The league of extraordinarily inked
Tattoos now said to be de rigueur among gentlemen
The key to being a modern gentleman is to have a tattoo, according to Country Life magazine, as they suggest the trend for body art is aping a tradition prevalent in British high society in the 19th century.
The magazine has named David Dimbleby, who had a scorpion tattooed on his shoulder at the age of 75 and the much-decorated footballer David Beckham as winner and runner-up in their inaugural Gentleman of the Year competition.
Their position is said to be a return to the tastes of the late 19th century, when some gentlemen exhibited exotic tattoos from Japanese artists, before they fell out of fashion after the turn of the century.
Hailing both Dimbleby and Beckham as true gentlemen, the editor of Country Life argued that having a tattoo had long been a mark of being a gentleman.
Mark Hedges joked that aspirational parents who wanted to bring up a gentleman could now do worse than to “call their son David and get him a tattoo.”
“Gentlemen used to have lots of tattoos,” he said. “It was quite a gentlemanly thing to do in the late 19th century. They would have a small injection of cocaine and get a tattoo done by an artist brought over from Japan.”
He added that the magazine had been inundated with messages of support since announcing the competition, which was set up in an effort to update the definition of gentlemanly behaviour.
Judges including Jilly Cooper, the author, found that Dimbleby “raises the tone of any event he’s affiliated with,” serving to “hold the nation steady when the waters get choppy”.
They said of Beckham: “England’s mild-mannered former skipper impresses wherever he goes.” Sir David Attenborough, in third place, was “dazzlingly clever with a huge sense of fun.”
Jim Carter, the actor who plays butler Carson in Downton Abbey, was named in fourth place, for his “quiet dignity” and patience in the face of “being chased down the street by squealing devotees” of the period drama.
David Miliband, in fifth place, was commended for resisting the temptation to “smirk” at his brother’s political career.
Country Life gives a thumbs-up to David Beckham’s tattoos — body art being the distinguishing style signature of the modern gentleman.