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Stick and Poke Tattoos: A Backstory

Posted on March 04 2019

Although stick and poke tattoos predate the particular event in 2015 that is said to have been a turning point for the industry, proclaiming them as the coolest tattoo style of that year is arguably a huge factor towards their current popularity.

As previously mentioned, this method of tattooing has existed for a very long time, although it was generally confined to the likes of skin punks, bikers and other cliques. Stick and poke tattoos however, are not frequently done by professionals but are instead performed by individuals in their homes. Tattoo artists that do use this style professionally are known as hand pokers, whereas stick and poke is a phrase that is associated with a less precise and slightly rougher aesthetic.

Stick and poke tattooing is a process that bears a particular resemblance to traditional cultural tattooing methods. The result may be a far cry from the precise results obtained by electrical tattooing practices, however stick and poke certainly demonstrates a more playfully authentic, even meaningful tattoo. Unlike the majority of modern tattoo culture, women sit at the centre of the trend.

Although men may arguably dominate history in the world of traditional Western tattooing, ancient body art in Egypt – usually consisting of dots and dashes – was predominantly a female practice. In fact, some of the oldest female bodies that we have unearthed carry tattoos.

Within recent years, people all over the globe are beginning to remove tattooing from the studios and are instead gaining tattoos within their own homes.

Generally being unlicensed hobbyists that are tattooing themselves, friends or other artists who are looking to trade skills, these people are not looking to disrupt the industry. They are in fact, similar to people endorsing themselves in other slow-moving trends, much more interested in trying to get back in touch with the quiet, physical work behind a form we’ve almost completely lost touch with.

Whilst stick and poke tattoo kits are unlikely to replace any homemade botch jobs, the aggressive trendiness of stick and poke does have its setbacks. There are a range of traditional tattoo artists have expressed their negative opinions over this particular craft going mainstream. The connotations of a group of young, potentially drunk and vaguely reckless individuals poking silly designs into their limbs at sleepovers, tends to somewhat undermine this legitimate art.

Regardless of how you try to observe it, it is of no surprise that with the mainstreaming of tattooing came a subtle backlash taking the form of a swarm of DIYers keen on throwing themselves into practising the intimate, hand made technique.


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