Sammi Jefcoate Found Herself Through Tattoos
"Tattoos just mean everything; they have completely changed me."
“I was quite late to the TikTok game,” says Sammi Jefcoate over a video call from Surrey, outside of London, England. “I ignored it for quite a long time because it was far too much dancing. I was like, ‘I can’t do that!’ I didn’t even want to talk to the camera.” She eventually joined TikTok in November 2021, after a fruitful four years as an Instagram content creator. The accessories brand founder (Jefcoate’s line, Ārdēo Studios, sells hats, scarves, belts and harnesses) had achieved success on the photo app by sharing her OOTDs, which featured lots of black leather and latex. “At the time, Instagram felt a bit iffy, like it might die,” says Jefcoate. “So I decided to join TikTok and just be myself — not an extrovert. I gained a million followers in a month.”
Since then, Jefcoate has amassed almost four million followers across both platforms (Instagram, as we know, did not die), and she continues to share a combination of her daily outfits — often mixing high-end designer items with goth staples like latex bustiers and leather harnesses — in-the-know beauty routine, regular nail art appointments and frequent visits to the tattoo parlour. Ah, yes…the tattoos. Covered from neck to toe in colourful traditional-style designs like anchors, snakes and hearts, Jefcoate has become TikTok’s most beloved heavily tattooed high-fashion girlie.
“I got into alternative music in my teens, and it completely shaped who I am,” she says. “A lot of the band members I looked up to were heavily tattooed, and I was like, ‘I want that.’ The perception of being inked is different now, but back then, tattoo magazines were on the top shelf of newsstands so I couldn’t even get to them without looking like I was reaching for porn. [Laughs] I thought tattoos were so badass, and I immediately knew I didn’t want just one — I wanted to be covered. I was a goth kid, and it just made sense to me, aesthetically, to cover myself in tattoos.”
When it comes to ink, people generally fall into one of two categories: those who require each and every piece to have a sentimental story behind it and those who absolutely do not. Jefcoate says she belongs firmly and happily in the latter group. “I don’t need them to have meaning,” she says. “If something looks cool, I get it.” Her very first tattoo, which she got at age 17, was a sprinkling of stars. Her only requirement was that they be visible. “I got them on my wrist because I wanted something I could see every day.”
One thing her new aesthetic has provided, says Jefcoate, is a sense of belonging. “Although my tattoos don’t individually have meaning, being tattooed has a lot of depth to me. It makes me feel like I have found myself,” she says. “And even though people have bullied me because of my tattoos, the clothes I wear and the bands I listen to, tattoos just mean everything; they have completely changed me. I am happy. That feels deep to me.”
Jefcoate is fascinated by the shift in society’s perception of tattoos (more than 40 per cent of millennials have at least one), a change she largely credits to heavily inked David Beckham — at least in England, where she is based. “People are walking around with neck tattoos now!” she says. “There was a time when I’d see a heavily tattooed person and stupidly assume they liked the same type of music as I do. I’d go over to chat and realize ‘Oh no, you’re just tattooed.’”
Jefcoate says that acceptance of women being inked from head to toe is still lagging behind (“Of course,” she says with an eye roll), particularly in the fashion industry. And even though by all accounts she is a fashion and beauty content creator, she insists that these industries haven’t warmed up to her quite yet. “I’ve been welcomed by TikTok with open arms — but not by the fashion and beauty industries. Well, maybe a bit by beauty brands, which are a bit more open-minded. After all, makeup can be washed off so it’s more of an artistic, creative community.”
But fashion? “It’s not a space where I’m accepted at all,” says Jefcoate, who recounts how she regularly gets rejected from the fashion brands she reaches out to for potential social media partnerships. “Their response is always ‘Something’s not quite right’ — even after my agent shows them concrete data of what I can sell. I know my followers assume that I’m being gifted the fashion items I share, but that’s just not the case. Those big fashion houses have built incredible businesses that they’re protective of, so they’re not interested in someone like me. Maybe that’ll change in time, but I’m not holding my breath.”
Below, the must-have beauty products Sammi Jefcoate swears by.
Chanel Rouge Coco Baume Hydrating Conditioning Lip Balm
“Absolutely worth its price point. It’s hydrating but not sticky. Just the best lip balm.”
Kosas Revealer Super Creamy + Brightening Concealer
“I love this concealer. It was introduced to me by TikTok.”
Medik8 r-Retinoate Day & Night Eye Serum
“Ridiculously underrated. I don’t see anyone talking about it, but it’s so good.”
Victoria Beckham Lip Definer in “02”
“This is a hero product for me.”
Le Labo Another 13
“Another 13 is my go-to fragrance.”
Christian Dior Ambre Nuit
“Lately I’ve been pairing Another 13 with Ambre Nuit. It’s the most beautiful slightly masculine, woody, ambery combination.”
This article first appeared in FASHION’s Winter 2024 issue. Find out more here.
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