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Illustrated Man by Sophy Holland

Tattooed Male Pin-Ups

“The hot, tattooed, bearded guy—they are the modern day pin-up," says photographer and director Sophy Holland.

Nominally Inked magazine is a men's publication (hence the bounty of female tattoo models) but Holland, one of our esteemed contributors, takes a look a tattooed male celebrities and in her photo series and documentary Illustrated Man. Holland set out to take the artful portraits of this new crop of inked heartthrobs—including Josh Mario John, Ricki Hall, Jason Santore and Don Benjamin—and in doing so captured the essence and spirit of our culture.

Incepted in 2016 this fine art photography collection documents the many subjects’ ultimate and often intimate illustrations of ‘self’ through ink, and chronicles the inexorable rise of the ‘tattooed male’ pin up, as fashion and tattoo culture converge for the first time in a mainstream increasingly fueled by Generation Y. The series captures the reimagination of tattoos from the stereotypical associations of sailors and the criminal classes, into the celebration of mainstream pop culture, fashion trends, branding and social influence.

Holland's stunning photographs show tattooed men in light not yet reflected by any cameraperson. The black-and-white photos are bold, brawny and baronial—these men are royals in both the tattoo and fashion worlds. From muses like Rick Genest "Zombie Boy" (Lady Gaga, Thierry Mugler) to the thoroughly-inked men who dress the well-heeled such as Nick Wooster (Barneys, Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus, Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren, etc) Holland's collection is a "Who's Who" of style and tattoos.


I found the collision of tattoo and fashion culture very appropriate of our time right now," Holland says. "I saw an odd trend that was arising over the last few years of male models who are heavily tattooed and I wanted to document them. That series then expanded and seeped into celebrity, entertainment, sports athletes. To understand modern tattoo culture, we need to look back at where it began."

From the bad boys of yesteryear to the hot boys of today, the documentary film follows the evolution of the tattooed man. Aiding Holland in putting words to her visuals are a few of the aforementioned as well as "inkedfluencers" Dave Navarro of Ink Master, tattoo historian Michael McCabe, revered tattooer Josh Lord, author Marisa Kakoulas and our own Editor-in-Chief Rocky Rakovic. Akin to a collaborative tattoo flash sheet, each contributor gave their own take on tattoos and illustrated men in the greater culture's current climate.

“There is still a stigma attached to heavily tattooed men," Rakovic says. "But I think that it’s changing from an evil person who deals in the underbelly to a creative person willing to take chances to express themselves. The tattooed man is desirable right now."

Enjoy Holland's male tattooed pin-ups and piquant film across the following pages.

Illustrated Man from Sophy Holland on Vimeo.

The Illustrated Man series by Sophy Holland