As fresh as they may seem now, stick’n’poke tattoos aren’t a new trend, they’ve been around for a very long time
Stick & poke had a major moment in 2015, when style.com proclaimed them the coolest tattoo style of the year. But this particular way of tattooing has been around for a very long time, though generally confined to the skin of punks, traveling kids, prisoners, bikers, and other outsiders. However, most stick ‘n’ pokes aren’t done by professional tattoo artists, but by young individuals at home. The tattooers who work this style professionally are known as hand pokers, while stick’n’poke is used when referred to a rougher and less precise aesthetic, more of an in-your-living-room-fun-activity.
Stick-and-poke tattoos it’s a process that resembles particular traditional cultural tattooing practices, with a result less precise than electric tattooing. But to some, it can be more playful and authentic, even more meaningful. And unlike much of modern tattoo culture, women are at the center of the trend.
Men may dominate the history of traditional Western tattooing, but ancient body art in Egypt — consisting of dots and dashes usually — was almost exclusively a female practice. Some of the oldest female bodies we’ve unearthed carried tattoos.
In recent years, women and men all over the world are taking tattooing out of the studio and into their living rooms. As unlicensed hobbyists, who mostly tattoo themselves, friends, or other artists looking to trade skills, they aren’t seeking to disrupt the industry. Rather, much like those in other slow movements, they’re more interested in reengaging with the quiet, physical work behind a form we’ve mostly lost touch with.
While stick and poke tattoo kits probably won’t replace other popular homemaking fads, the aggressive trendiness of stick-and-pokes does have its pitfalls. Many traditional tattoo artists have expressed frustration over this craft going mainstream. And young, drunk, and vaguely reckless individuals poking silly things into their limbs at slumber parties may undermine this legitimate art.
Whichever way you look at it, it’s not surprising that with the mainstreaming of tattooing came a subtle backlash in the form of the rise of Do-It-Yourselfers eager to practice the hand made, intimate technique.