Friday, April 10, 2015

Ed Hardy's Complicated Legacy

I'll admit that, before taking this class, I knew nothing about Ed Hardy beyond his fashion. I didn't even know he did tattoos. However, after learning a little about Ed Hardy, I'm more interested in the flash designs on his merchandise and also his role in tattoo history.

I think Ed Hardy's unpopularity among old-school tattooists is not only due to the fact that he "sold out," but also the fact that he has such a different background, education, and mannerism than earlier tattooists. As we saw in the video, he's an art school graduate who throws around words like "dichotomy" when discussing tattoos and can casually reference the date of the original tattoo gun patent. It's impossible to imagine Sailor Jerry, Crazy Eddy, Stoney, or other old-school tattooists talking that way, and it's easy to see how they could perceive Ed Hardy as a bougie intruder into an underground world. However, I don't believe Ed Hardy had selfish intentions in seeking to make tattoos commercial and academic. I think he simply approached his passion for tattoos from the perspective of his own interests: fine art, scholarly rigor, and business.

Ironically, Ed Hardy's commercialization of tattoos may be preserving flash style in pop culture. As American tattoos evolve, fewer and fewer people want standard flash permanently inked on themselves, opting for custom designs, portraits, watercolor style, complex geometric designs, etc. However, people seem more willing to embrace flash style on a t-shirt, jacket, or hat. I recognize many old-school flash images like panthers and "death before dishonor" banners not from real tattoos but from t-shirts.

Though Ed Hardy's legacy is complicated, I'm ready to see him as a positive force in the tattoo world. The old-school world of Sailor Jerry and his peers was bound to die out as tattooing evolved into something less ostracized, more sterile, and more creative. By "selling out," Ed Hardy ensured that some of the most beautiful flash designs of the early American tattoos keep a foothold in current tattoo culture.

No comments:

Post a Comment