Like most of the people in the class, I only recognized Ed Hardy as a fashion personality. Never did I think that he was considered one of the greats in the world of tattoos who helped transform the tattoo industry. The big debate in this week’s class questioned whether or not Ed Hardy was a sellout.
Reading the book and watching him speak about tattooing significantly shed light on the person behind the “brand”. One cannot deny that this is a man with a passion and respect for the art of tattooing. While both sides of the debate raise valid points, unfortunately, I am leaning towards him being a sellout. While it could be that his original intent with establishing himself in the fashion industry was to bring tattoos into the mainstream, it seems like the pressures to sell could have morphed this genuine and idealistic view. The first thing that I didn’t agree with was Hardy using sailor Jerry’s flash as his own. It seems pretty obvious that is something he would have not approved of and therefore would’ve been best and respectful to leave alone. As for the designs on his merchandise, I’ve never thought to be appealing. It looks like designs slapped onto fabric. He could have used the shapes of his clothing and other merchandise (like the wine glasses we discussed in class) to simulate what they would look like on actual skin. As they are now, it simply looks like they slapped some flash on them and called it a day.
There could be many reasons why other artists may not like him (such as his personality or because of jealousy), but I think that the main reason could be because he has, to an extent, sacrificed the integrity of the art form. Tattoos are not meant to be on clothes, they’re meant to be on skin. Like Erika mentioned in class, there is something honest and admirable about doing something for the sake of doing it. One of the hallmarks of Kantian ethics is to always see as ends in themselves (although particularly people, I’d like it to apply it here) and never as means. We must treat things as having value—having a value all their own rather than as a useful tool by which we can satisfy our goals. This is probably what most tattoo artists feel towards Ed Hardy. They may feel as though he is using tattoo to cater to a mass of people (upper-middle and upper class) instead of what tattooing is classically understood as—inscribing of the body and inter/intrapersonal experience for the tattooist and the person getting tattooed.