With tattoos becoming more and more commonplace, many people are looking for tattoo artists with unique and distinctive tattoo styles to help them stand apart from the crowd. After all, isn’t part of the fun of having tattoos that you’re “different” in some way? Many artists are continuing to develop and evolve existing styles, but some artists are taking a different approach. One instance of a breakaway tattoo style is Trash Polka–a style that is bold and stands out in a crowd. But what is Trash Polka, what makes it so appealing, and what are the pros and cons to Trash Polka style tattoos?
What is Trash Polka?
Trash Polka is a style of tattoo art that began at Buena Vista Tattoo Club in Würzburg, Germany by Simone Plaff and Volko Merschky. The style resembles fine art collages in that in combines realistic images with smears, smudges, and kinetic designs that generate a discordant, chaotic look to the piece. Words are sometimes included. Trash Polka pieces are only done in red or black ink. According to Volko, this style is a combination of “realism and trash; the nature and the abstract; technology and humanity; past, present, and future; opposites that they are trying to urge into a creative dance to harmony and rhythm in tune with the body”. It’s certainly an apt description and clearly the artists behind the style have given it considerable thought. For that reason they have claimed it as an (as of yet) unofficial trademark.
Trash Polka tattoos are only true Trash Polka if they come from the Buena Vista Tattoo Club shop, similar to how champagne isn’t actually champagne if it isn’t produced in the Champagne region of France. Naturally, that statement has gone relatively unnoticed as we’re beginning to see the style emerge here in the US.
Thinking of Getting a Trash Polka Style Tattoo?
If you’re thinking of getting a Trash Polka style tattoo, there’s some things you should consider. As with every tattoo, you’ll want to lend some consideration to placement, colors, etc. However, to stay within the guidelines of the style, only red and black inks are used. The original artists preferred to come up with their own imagery, but you may find an artist that is willing to work with images you want to use. That’s just for starters, we’ve got some bigger things we think you should know about before running out and getting one of these tattoos. We’ll lay them out for you nice and neat so it’s not too much effort.
It’s a Bold Style
Trash Polka style tattoos stand out because of their use of both bold and fine lines and heavy use of black and red inks. This makes for a dramatic tattoo…while it’s fresh. All tattoos fade over time. That’s just a fact of life. However, some tattoo styles hold up better than others. Fine lines tend not to do so well and black will visibly fade. If you’re willing to accept that time will soften the look of your tattoo, then you’re fine–but people considering a Trash Polka style tattoo should be aware that the stark contrast that makes the style “pop” won’t always be there.
It’s a Rare Style
First, this style of tattooing is fairly new and it originated in the EU. As with most things, the trend will spread from its epicenter in Germany before becoming more commonplace in other parts of the world. This can be problematic because finding an artist to do your tattoo could mean buying an international plane ticket. Although, the internet reports that there is at least one artist in the US producing these styles of tattoo. We haven’t been able to confirm, as of yet.
It’s an Unusual Aesthetic
Trash Polka style tattoos elicit strong responses from tattoo fans and artists alike. Like so many other things in the art world, people either love it or hate it. One thing you should consider is that one of the core elements of the style is that it utilizes dissociative imagery–pictures of things that may not directly relate to each other–which can mean that there is less meaning behind the imagery in the tattoo and thus there is a weakened relationship between the tattoo itself and the person wearing it. That’s a really long-winded way of saying that you may like it a lot now, but what about further down the road? Because there isn’t often a direct meaning tied to the piece–Trash Polka designs often reflect broader themes in much the same way as a fine art painting–will you still love it after you’ve grown use to seeing the design day in and day out? To play devil’s advocate, that’s not far off from the classic anti-tattoo sentiment of “will you still want that when you’re old?”. That’s entirely up to you.
It’s Designed to Be Fresh
No, not fresh as in cool. Fresh as in “just finished”. You’ll notice that all of the pictures you see on the internet that show Trash Polka tattoos feature tattoos that look like they were recently done. Because the “gloss” of the piece adds to how impressive it looks, what happens when it fades? Red and black inks–the trademark colors of the style–are notorious for fading, but are often utilized in pieces that tend to hold up well to aging (like modern traditional or traditional Japanese styles that don’t typically look bad once they’ve aged). It’s yet to be seen, but it stands to reason that the aging process will be especially hard on Trash Polka style pieces, particularly if they are in areas that get a lot of exposure to the sun.
Should I Get a Trash Polka Tattoo?
Ultimately, whether or not you get a tattoo relies on your own personal taste. If you are in love with the style, by all means go and get it. The points we make in this article are designed to help you make an informed decision about whether or not this tattoo style will be for you. We think they are some pretty good points and they are valid concerns about the style raised by other tattoo artists. That being said, life is short.
Want to Learn About Other Tattoo Styles?
Whether you want to learn the pros and cons of new tattoo trends or brush up on the history or meaning of a style, we’ve got something you might want to read. Since you appear to be reading this article (and hopefully enjoying it), here’s our recommendations:
White Ink and UV Tattoos: These are two new media for creating tattoos that have emerged very recently. They have some very notable pros and cons- they look pretty cool… but are they worth it?
Japanese Style Tattoos and their Meaning: You’ve no doubt seen someone with a Japanese style tattoo. Do you know what the elements of that tattoo are? Or what they mean? Here’s a cheat sheet.
Flower Tattoos and their Meaning: Who doesn’t love flowers? Did you know most flowers have a specific meaning and that in tattoo art that meaning can change based on surrounding or included elements? Get the dirt here.