TATTOOS may be permanent, but how and where people choose to express themselves subdermally seems to change with every skin-baring season.
And now that inked celebrities and reality TV shows on the subject have moved tattoos to the top rungs of the social acceptability ladder, fans of the body art are no longer satisfied picking a standard design off the wall of their local tattoo parlour.
"New school" tattoos, as they've been called, are bigger, bolder and -- thanks to technological advances in needlework that can now produce eye-popping, three-dimensional effects -- more complex than anything previously achieved on human skin.
As for location, ribs, wrists and hands seem to be the current hot spots.
And moustaches -- they're not just for faces anymore, judging by the facial fuzz lines that are sprouting on index fingers.
Reporter Carolin Vesely and photographer Janek Lowe recently scoured Old Market Square to find out what folks are wearing under their skin.
hands (i.e. finger moustaches)
quotes/sayings/words of inspiration
foreign languages -- especially Arabic, Sanskrit, Hebrew and Chinese
bigger first tattoos
celebrity copycat tats
tattoo studios offering in-house removal services
tribal and Celtic symbols
barbed wire armbands
heavy black designs
"tramp stamps" (lower-back tats)
Eden Cheung, 21
(Vancouver street performer)
What: Angel wings
Why: "I thought they were pretty. I've wanted wings since I was 14, but they're pricey. These cost me $2,000."
Brittany Joba, 23
What: One-eyed, one-horned, flying purple people eater
Why: "I love that song! We were sitting around having a chit-chat, after several rounds, about what would make good tattoos. I went and looked on Google images and found this and thought it was the cutest thing ever.
"My boyfriend did it in my kitchen. The purple needs to be filled in, so it's still a work in progress. My mom says she hates it."
Kendall Stelmach, 25,
What: Ancient Hebrew writing from the Dead Sea scrolls (translation: How long must thy servant endure? When will you punish those who persecute me?), Wheel of Fortune from the tarot card deck, lotus blossom with om symbol, finger moustache
Why: "I'm a history major. Seeing the actual Dead Sea scrolls at the Minnesota Science Musuem was so... surreal. The moustache? We had no clients coming in (to the tattoo studio) and we were bored."
Colleen Mazurat, 28
What: Astrological symbols for Leo and Virgo
Why: "I was born on the cusp."
JADE JOHNSTON, 24
Why: "I'm actually half Chinese but I obviously take after my Scottish mother. So I got these (she has a phoenix on the side of her other rib cage) as a manifestation of my cultural heritage. Each one took 14 hours."
Chantel Marostica, 26
What: flock of swallows
Why: "Swallows are the birds that carry your soul to heaven and they represent freedom."
Chris Hedley, 35
What: The words "Only God shall judge me" in Aramaic. All four grandparents' names, tree with the words: "Within a mile from home."
Why: "I have a shaved head, I get stereotyped. People think I'm a skinhead.
"The tree represents my family tree and reminds me my family is never far from me."
KYLE HIEBERT, 24
What: Tiki beach scene (cost $2,500), maple leaf, rose, phrase: "Pride is forever born in failure." (Also has the names of his two Canadian heroes -- Steve Nash and Romeo Dallaire -- tattooed on the sides of his feet.)
Why (re: the phrase): "I just made it up. You always screw up something before you become good at it."