UNDER THE INK – Josh Mario John

Words by James Elizabeth Arnett | Images by Lane Dorsey

Humans are evolved, but still have urges and reflexes. Do you believe that man, at his core, is animalistic in nature?
What, no simple warm up questions? [laughs] Well, I suppose that having a background in experimental psychology I’ve developed a degree of insight into human behavior and development; I do believe that at the core, we are all driven and motivated by innate forces that are akin to our animal relatives. I think that what differentiates us as humans is our executive functioning, inhibition and planning. However, having worked with criminal populations, I can certainly appreciate that we are all not as ‘evolved’ as we’d like to think.

Do you feel any behavioral restrictions or urges that you have to fight on a day to day basis?
Does the insatiable urge for pizza count? Honestly, I think that we all live with behavioral restrictions on a daily basis. Wherever you live, you’re bound by laws, rules, and regulations that are structured upon societal norms. I’m sure we’d all love to act out from time to time, but we’re conditioned to follow those norms. It’s the people that deviate from them that seem to have all the fun and get into the most trouble. [laughs]

Your look is associated with the likes of Vikings and pirates. Are the beard and tattoos a way of expressing your inner barbarian?
Maybe I just have a really weak jawline. [laughs] Okay, not really. I think that my beard initially developed out of a dislike for shaving. Then add the fact that I’ve always looked younger than I am, I think that having facial hair was a way to combat that perception; when you’re younger you always want to look older. My tattoos are a way of expressing myself to a degree. But mostly I just like the aesthetic of them.

For you, are tattoos a cover-up or a reveal?
I don’t think that my tattoos are that deep. The perception that tattoos have to carry some special meaning or have to say something has always been lost on me; I’ll stick to my guns on this one, and leave it to the aesthetics over the meaning. However, that being said, and at risk of sounding hypocritical, I do have a few tiny tattoos that mean the world to me.

Jacket: Belstaff

Tell us about the sensations you experience when a needle touches your skin. Is it as addictive as we hear?
Ugh. I absolutely hate getting tattooed. Honestly, you’ve got to be some sort of masochist to enjoy that awful sensation. For me the addictive part is the end result, the tattoo itself. The sensation is certainly not a pleasant experience for me; and I’ve found that the older I get, the worse the tattooing feels. Granted I can sit for hours like a champ, but I’m dreading each line being laid down.

Young men see your images and idealize you as a symbol of masculinity. Does this add any pressure to you to be a role-model?
I’ve never really viewed myself as a role model; but I guess what I can’t deny is the inspiration people seem to borrow from my work. The response I’ve gotten thus far is very humbling. I think that the pressure lies in trying to maintain the standard I’ve set for myself, while at the same time trying to evolve. In terms of masculinity, it’s never been anything I’ve sought to capture or let define me. I think the masculinity comes out strongest in the imagery I choose to share. I think that the imagery itself is highly influenced by the photographers and stylists’ personal takes on the whole beard and tattooed theme. I have a definite soft side but people seem to want to capture the darker rugged side, and I think that by virtue of that I’m more or less defined as such.

What does masculinity look like to you?
I think that masculinity is confidence, and not being bound by what ought to be ‘masculine’. A truly masculine man can do the most atypical non-masculine thing and still carry that manly vibe. I don’t think that it’s something so easily defined, or something that can be made artificially. Some dudes are just masculine, and there’s no real way to explain it… they just are.

We live in a world of social media, dominated by the power of likes and shares. How do you contribute or rebel against it?
Well, being that a lot of my work comes by virtue of my social media presence, I certainly can’t say that I rebel against it. However, I feel that I’ve carved out my own path, and have steered away from a lot of the pitfalls that people seem to find; whether it be developing an ego, letting numbers define you, or letting social media impact upon relationships. For sure I can appreciate the importance and power of likes and shares, but what I appreciate most is a date with my girl, time with family, a night out with friends….that isn’t for show, hashtagged or shared with the world.

You’re an educated man. Do you ever worry that your social media presence will overshadow your academic background?
Not at all. My education and career outside of modeling and social media will always be paramount. Social media popularity comes and goes, and that’s just the way it is. My life and my social media persona are on two opposite ends of a spectrum. Most people don’t really care if I have a Master’s degree when they’re looking at a new post, just like my friends and family don’t care how many followers I have. I like having that distinction, and like that those lines don’t blur.

How does education contribute to your overall happiness?
I think having an education is extremely important, and whether you’re using your education directly or not, it comes out and becomes more valuable than most appreciate. I may not discuss statistics and psychological constructs on a daily basis, but I most certainly use and rely upon the experience and tools I picked up throughout my ten years of university. That being said, there are so many other important things and people in my life that contribute to my overall happiness. Education is just another piece of the pie.

Do you have any life philosophies that you are willing to share? Any unscientific theories about the world?
Laugh more. Oh and never fart in a wetsuit.