God Save Justin Trudeau, Productions de la Ruelle
Is Canada's new PM the only world leader with a
While some Canadians have been marvelling at the size of Justin
Trudeau's election victory - helping the Liberal Party turn a wipe-out
in 2011 into an overall majority - others have been focusing on the
43-year-old's athletic body and a large tattoo on his left arm. Could
he, they ask, be the only major world leader with a tattoo?
The tattooed image of a raven was getting a lot of attention on
social media on election night. "OH that IS a Raven tattoo! This guy
seems interesting," tweeted @meg_shuler. "Is Justin Trudeau the first
Western leader to have a tattoo?" asked @aveek18 - one of a number of
people who wondered this.
The design is borrowed from the Haida people indigenous to Canada's
Pacific north-west, as the Liberal Party leader tweeted in 2012: "My
tattoo is planet Earth inside a Haida raven.
The globe I got when I was 23; the Robert Davidson raven for my 40th
The tattoo was on full public view soon afterwards, when he fought a
charity boxing match against political rival, Patrick Brazeau, and
surprised many by winning.
Trudeau was also mocked by rivals during the campaign for
having once had
long hair – ALAMY
There seems to be some logic behind the choice of a Haida symbol. The
Trudeau family were made honorary members of the Haida tribe in 1976
during the second prime ministerial term of Trudeau's father, Pierre.
Justin Trudeau went on to attend the University of British Columbia.
So how unusual is it for a world leader to have a tattoo?
It's difficult to definitely say that no prominent current heads of
state have tattoos. If they do, they keep them covered up.
Tattoo historian Anna Felicity Friedman says she isn't aware of any.
Nor is self-proclaimed tattoo professor Kevin Gannon.
However, there have been plenty of tattooed world leaders in the
Russian Tsar Nicholas II had a dragon inscribed on his arm during a
visit to Japan in 1891, while King Alexander of Yugoslavia had a large
heraldic eagle tattooed over his chest. King Frederick IX of Denmark
acquired a number of naval-themed tattoos in the navy.British Monarchs
George V and Edward VII both had a Jerusalem cross tattooed on their arm
to mark their pilgrimage to the city, while it's often reported that
former UK Prime Minister Winston Churchill had an anchor - although the
Churchill Centre says it has found no evidence to support this.
In the US, president Teddy Roosevelt had his family crest tattooed on
his chest, and Anna Friedman mentions two other tattooed presidents in
her blog: James Polk who supposedly had a tattoo of a Chinese character
meaning "eager", and Andrew Jackson who was said to have a tomahawk
inked on his thigh.
Neither Barack Obama or Vladimir Putin have tattoos on their
chest – AP/AFP
Samantha Cameron, the wife of the British Prime Minister,
has a tattoo of a dolphin - PA
"The interesting thing about Trudeau is he has been very willing to
put his tattoo out there in the public eye," says Friedman.
"Trudeau also doesn't seem to be afraid to be a bit edgy."
Tattoo "professor" Kevin Gannon agrees.
"Being the PM is expected to be a buttoned-down role. But his
youthful, new approach was refreshing, and a tattoo can underscore that
image," he says.
It was a dilemma the former Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt
faced in 2008, when an out-of-work artist wrote to him suggesting a
chest tattoo in the design of a Viking-style ship and a horseshoe over a
shield of fire, and underneath it his wife's name, 'Filippa'. Reinfeldt
declined the offer. "While the Prime Minister thinks it is important to
reach out to young people," his spokesman said, "he has no plans to get
Symbol of inclusivity
Michael Atkinson, University of Toronto sociology professor and
author of Tattooed: The Sociogenesis of a Body Art, says Conservative
Canadians will take Trudeau's tattoo as evidence that he is not ready
for the job.There will also be controversy, he says, "about someone who
is not First Nation using First Nation iconography". But others will
interpret it as a symbol of inclusivity, he suggests.
"He speaks to a generation of people who are looking for something
different in terms of leadership and their sense of self, style, and
approach to civic engagement. His tattoo is a good indicator of the man,
and what he represents."
(This article was originally published in BBC