The View from Sherlock Peoria (212)
June 25 , 2006
A Sherlock Holmes Tattoo
Sherlock Holmes has appeared a lot of places over the years, as many a collector will attest. Sherlockians have even done their part to spread Holmes to any art form or venue they have access to. But has any Sherlockian gone so far as to get a tattoo of Sherlock Holmes permanently etched on some discreet spot on his or her body?
I was contemplating this one morning this week on my drive into work. Having seen at least one formerly avid Sherlockian sliding into a more non-Sherlockian mode in recent years, the idea of the committment represented by a tattoo of Sherlock Holmes intrigued me. Did I have the Sherlockian stones to get the Master's silhouette needled into my own flesh? Good question.
On the plus side, a few tattoos do appear in the Canon of Holmes: a blue anchor, a fish with delicate pink scales, a man's initials. Holmes has even done some small studies of tattoos himself. It seems a perfectly logical extension of one's enthusiasm for Sherlock Holmes and his tales.
On the negative side, tattoos evoke Harley-riding, ex-con, NASCAR-infield, Jerry Springer, punk rocker cultures . . . traditionally not your standard Sherlockian ilk. Of course, that's the Baby Boomer way of thinking. Generation Y (a generation we don't see too many Sherlockians in) seems a lot more accepting of getting ink done. If there were more Gen Y Sherlockians, we'd probably see a few Holmes tattoos floating around Sherlockian functions . . . not to mention Sherlockian piercings.
But when it comes to body modification, however, piercings just aren't as committed as a tattoo. Heck, I've had a Sherlockian piercing once when I got inducted into the Baker Street Irregulars. Piercings aren’t a secret ritual of the BSI or anything like that (you were hoping it was, weren't you?), the spirit just moved me at the time to get my ear pierced and get a custom-made gold earring with the initials “BSI” on it. While I still have the earring, the hole in my ear to put it in has long since grown shut. Like I said, piercings just aren’t as committed as a tattoo.
As my tattoo thoughts progressed, I had to ponder just where I would get a Sherlock Holmes tattoo, if I were to get one. Wrists, elbows, arms . . . Canonical, but not discreet enough. Shoulder? Too hard to see. Anything below the waist is out of the question. Chest? I like the idea of having it over one’s heart. That seemed like the best spot. But a tattoo is not only a permanent mark of loyalty. A tattoo is also a trial by fire, ritual scarring with ink that does have some pain involved. Is a display of one’s permanent Sherlockian loyalty worth a certain amount of pain? There’s a key part of the whole equation (TAT2 x SH = OW! OW! OW!).
I did a little internet searching to find mentions of anyone with a Sherlock Holmes tattoo, and found this neat bit from a tattoo blog about a guy named Gibby. He was asked about his favorite tattoo and replied: “My latest one is always my favorite. So right now, it would have to be this hand sketch of this old guy with an albatross hanging around his neck. I got it because I love the poem An Albatross, but the sketch itself was from The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, a 1940’s film with Nigel Bruce and Basil Rathbone. I love Sherlock Holmes.”
Another good quote comes from Peter Blau in an issue of Scuttlebutt from the Spermaceti Press: “No reports of a Sherlock Holmes Tattoo Society so far, but I wouldn't be surprised if someone starts one.” That came after Peter reported a place where you could get custom temporary tattoos made, so it tends to confirm my earlier thought that Sherlockians just aren’t serious tattoo people.
Has the time come for it to be? Is it time to become hard-core Sherlockians, extreme Sherlockians, and start dissing all the chump Sherlockians and poser Sherlockians? Are we ready to roll like that, beeyotches?
See, even thinking about Sherlockian tattoos puts a whole new spin on our Grand Old Game. I’m going to have to think about this one a little while longer, but y’know, I kind of like the idea. Anybody else willing to give it a shot and let me know how it works out?
Your humble correspondent,