Tattoos Make Runners Look Cool, Researchers Find

A new study has confirmed what many have long suspected: Tattoos make runners look cool.

The study, from researchers at the University of California, Davis, appears in the current issue of The American Journal of Dermatological Embellishment.

"Whether it's something as simple as a Chinese symbol or line of text, or as complex as an elaborate 'sleeve,' getting some ink is absolutely a way for runners to up their coolness quotient," said lead researcher Hervé Villechaize, Ph.D.

To conduct their study, Villechaize and his colleagues analyzed 32 subjects—18 men and 14 women between 19 and 64 years old. Half of the subjects had at least one tattoo, half had none. All subjects were regular runners, ranging from a self-described "jogger" to a two-time Olympic Marathon Trials qualifier.

The researchers then observed each subject as he or she ran on a treadmill for 20 minutes, varying the speed and incline at random intervals. They also watched as each subject cooled down afterward, stretched, drank from a water bottle, and stood peering at the horizon in a very serious way.

In each scenario, they reported, "the ones with tattoos just looked cooler." 

Interestingly, the researchers said, temporary tattoos did not have the same effect. They aren't sure why, though they speculate the reason may be that most temporary cartoons are designed with children in mind and therefore look silly.

The researchers did find one exception to the rule.

"An Ironman logo tattoo actually decreases a runner's coolness quotient by at least 50%," the study declares. "We therefore strongly advise runners to avoid getting one. Or, if they already have one, to consider having it removed."

What does all this mean for the average, middle-of-the-pack runner? Would Villechaize recommend that every runner get one or more tattoos?

"Without question," he said. "We don't see a downside."