Flowers, hearts and naked girls. Just about anything can be drawn on your body for the right price. Tattooing has yet to go out of style, and with shows like Miami Ink and LA Ink more people are looking to get something meaningful put on them. Students at West Chester University don’t have to travel far to be “inked”. Many have chosen tattoo shops in town to get what they desire.
X-Treme Ink and High Rollers are responsible for thousands of tattooed bodies every year. How many of them are students?
“About 30 to 40 percent of the people coming in are college students,” Rich Bearden, the owner of X-Treme Ink on Gay Street, said.
Bearden has been tattooing for 12 years in West Chester. He specializes in free-hand custom work and portraits.
“I love doing sleeves and back pieces,” he said.
Bearden has evolved to more intricate tattoos, usually doing three to four hour sittings with people.
Over at High Rollers on Market Street owner, Jay Riley tried to ballpark how many students come in every week.
“It varies by the season,” Riley said. “West Chester is a walking town, we get at least 15 to 20 students in a week, but we’ve also had that many in a day.”
High Rollers has been operating in town for 13 years.
Prices of tattoos are not clear-cut. Both shops have a starting price. At X-Treme Ink the minimum is $60 and for High Rollers it’s $58.
Pricing depends on how large the tattoo is, where it’s placed on the body, how much detail it has and how long it takes to draw on.
“Most small tattoos run about $100,” said Bearden. On average customers will spend a couple hundred dollars per tattoo.
The tattoo fad has been in full strength since the 90s but many of those who have endured the needle do not like to think of themselves as trendsetters. The permanent-ink symbols usually possess more meaning to a person.
“I didn’t get it to show off,” Adrian Rubio, a fourth-year student, said. His tattoo of a word written in Tibetan script is placed on the under part of his upper left arm. The tattoo is so personal that Rubio doesn’t share its meaning with many people.
Danielle Moll, a third-year communicative disorders major, said she got her two tattoos for memory sake.
“I got them at points in my life I wanted to remember, the symbols I got represent those times,” she said.
Moll has a swallow on her hip and a nautical star on one side of her ribs. Like many people with tattoos, she plans to get more.
“It’s addictive,” said Bill Masperstefome, a customer at X-Treme Ink. “Once you get your first one, you feel like there is still a lot of space to fill,” he said as a fresh tattoo on his upper arm began to bleed.
But not every space can be filled. Both X-Treme Ink and High Rollers have restrictions on where tattoos can be placed. Neither will draw on your face. At X-Treme Ink they won’t put anything on the rough parts of your hands and feet and nothing goes right on the genitals. Doug Scherbak, a tattoo artist at High Rollers said he uses personal discretion when denying people a tattoo.
“If an 18-year-old kid comes in for his first tattoo and he wants it on his hands or his face I tell him ‘no’,” he said. “They don’t realize that when they grow up they have to get jobs.”
The most common tattoos include tribal pieces, script names, nautical stars, hearts and kanji symbols.
“It goes in trends,” Scherbak said. “A lot of people mimic celebrity tattoos. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve done Nicole Richie’s rosary tattoo on girls’ ankles.”
Putting meaning behind a tattoo has become more popular because of television shows. Scherbak said that almost everyone that comes in tells him a story about what their tattoo stands for.
“I say I don’t [watch tatoo shows] but if it’s on I like to nitpick what they are doing wrong,” Scherbak said.
He says it kills him to watch artists make unsanitary decisions.
“In one episode Kat Von D has on gloves and proceeds to run her fingers through her hair,” Scherbak said. “In another she had a cigarette in her mouth.”
Sanitation is something that Bearden takes very seriously.
“We are strict within ourselves,” Bearden said.
Each of his employees has taken a blood borne pathogens course to learn proper protection methods against diseases that can be transmitted through blood.
“We tattoo each other, and we give that same care to our customers,” said Bearden.
Of course, it’s impossible to leave a tattoo shop and not hear a good story. Scherbak has plenty of them.
“Once, a kid came in and got his mom’s name put on his butt, probably to annoy her,” Scherbak said. “When the mom saw it, she brought her son back in and had me add on ‘If found please return to’ over his name.”
Lindsay Banecker is a fourth-year student majoring in English with a minor in journalism. She can be reached at LB596846@wcupa.edu.