Although the taboos surrounding tattoos has dissipated over the years, age is often still a barrier for those looking to get inked. Meet the boomers who prove you're never too old for tattoos.
Even today, with tattoos enjoying mainstream status, boomers who are drawn to this artistic form of expression remain reluctant to have their skin inked.
At the crux of their apprehension are doubts about the "fitness" of their older skin. Youthful skin seems to be the preferred canvas for tattoo artists and aligns with the generalization that tattoos are for the younger, more rebellious crowd.
Debunking that perception is a less-than-typical couple from Melbourne, Fla. – Charlotte Guttenberg, 67, and her partner, Charles Helmke, 75, each of whom holds the Guinness World Record for most tattooed senior citizens in their respective genders.
"That BS is just unbelievable," Helmke says of being too old for a tattoo. "You can't see the wrinkles with all the tattoos."
The record-holding couple have each inked 97.5 percent of their bodies and, while Helmke got his first tattoo as a young man in the army, it's still a relatively new venture for Guttenberg.
She got her first tattoo – a small butterfly on her chest – while in her mid-50s, following the death of her husband who had always disapproved of tattoos on women.
Guttenberg, however, didn't see a problem with it. "As far as I was concerned, it was no different than makeup," she says.
The one difference of course, is the permanency, which is often what people find so disconcerting about tattoos in the first place.
Jennifer Dekant, a tattoo artist based in Sarnia, Ont., has noticed a marked difference in how her older clients settle on a tattoo.
"I find that they're not as impulsive and [usually] have something in mind," Dekant says. "You don't find a lot of older generations just getting a little tattoo that they're going to want to cover up later."
In the end, Guttenberg's first tattoo, that tiny little butterfly, left much to be desired and proved the importance in researching tattoo studios in advance. The butterfly design had been handled by an inexperienced tattoo artist. "I don't recommend being tattooed by amateurs," she says. "It usually ends in heartache."
So Guttenberg sought out someone with a little more experience to fix her tattoo. She found one: a longtime artist who also had a background in graphic design.
During the consultation process, a painting of a tattoo bodysuit caught Guttenberg's eye. When asked what she wanted on her body, she pointed to the artwork on the wall. "That!" she said drawing laughter from the artist.
Even in those early days of tattooing, the idea of covering the majority of her body wasn't all that far-fetched: the retired author no longer had to worry about tattoos potentially affecting her career. "I decided I was beyond that, so I might as well just do what I please."
After the consultation, the tattoo artist transformed her mediocre one-dimensional butterfly into a vibrant swallowtail. Soon after, the tattoo evolved into yet another when she decided her swallowtail butterfly needed something to rest on. "I had a little peony added to the piece of artwork," Guttenberg says. "I decided that it looked a little odd just sitting there [alone] on the top of my breast."
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