sailors, people in metal bands, bikies, skinheads (a lot more visible in Christchurch in the 80s) and cool-dude types who drove lowered Falcons and wore sunnies at night.

Most tattoos were of tough animals. Tigers, eagles, snakes wrapped around daggers and scorpions were popular choices.

By the time I was in high school I was convinced a tatt was an instant route to coolness. That is why I dived in as soon as possible and joined the cool kids. But with time I came to hate the thing. I tried to think of something to tattoo over it but for the life of me could not find anything. Finally I decided to have it removed.

While waiting at the tattoo removal centre I got talking to a young bloke. If he was over 19 it was by a day. Heavily tattooed - ink snaking out his shirt, up his neck and on to his ear - I asked if he had decided tattooed faces were a bad idea. No, it seemed I was just old fashioned. He was getting some tatts removed from his forearms - the first work he had had done - so that he could get new tattoos.

It made me wonder how comfortable I would be with 18-year-old Johnny making permanent style decisions on grown-up Johnny's behalf. A bad Celtic design is one thing but tip-to-toe ink is quite another. You can leave your bell bottoms in the wardrobe and laugh at them in years to come but tattoos cost money and hurt like hell to remove. Especially in the volume people are tattooing these days.

I think people should slow down and take their time; let their style mellow and develop a bit before making such permanent decisions. Tattoo Jim was a bit older than the rest of our gang by the time he started visiting a tattoo artist he knew and respected. That is why the rest of us were left with hilarious period pieces and he will grow up to be an awesome old dude with tattoos.

Because good tattoos will always look good - on the right person they are really quite righteous - but bad tattoos will always be regrettable. Just make sure you work out which category you fall into before getting it done.

The Press