BRANDED for life. Thinking of getting a face tattoo?
Be prepared to be rejected in job interviews, thrown out of hotels, refused entry to clubs, get asked for drugs and stopped by police for a body search.
Get ready to be treated like a criminal.
Face tattoos are a growing trend in outlaw bikie gangs and, increasingly, they are popular among young people.
But if you are planning to have any part of your face, or even your neck, head or hands tattooed, consider this advice from experts who love tattooing skin, but issue stringent warnings against branding faces.
“It’s not cool,” said Gary Southcombe veteran tattooist from Sydney’s internationally famous tattoo studio, The Illustrated Man.
“Nothing above the collar or below the wrist unless you already have a full sleeve, and faces, we don’t do them.”
Willink Sharpe, of Two Three Two Two Tattoo Studio in Newcastle turns away young men and women who ask for face tattoos.
“I see a lot of young dudes who want their faces tattooed so they can look tough for their mates,” he said.
“You get dudes coming in because they see music artists with [face tattoos] like Lil Wayne, Kid Ink, Travis Barker of Blink-182.
“There are some [tattoo] artists who don’t care and a lot of backyarders, and they will tattoo a young dude’s face.
“It’s a job stopper. I know someone who didn’t get through the job interview because they had a tattoo on their hand.”
“I don’t even like doing sides of necks,” Sharpe said.
“I have tattooed a mate and a lady’s face, but they were covered in them.
“You’ve got to be a tattoo artist yourself or already have a sleeve. You’ve got to earn it.”
Sharpe has tattoos over his skull, a dagger on his sideburns, a skull and crossbones below his left eye and a “straight edge” tattoo script on his temple signifying he doesn’t drink alcohol or take drugs.
The majority of his face, front on, is clear.
“I’m 28, I work in the [tattoo business] and I only got my face tattoos in the last two years.
“These young dudes won’t get a job and it [will be trouble],” he said.
“I get hit up all the time at train stations, and police ask me if I’ve got drugs and I tell them I’m clean, just a tattoo artist.”
Bikie gang members often rely on club tattoo parlours owned by fellow members for getting face tattoos.
Historically, bikie or street gang members tattooed their hands and faces so as to set themselves apart from normal society.
Jail tattoos, distinctive because of their blurred edges and lack of artistic merit, often decorate hands, legs and sometimes faces.
However, some people are using face tattoos as a way of making a living, as a featured piece of tattoo art, as a way of being recognized, or even using their face as an advertising billboard.
Whether it’s a way of identifying yourself with anti-social behavior, or just making a statement, face tattoos are proliferating around the world.
Here are some of the stories of the people whose faces are permanently branded, until they undergo expensive or painful tattoo removal surgery.
Tony “The Face Cronin”
The face of the National Tattoo and Body Art Expo two years ago, Cronin got his first tattoo as an 11-year-old and has been filling in his skin ever since.
Now in his late 50s, Cronin was a one-time bodyguard to the late criminal Mark “Chopper” Reed.
He has described being tattooed as a “spiritual experience”.
“There’s a Maori tradition – and I firmly believe in it – that every time you get tattooed, anywhere but especially the face, you walk out and start again,” he said.
“It’s like a life-changing experience. A new stage.”
Earlier this year, a Russian girl who met a tattoo artist online and fell in love said she let him tattoo her face in 13cm, gothic script within 24 hours of meeting as a symbol of “eternal devotion”.
She is now married to her tattooist, Rouslan.
The Pegoraro brothers enjoy growing stature on the Melbourne bikie scene, but older brother, Daniel, was thought to be a dead man walking after the shooting of Bandido boss Toby Mitchell.
The Bandidos and their cohorts, the Diablos, were allegedly attacked by members of the Hells Angels gang and Daniel Pegoraro was blamed.
Charges over a bikie brawl in a suburban Melbourne shopping centre were subsequently dropped against Ben, 23, and Danile, 28, both suspected Hells Angels associates.
Adam Roberts, burglar
Police easily tracked the suspect in a burglary case to Adam Roberts, 24, following the theft of storage lockers in the state of Illinois. Someone identified Roberts by his distinctive “skeleton” tattoos.
Billy Gibby, aka “BillyTheBillboard”
Boxer Billy Gibby has his own website selling stretches of skin all over his body for advertising space.
He has sold space for up to $1,000 and his forehead is given over to two pornography sites.
He says: “I am turning myself into a human billboard.
“I am having companies advertise on me in the form of permanent tattoo advertisements.
“I currently have six companies that ‘tattoo advertise’ on me.
“I am looking to become the most tattoo advertised on person in the world.
“I should soon have the Guinness World Record for most area of ones body covered in tattoos.”
Bronson Ellery, tattoo addict
Police regard him as a bikie gang associate, and young Bronson Ellery has been photographed hanging out with members of the Bandidos Outlaw Motorcycle Club.
But his mother, Suzi, protests her son is “no bikie”, just a young man who “loves tattoos” and has managed to cover most of his body with ink art at a very early age.
Kimberley Vlaeminck, teenage fibber
In 2009, Belgian teenager Kimberley Vlaeminck, said she would sue a tattoo parlour which she claimed covered half her face with stars while she was asleep.
Left sporting 56 black stars of various sizes on the left side of her face, from nose to ear and brow to chin., Vlaeminck blamed the tattooist.
She later admitted he had done the tattoos with her consent.
A notorious example of the wild and lawless gangs of Guatemala City, the Mara 18 evolved out of Los Angeles street gangs of the 1980s.
The heavily tattooed members rape women as a way of establishing their reputation within the gang.
West Coast Eagle diehard
James Clark-Smith may have no tattoos on his face, but he went the whole head with a tattoo of his beloved team, the West Coast Eagles.
Face tattoos are all the rage in Russia. Go to tattooed.ru, among a number of specialized Russian tattoo blogs for pictures of skin art.