Fire or knife?

So I’m watching Sons of Anarchy at the moment…oh yeah, I went there. Compelled to write about what I found out after watching the episode Giving Back where Kyle Hobart gets his massive back tattoo BURNED OFF WITH A BLOW TORCH for goodness sake. Yeah, THAT scene, watch it. I started reading about the culture of biker club tattoos, about how they represent loyalty amongst other things. Also, I looked into how laser removal actually works and thought you might want to know. It’s quite interesting.

In this blog I’ve already mentioned that people get tattoos for all sorts of reasons and in this one I will concentrate on how they can serve as identification (ID) to those around you before you even open your mouth to speak. To some they signify who you are. So, why would you want to be recognised or identified by your tattoos? Well, one of the reasons that springs to mind is a connection to something; a club, a community, a tribe, a gang whatever you want to call it, a social group. Humans have the need to belong somewhere, to something. This commitment, in turn, buys us security of some kind or another and demands loyalty in return. Most people are proud to belong somewhere, be it a country they are from (patriotism), a skills group of some kind (e.g. a sports team) or family. Even though both tattoos and bikes are pretty mainstream nowadays I am referring to the spirit of rebellion and being vocal, or visual if you will, about it.

So in Sons of Anarchy the members of the club (and other characters) pretty much all have tattoos, and there is one of the grim reaper that’s also the logo for the show and the club that a few main characters have on their backs. It’s also the design on the back of all their leather waistcoats. It is absolutely huge, solid black, old school tattoo. It is not there to be a work of art, it is not there for them to show off much, it’s there as a permanent sign of loyalty to the club. So when Kyle Hobart was banned from SAMCRO for abandoning a brother during an arson which lead to that dude’s incarceration of five years (pretty good reason to banish someone from such a fiercely loyal group) he was told to get rid of his tattoo (by covering it up) and he DIDN’T, well…They found out, you’ll have to watch the episode if you want to find out HOW though. Under false pretences they get him to the secluded garage at the clubhouse, then tie him up by his arms and give him a choice “Fire or knife?” What follows is the removal of the tattoo ghetto style, I suppose it’s a punishment in the way of torture as even when he passes out form the pain he is revived by it over and over again as his skin singes and burns.
Here comes the scientific bit. Once healed, the tattoo ink sits under x amount of layers of your skin. As we know skin regenerates over the years just as all the tissue in our bodies does, which is one of the reasons tattoos end up fading and looking “old”. Another reason is that it’s 2012 and tattoo equipment has massively improved since your granddad had a tattoo of a topless woman on his forearm. The design of needles and even formulas of inks have improved to achieve more precise lines that stay. Moving on, if you need a tattoo removed or are forced to chose between being skinned or burning it off, consider this – if NOT ENOUGH HEAT is applied, it can actually make the ink spread even deeper and outside the original lines, making an awful mess and not actually taking any of the pigment out. What needs to happen is short burst of intense heat/light and then the pigment can fragment into smaller particles that are then removed by the body’s immune system. And you don’t burn it till it’s off but do it in bursts to avoid nerve damage as it’s only supposed to pass through just a few layers of the surface of your skin. With proper laser removal treatments we have today, after the initial treatment you gotta give the skin a chance to heal which will take around 6 months for the most part. In those 6 months you will notice the pigment fade more and more, turn all sorts of colours, brown for instance and then further treatment may be required. It is a lengthy process if you don’t wish to require emergency medical treatment for burns!