It Happened to Me: I Watched “Ed Hardy: Tattoo the World” in Order to Laugh at his Cheesiness and Realized he’s Pretty Cool

When I first came across the Ed Hardy documentary on my Hulu+ wanderings late one night, I stopped because I was hoping for a laugh and also it isn’t an anime cartoon, because on Hulu+ those are legion.

So, I gave it a go, expecting something akin to this:


Now that I actually take a step back and think about it, I have to admit – this is hard, believe me — Ed Hardy is a pioneer in the American tattoo business. And not just because of his marketing machine. He can actually draw and has studied these gimmicky things he draws over and over. Andoverandoverandover. In fact, he received silk robes from occupation-era Japan from his father who was away traveling. Just 10-years-old, and studying the line and colors of traditional Japanese art. What was I doing at 10? Riding my bike. Falling off the bike more than I’d like to admit.

Now, I know this is a hard pill to swallow considering the plethora of Ed Hardy gear seen in highly-rated douche sitcoms and reality TV shows. Up until now, I, just like others before me, used the Ed Hardy symbol akin to how fish and insects identify dangerous predators in the wild: you see Ed Hardy, you do not accept a shot from the person. It made nights out in Miami clubs much easier to navigate once you could identify who might opine at the close of a lovely evening, ‘it wasn’t rape because you weren’t asleep yet’.

But now I have to admit that maybe, somewhere along the line, when I was mass-judging people based on a design on their t-shirts, I was being slightly hypocritical. Here I was, someone who hadn’t left the Midwest her entire youth, dogging this artist who had spend his youth studying Japanese art, visiting Mexico and tattooing his friends with magic markers at age 10. I can certainly now see how my hip piece – flash art nautical stars chosen with about one week’s worth of thought put into them –  might not hold more credibility than someone who worshipped and studied custom cars in Los Angeles for a decade, and learned how to surf in the California waves. Essentially, my 30 minute hip piece may in fact be the cheesy party here, not the person steeped in a majority of lifestyles that make up west coast tattoo: surf, traditional Western art (Japanese), Mexican iconography, and custom-car building.

We could go as far as to say that me and all my friends blindly tattooing chinese/Japanese/pig latin characters on our backs and asses with no freaking idea of what they actually say is the cheesy part of the tattoo world, not Ed Hardy, who is friends with legendary tattooist Phil Sparrow and who went to the Yale art school for printmaking. It’s possible.

Granted, there are one or two things that Ed Hardy does that could put off the general public. Like franchising his name on everything from cologne that smells like Curve repackaged in a more colorful box to toddler clothing. Or an overpriced denim and t-shirt collection that only UFC fighters and nightclub promoters tend to wear. Those aren’t two of the most-liked subcultures in America. In fact, by encouraging the promotion of his clothing line and hence his tattoo art and style among uber-materialistic meatheads that are essentially the 2013 version of door-to-door salesmen (hey man, I’ll give you a deal – just for you man – come to the club and I’ll get you a bottle for free to share with me if you bring like 10 hot chicks. Just say my name at the door and you’ll get a corner booth. Nah, I won’t be there then but if you text me you can be sure the response will be, “parkin” which means I’m almost there and I definitely know the door guy. No doubt. But bring those chicks irregardless because you know. It might be awhile till you see me.”) Ed could be losing out on vast swathes of the population. But you know what? He seems fine with it.

Hell, one could even conceivably argue that Ed Hardy is doing us a favor reminding us to follow our dreams, put your damn product out, and then chill because you can’t control how the public reacts or uses it. We’ve seen enough Facebook meltdowns to prove the veracity of that fact.

As it were, maybe modeling a nonchalant behavior about the degradation of one’s brand after spending the majority of one’s life doing every single thing that would give you credibility, in fact, is a good way as a creative to handle one’s career. You can’t please all the people all the time. And nobody will always be pleased with a tattoo and that is kind of the thing. Because people who get tattoos or buy expensive t-shirts with Birds of Paradise silk-screened on them rather than a dull (yet expensive!) cardigan at Top Shop do it because they know that signing up for something “forever” or even just “a long time” is laughable.

Written by Kelli



Filed under Art, Instructional, Unfairly Panned

2 responses to “It Happened to Me: I Watched “Ed Hardy: Tattoo the World” in Order to Laugh at his Cheesiness and Realized he’s Pretty Cool

  1. Pingback: My Homepage

  2. Joshua

    Maybe he’s like Jesus: Cool dude with asinine followers.

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