The Trash Polka Tattoo Style, Explained

If you're unafraid to make a bold statement through tattoos, the trash polka style might be the perfect choice for you. Trash polka is a maximalist, mixed-media tattoo style, ideal for those who are ready to challenge the conventional boundaries of traditional tattooing and opt for a more edgy, unconventional approach. 

This relatively recent and lesser-known genre in the tattoo world seamlessly blends realistic imagery with abstract designs, creating a unique visual experience. Typically done in red and black ink, trash polka tattoos are deliberately jarring yet playfully captivating. Whether you wish to have tattoos that honor social movements or symbolize personal experiences, trash polka offers a canvas for imbuing your ink with your own profound meaning, all while undeniably catching the eye.

A brief history of trash polka

The trash polka style was created by German tattoo artists Simone Plaff and Volko Merschky, who opened their own shop, Buena Vista Tattoo Club, in the late 1990s. The two were heavily inspired by punk rock culture which then translated into their artistic styles. They wanted to clash traditional tattoo imagery with abstract and surreal components.

In an interview with Big Tattoo Planet, Plaff and Merschky explained, "[T]he tattoo designs we create don't fit into any known or common styles, so we made up our minds to think of a term that would describe it best. We came up with Realistic Trash Polka because all in all, it's a mixture of realistic elements combined with abstract or sometimes, graphic parts which represent the 'trash' part of the phrase." They also explained that the "polka" part of the name is inspired by the music genre. Over time, trash polka has made its way around the world and is known as an internationally renowned and independent style.

Common trash polka designs

A trash polka tattoo is quite the opposite of a minimalist tattoo and includes several images in one design. When exploring trash polka designs online, it's evident that animals, faces, skulls, roses, daggers, clocks, geometric designs, and typography find their place in this style. There's often one central subject at the forefront of the tattoo, with other elements in the background. These elements appear plastered on top of each other, creating a collage-like effect. 

The location of your tattoo depends on your personal preference, but trash polka tattoos generally take up a lot of space. So you may want to talk to your artist about getting the tattoo on your arms, legs, chest, or back. While not as widespread as other tattoo styles, many tattoo artists are familiar with trash polka, and some may even specialize in it.

It's worth noting that, like all tattoos, trash polka tattoos are susceptible to fading and blurring over time. According to experts at First Class Tattoos, this is often due to the absence of solid black outlines in many trash polka designs. You can keep your tattoo looking fresh by continuing to moisturize the area and protecting it from the sun.