Feather Rib Tattoos Are My Generation's Tramp Stamp

What exactly is it about the feather tattoo that appeals to so many? What does it speak to in the person it has been burned into? Lightness? Grace?
Publish date:
December 17, 2014
tattoos, culture, the stylecon

Two months ago, I was very much in a market for a tattoo. Not that I’m not still in the market for one, but there’s nothing quite like the masochist draw of the tattoo parlor when you’re feeling particularly sour and mean, dreaming of needles and blood and permanent self-expression. Unfortunately for my lazy quest in being cooler, I didn’t pull the trigger fast enough to coincide with my hate bender, and in the amount of time I hummed and hawed, dawdled in indecision, my perspective on life changed and my confidence to brand myself with it—which is probably a good thing, because “THERE IS NOTHING” was a strong contender for a lifelong cameo on my forearm. Tattooing while having an existential crisis is like driving while drunk; I don’t recommend it.

Nor do I recommend a whole host of tattoos I came across in my research for what to get. And I especially do not recommend what has become the tramp stamp of my generation: the feather rib tattoo. Because, unfortunately for the first woman who got this and it was actually still unique, there is now nothing more basic—at least in an I-really-love-the-Pendleton-blankets-at-Urban-Outfitters-as-much-as-I-love-blowing-dudes way—than a feather rib tattoo.

My first encounter with one, or the idea of one, was back in 2011, riding the subway with my friend’s basic bitch model girlfriend, who was complaining about sleeping through her alarm and missing her flight to St. Bart’s for a weekend trip with all her BFFs. She then naturally segued into some conversation about celebrities in Los Angeles, which then moved into the regrettable statement, “I think I’m going to get a feather tattoo on my ribs.” To be honest, anything this chick could have done would have bothered me. Even the most badass, legit, swarthy sailor tattoo across her neck wouldn’t have won me over. Because, in my book, she would always be a basic bitch, and I, for my part, would always be a mean one.

What exactly is it about the feather tattoo that appeals to so many? What does it speak to in the person it has been burned into? Lightness? Grace? Having something that can be designed fluidly against your ribs in the perfect place between your bra strap and your sexy side-boob tee shirt, just close enough to your perky tit to want someone to fuck you? Methinks the latter is the heaviest contender in this fight, though I’m sure the first are used in explaining the feather’s VERY DEEP EXTENSION of a basic bitch’s inner core.

Putting aside my judgements and looking at this from a purely aesthetic perspective, it’s a shame this tattoo has been copycatted into pseudo hipster oblivion because, unlike the Chinese symbols and butterflies and tribal winged whateverthefucks that came before it, the feather rib tattoo is—dare I say it—cuter than its forbearers, and comes with the benefit of not being immediately associated with being railed from behind.

Note: I’m sure there are some very rad chicks out there with feather tattoos, and to you, my apologies. It’s not your fault you picked something so universally appealing it got picked up by those in the market for universal appeal. Let’s be friends. I’m serious.

Reprinted with permission from The StyleCon.