Usually synonymous with anything and everything wrong, Friday the 13th is tattoo enthusiasts’ lucky day — it’s one of the only times they can get a tattoo that won’t break the bank.
The tradition of getting tattoo on Friday the 13th was started by sailors who did it to counteract the day’s alleged bad luck. But the concept of getting a discounted $13 one came from artist Oliver Peck. A judge on the show “Ink Master,” Peck became a professional tattoo artist in 1991 and four years later held a Friday the 13th event.
“I definitely wasn’t the first person to do it, the number 13 tattoo on Friday the 13th,” said Peck in an interview with VICE. “But, I definitely made it an event.”
The day has become known as the Black Friday of tattooing. Shops have to prepare for the crowds. “Getting a good night’s sleep … meditating,” chuckled Mehai Bakaty, the owner of Fineline Tattoo in New York City’s East Village, mentioning his preparation rituals. “Having a good breakfast and getting ready to deal with a lot of people.”
Fineline Tattoo, established in 1997, started offering special Friday the 13th tattoos four years ago and expects more than a hundred people today. The shop offers the traditional $13 tattoos, usually small and quick for the artist to complete, with a $7 tip added as a good luck bonus. Bakaty and four other artists sit down ahead of time and plan the unique sheet of designs they will offer.
Magic Cobra Tattoo Society in Brooklyn has put a different spin on Friday the 13th ink. Before the current owner, known professionally as Woodz, took over, the shop would be open for 24 hours with a line wrapping around the block. Now, they have changed the entire game plan.
“In my opinion, people weren’t getting a quality tattoo,” said Woodz. “What I would see personally was some shitty tattoos going out at a price that’s basically free. I would see a lot of these people come back to cover up these tattoos.”
Straying from tradition, Woodz now operates during regular business hours and charges $60-100, about a third of the full price for what can be a palm-sized tattoo.
“Let’s [make it] more of a customer appreciation day,” said Woodz. His apprentice, Ivan Ramos, came up with the design sheet that would be used for the occasion. Instead of the traditional tattoos that have the number 13 within the design, Ramos has created timeless pieces for customers.
“We’re trying to disassociate ourselves from those kinds of shops,” said Ramos. “We want to give people something that’s good quality.”
Ramos has included designs specifically for the date including the number 13, but has noticed that they don’t really sell well as customers gravitate towards other designs that are more original.
“All we care about is doing a good quality tattoo. That’s what’s more important.”