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Courtesy of gulgrit (Instagram)

The return of the Tramp Stamp: Y2K’s most divisive fashion statement

Belly button piercings and ‘whale tail’ thongs are optional

  1. THE LOOK: An elevated version of the 00s lower back tattoo trend, with a modern-day update. Less butterflies and flowers, more abstract and post-human forms.
  2. WHO’S DOING IT? Miley Cyrus sported a brand new lower back tattoo in a cryptic Instagram post last year, while fashion influencer Maria Bernad went full Y2K with a tribal-butterfly themed tatt. Collina Strada also showed belts inspired by lower-back tattoos for its spring 2022 collection.
  3. HOW CAN I GET IT? Head over to your favourite tattoo artist! Or, if you fancy something less permanent, Ephemeral offers made-to-fade inks.

With Y2K fever plunging waistlines to crotch hovering heights, it was only a matter of time until the era’s much-maligned ‘tramp stamp’, or lower back tattoo, made its return. From Christina Aguilera’s scripture to Britney’s fairy and Jessica Alba’s floral motif, the late 1990s and early 2000s trend was as ubiquitous as Juicy Couture tracksuits and Motorola Razrs, peeking out of backless dresses and Juicy Couture tracksuits everywhere. It was so popular, in fact, that even Barbie had a tramp stamp by 2009.

As the decade progressed, however, the trend fell victim to rampant misogyny and tabloid fodder. The aesthetic fell from grace, becoming the target of sexist jokes, body-judging and slut-shaming. By 2013, Nicole Richie had gotten her lower-back tattoo removed, with others rushing to do the same. “It just means a certain thing, and I don’t want to be part of that group,” she said at the time. 

But now the tramp stamp is back, reimagined for a fresh generation of trendy youth. Like the return of the 90s tribal tatt, this wave of tramp stamps are less clunky and more abstract than previous iterations, evoking both the trashy exuberance of noughties style and Grimes’ post-human ‘alien scars’. Miley Cyrus revealed a fresh lower-back tattoo last summer, while fashion influencer María Bernad flaunted a flaming butterfly. Paloma Wool released a capsule collection that nodded to lower-back tattoos of the 90s, while Collina Strada debuted belts inspired by the trend for its spring 2022 collection. 

Given that tattoos generally are more acceptable than ever before, the triumphant return of the tramp stamp makes a lot of sense, especially for a generation of youth who’ve spent the last few years cooped up indoors, and are now desperate to show some skin (see: the ye-ssification of Julia Fox). Plus, removed from the sexist (and sexual) connotations, the lower back is prime real estate. 

The tattoo’s resurgence also goes hand-in-hand with the resurrection of the bimbo aesthetic, a misogynistic stereotype once used to describe hot but dumb blondes. Today, these aesthetics are reclaimed against the sexism of the era. Belly button piercings and ‘whale tail’ thongs are optional.