I’M A risk-averse bore who hasn’t the imagination or the nerve to step out from under the canopy of sheer predictability.Who says? Well, I’m paraphrasing a little but that character description is suggested by research in the Journal of Economic Behaviour and Organisation, which has explored the reasons behind Britain’s tattoo outbreak.

The intent was to explore the paradox that while employers feel disdain for tattoos (particularly those featuring faces), nearly a third of 25-39-year-olds and a fifth of the entire population, have been inked, clearly laughing in the face of career prospect.

Yet, the research throws up another paradox which isn’t mentioned; how can those who have a tattoo consider themselves to be “impulsive”, believe they are the type to colour in outside the margins, the stand-out characters who now command attention, when tattoos are as common to Scottish skin as blue legs in winter?

Snce Robbie Williams and David Beckham (two men with far less imagination than they’d like us to believe) and Amy Winehouse (whom no one could cite as a role model) somehow imprinted the notion of skin printing onto the psyche of the nation, it’s been impossible not to stand in a queue at Greggs and not see a female with a Polynesian fertility symbol etched onto her arm, or a male in Tesco without a thistle or an Arabic symbol.

Roll up a bank manager’s sleeve and there’s likely to be a quote from a Bob Dylan song. As for being indicative of a young rebel? Judi Dench and David Dimbleby have had bits tattooed, for goodness sake. (Judy, it’s not cool. It’s like a grandad having a go on a skateboard, or granny rapping online.)

Granted, tattoos are now drawn by those with more artistry and imagination than of old. We’ve (mostly) moved away from the Popeye anchor, the scary Hells Angel skull or the semi-tragic ‘Mum’.

But what the researchers do hint at, however, is tattoos may offer opportunity for long-term regret. And I think they’re right. Tattooing is little more than flesh graffiti, a tacky bumper sticker for the body which can never be peeled off.

Scarlett Johansson may have a back full of roses and little lambs but in terms of impact and permanence it’s as shocking as the skin-staining inflicted upon borstal boys who had Indian ink scratched into their skin by a scar-faced teenager with a shaky hand. Tattoos still remind me of men like my Uncle John who returned from National Service with a rites-of-passage snake-dagger on his forearm and a whole load of regret he’d been so drunk that night in Aden.

Yes, tattoos can be fun – but only for those drunken pals laughing at their 21-year-old chum who, on his first trip to Aya Napa, wound up with a life-sized male member indelibly drawn onto his chest, or the girl who had no idea the Mandarin writing wasn’t a proverb but a Szechuan take-away dish.

You may well argue tattoos can defy class classification. And, yes, Churchill had a tattoo (like Popeye, an anchor) but for the most part tattoos were boasted by pirates and bad boys and sometimes girls with reputations.

So why is the nation continuing to Beckhamise their bodies, to even deface their faces? Some psychologists say multiple tattoos signal passive aggression. Psychology Today indicates it’s about making a person feel better, and inking can produce the sort of feeling that comes about after diet or plastic surgery. Dr Vinita Mehta says those with tattoos generally want to feel unique, and they want to explore their life and live experiences that are outside of the norm. But how can that be achieved when a dolphin tattoo on an oversized Scottish calf is the norm?

Those planning a parlour trip to have their body turned into the Mark Bros song Lydia the Tattooed Lady should know tattoos are nothing new. The oldest tattooed body discovered dates back to 3250 BC when ‘Otzi’ was found frozen beneath an Alpine glazier. He had more than 60 tattoos but it’s not known if any of them revealed a thistle, ‘Carpe Diem’ or ‘Agnes.’

Yet while it seems insane to pay someone to stick needles into your body for hours on end (try a licky-sticky transfer instead?) can tattooing ever be endorsed?

There are doctors who say having a permanent statement on your body can be a positive, such as the date you gave up an addiction. And inking proved inspirational for tennis hero Stan Wawrinka who has a Beckett quote on his forearm. ‘Ever failed. No Matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.’ And tattooing micro dots on the head can colour the appearance of baldness.

But it should be tattooed into the minds of young people that inkings are pretty much for life. And I’d like to think they don’t set you apart as a rebel at all.