The Tramp Stamp Is Back,But Not As You Know It

The so-called 'tramp stamp' is fashionable again, and Gen Z are leading the lower back tattoo revival , says Jess Lacey - who had her own version in the noughties.

by Jess Lacey |
Updated on

Once upon a time, I was 17 and easily influenced. The giant tribal tattoositting above my bum is testament to that. Twenty years later, I’m back in fashion, as lower-back tats are enjoying a TikTok resurgence, and Google searches or designs are up 140%.

Unfortunately, I loathe mine - so much so that, a few years back, I took decisive action to have it removed. It was a procedure that proved so torturous, I managed two sessions before calling time. The half-faded, blotchy something on my back looks far worse than the original. If I really unpack why I feel so much shame about my tattoo, it's not the design or placement itself, but the slut-shaming association that's been linked into it.

Cheryl Cole Arriving For The 2011 Brit Awards At The O2 Arena, London. (Photo by Mark Cuthbert/UK Press via Getty Images)

My mind is cast right back to the writhing sex pit of the Britney Spears I’m A Slave 4 U video. The tramp stamp, as it was not-so fondly nicknamed, has always been a misnomer for me and many other women, insinuating that we're 'that kind of girl' - the sort who's 'well up for it'.

Years later, I can't help but feel it still conjures up the outdated, misogynistic ideas we've worked so hard to leave behind. I keep the remains of my tattoo well hidden, just in case someone sees it and instantly decides that I'm trashy with questionable morals (though still making an excellent dinner companion).

So when I saw lower-back tattoos were back in fashion - riding on the wave of the '90s low-rise jean revival - I was shook. But thanks to ballsy GenZ-ers, these tats are everything mine isn't. 'The lower back tattoo is making a comeback with 19 to 27-year-olds, who weren't old enough for it the first time around', says Adam Turley of Vagabond Tattoo in Hackney. 'We're still seeing butterflies, florals and twistson tribal designs, but the reinventions are softer, smaller and far more intricate.'

The latest iterations are handwritten fine line wording - a part of a larger tattoo trend. 'Delicately sprawled phrases with thinner needles looks great and are becoming a classic of our time. We're doing 10 a week of that style all over the body', says Turley.

And our beauty team at Grazia are all over this too. In fact, Beauty Assistant Renee Washington (and full fledged member of the Gen Z club) has got in on the lower back action. She shared her thoughts on the why Gen Z are bringing (sexy) tats back:

'As a Y2K baby I've always loved how provocative the tramp stamp was. It was a fun accessory to accompany the low swung velour tracksuits and capris of the era. Fast forward to 2024, I'm finally old enough to rock one, and I'm here for lower-back-tramp-stamp-comeback. Its cute, its dainty and its feminine and super flattering on the body. Mine reads 'Angel', which is my middle name in a gorgeous cursive. I see it as a permanent piece of jewellery that adds a bit of pizzazz to my outfits and gives me a bit of personality. I think the resurgence comes down to Gen Z's fearless attitude toward self-expression. We don't really care what anyone has to say. Its my favourite thing I own now', says Renee.

Gen Z's take is inspiring a renaissance of existing tattoo's too. Dolly Plunkett owns The Dollhouse Brighton: a feminist tattoo studio specialising in all things bold, bright and kitsch. She's been working plenty of OG lower-back tattoo's turning old tribal designs into highly personalised artworks. 'Executed well, tramp stamps are gorgeous and work with the flow of the body. In fact, the lower back is a really nice placement,' she says. Doesn't the label remain problematic? 'No way - I love that we're owning it and still calling it a tramp stamp,' says Dolly. 'Also, tramp stamp is such a common phrase now, it's lost its bad connotations and all the negative power.' In which case, I'm glad that Gen Z is bringing the tramp stamp back on its terms. The oh-so delicate inkings of wry statements like 'lucky you' show that they're in on the joke, rather than the butt of it.


Main image credit: @inkbykarla @reneewashingtonn

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