There was a time when even the most confident of ink-wearers feared that hand tattoos would render them forever unemployable.

No more.

The trendlet

Tattoo artists are routinely etching letters below knuckles to create words (among the most popular is love). And graphics just above the nail bed - such as shamrocks, musical clefs, and ankhs - are favorite tiny tats. Some couples have wedding bands tattooed on their fingers. And hearts, punctuation marks, card symbols, and celestial bodies decorate the sides of fingers.

Where's it come from?

Fingers (and necks) were once forbidden tattoo canvases. Only hard-core tat wearers would even consider doodling on their extremities because, should they ever want to, there would be no way to hide them. Not even tattoo artists liked them because fingers don't hold ink well and so the tattoos are more prone to fading.

One of the first finger tats in pop culture belonged to Robert Mitchum's character, the Rev. Harry Powell, in the 1955 thriller The Night of the Hunter. Love and hate were tattooed on his fingers. Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee Jones got wedding bands tatooed on their ring fingers back in 1995. After the three-year marriage dissolved, the tattoos did, too.

During the last 15 years, as tattoos became more visible on lower arms, ankles, and the smalls of backs, hand tattoos began growing in popularity.

In 2006, Rihanna had the word love written in cursive on the side of her middle finger. Ri Ri also has Shhh . . . tattooed on the right side of her right index finger so that it can be read when she puts her finger to her lips.

These days - to the dismay of old-school tattoo artists - finger tattoos are more about decoration and having permanent jewelry than they are a sign of rebellion. We can thank Pinterest, in part, for that.

Who's wearing it?

On her right hand, Miley Cyrus has close to nine tattoos that include a peace symbol, a cross, and a Valentine. Kelly Osbourne has a red heart on her pinky. Beyoncé and Jay-Z have their wedding date faintly tattooed on ring fingers. Johnny Depp has three rectangles on his right index finger.

Would Elizabeth get one?

I have no tattoos, but I think it would be cool to get Libra scales on the side of my left index finger. I'm afraid of pain, though, and word on the street is that finger tats - like those on toes - are among the most painful to receive. Guess that leaves me only the temporary option.

Should you wear it?

At the risk of offending my conservative readers, the finger tat falls under the "if you want it, then go for it" rule. If you aren't sure you want to make the commitment, try a temporary tat first. You don't want a fad to fade into a bad decision - that wrinkles.

215-854-2704 @ewellingtonphl

True Hand, a by-appointment tattoo studio at 2424 E. York St., www.truehandsociety.com.