Style & Grooming

Sang Bleu’s Golden Rules for Getting a Tattoo

Legendary tattoo artist and founder of Sang Bleu, Maxime Plescia-Buchi, shares some dos and don’ts for getting inked

  • TextTed Stansfield

Following on from our guide to getting the perfect leather jacket, created in collaboration with Derek Harris of Lewis Leathers, we’ve put together another how-to – this time on getting a tattoo. Again, we’ve tapped an industry expert – acclaimed tattoo artist and the founder of infamous London-based tattoo shop Sang Bleu, Maxime Plescia-Buchi. Originally from Switzerland, Buchi has been working as a tattooist for close to a decade and has drawn attention for his shop’s decidedly modern approach to the craft.

He strives for Sang Bleu, which started life as a magazine, to be a “hub for those who make 21st-century culture”. “You can get any kind of classic tattoo here,” he explains. “You might come here to get a sailor tattoo, but then you might see hand poking being done by Tati Compton; a book launch or an art performance; a grime artist or Mr Jean-Claude Biver (President of the Watches Division, LVMH)!” Having completed hundreds of tattoos in his time and covered with many himself, Buchi is a go-to authority on getting inked. Here, he shares some crucial dos and don’ts...

1. DON’T make a decision based on time and money

“Time and money shouldn’t be important factors of your decision. In most cases, tattoos are affordable if you really want them. Even the craziest tattoo won’t be more expensive than a car or a few months’ worth of drinks. You might see it as a luxury, especially if you go to a pricier tattoo artist, but unlike a yacht or a Bugatti which most people will never be able to afford, nearly anyone can afford a tattoo – even an “expensive” one. Also, everyone knows buying a house takes time, but we plan and save because ultimately it’s worth it. It’s the same with getting a tattoo. Plus, tattoos last forever and can impact a lot of things. Considering their lifespan, even a year or two of planning and preparation won’t make much of a difference! Think accordingly.”

2. DO look at the artist’s portfolio

“The most critical part of choosing a tattoo artist is looking at their portfolio and scrutinising it. While it’s good to listen to recommendations, it’s important to make your own decision and be 100 per cent convinced of it. I’ve seen a lot of people not even look at the artist’s portfolio (including my own!) and simply go on a recommendation only to be disappointed. 20 years ago, there would have only been one artist in your town and that was the person you’d go to, period. Today though, the offering and quality of the work available is so much better, it’s unbelievable! Take your time, do your research and trust yourself.”

3. DON’T base your tattoo design on other people’s opinions

“Treat your friends’ and family’s opinions with caution. You’re getting a tattoo for your own personal reasons and only a tattoo artist can really help you crystallise and convey your ideas. You might go and talk to an artist who may decide that they’re not the right person for you, but send you to someone else who is. So while you can ask people to help you brainstorm, they can’t decide on a tattoo for you.”

4. DO consider the holy trinity of tattooing

“There are three components to getting a tattoo: the design, the tattoo artist and the client. Getting a tattoo is like having a baby; you can decide who you do it with, but you can never know exactly what you’re going to get. By choosing wisely however, you get the best chance of a good result. It doesn’t guarantee anything, but it does improve the odds. Either way though, the tattoo is the result of those three things. Say you had a great vibe with the artist but the design wasn’t right – it’s still not a good tattoo, even after two or three years. So it’s important to consider these three elements – the holy trinity of tattooing – that are absolutely crucial.”

5. DON’T hesitate to ask your tattoo artist for a touch-up

“Even the best artists are human! It is a human hand that tattoos you and irregularities can happen – or the client might not sit still, which is a far more common cause of irregularities, if I’m honest. Don’t hesitate to ask if you think your tattoo needs a touch-up. Artists often prefer to be able to to see their tattoo work after some time and touch them up if they need it to make sure the tattoos stay in good shape.”

6. DO Accept your tattoo as part of you

“Accept the idea that like anything in life there will be days that you love your tattoos and days that you don’t. There isn’t such a thing as a tattoo that you’ll love your whole life, in the same way that one day you might wake up and think ‘I look okay today’, and other days you that don’t even want to look at yourself in the mirror. Your tattoo becomes a part of you, so it’s important to accept it from the get-go. Tattooed people often hear things like ‘Did you think of how will it look when you’re old?’ but this doesn’t make sense. Would you like your tattoo to look like a perfect sticker on you when you’re 85? It would be ridiculous. You can buy art or clothes for that. A tattoo is interesting for the very opposite reason!”

Sang Bleu London can be found at 29B Dalston Lane, London E8 3DF.