Friday the 13th is often regarded as a day of bad luck in western culture because of our socially developed triskaidekaphobia, or fear of the number thirteen. For some it stems from the religious story of Jesus’ last supper with Judas being the 13th guest who eventually betrayed him and got Jesus crucified. For others, it’s a guy wearing a hockey mask and wielding a machete who just wants to make his mother proud.
Regardless of your reason for avoiding the day, it has a profound impact on the way American businesses operate and even profit. The Stress Management and Phobia Institute of Asheville, North Carolina estimates that businesses as a whole lose nearly a billion dollars in total from people refusing to travel or conduct business in fear that things will go terribly wrong.
One industry that does not seem to be bothered by the day are American tattoo parlors, who have made it a tradition to create a series of simple flash tattoos that can be done for thirteen dollars with a $7 tip. The number split comes from the date and seveb often being regarded as a lucky number.
But where did the tradition of getting tattooed with superstitious themed images come from? Well, fans of the American Traditional style of tattooing first have to give thanks to the original American tattooist, Sailor Jerry. Secondly, you would have to thank his clients and fellow service members for getting the number thirteen inked into bodies as a way to combat bad luck with the belief that if you are already marked, you can’t be targeted by any bad omens.
This tradition eventually made its way to mainstream tattoo culture when Dallas-based tattoo artist, Oliver Peck, hosted the first Friday the 13th tattoo party in 1995. It lasted a full twenty-four hours and it spread beyond the Dallas city limits, making its way into the hearts and skin of tattoo lovers all over the United States.
Because of the cheap price and excitement that builds up to it, many regard the day as the “Black Friday of Tattoos.” Shops that partake in the offer usually have a line out the door within an hour or two of opening.
This Friday the 13th, I took a trip to my favorite tattoo shop in the Triad, Legacy Irons Tattoo, with my girlfriend. This was my second time attending one of their Friday the 13th specials, and first for my girlfriend, who had her first ever tattoo done. The anticipation was killing both of us, and I was lucky enough to book an appointment as soon as the doors opened.
I scanned the flash sheet – black cats, horror movie symbolism and goofy iterations of the number 13 were all over the sheet, but I initially decided to get a small dagger on my forearm. I managed to get booked with one of my favorite artists in the shop, Larry Wayne, who greeted me with tons of enthusiasm and was psyched to get his day started.
We walked over to his station in the back-left corner of the shop, and he got to work. Before I knew it, my forearm was shaved and had a stencil on it. Larry dipped the needle of the tattoo machine into black ink and began the outline of the dagger, chuckling when I let out a deep breath.
“It’s a different kind of pain from your upper arm, isn’t it?” Larry said.
“Definitely something new,” I said with a laugh.
We carried on about how business would look for the shop that day with Larry noting “It’s gonna be a long day, for sure.” The shop hadn’t been open longer than 30 minutes, and the place as already bustling with people filing out agreement forms, looking at the flash sheet or making their way to a chair or table to get tattooed. We continued talking about tattoo concepts, skateboarding, and his band Old Heavy Hands which is comprised of Larry, Nate Hall and David Self, all of whom tattoo.
After about 30 minutes the outline was done, and we moved on to coloring in the dagger which was now turning into a vibrant work of gold and red with wonderful shading. The pain subsided at this point, and Larry was effortless putting colors at a hairs distance from the outline. His precision was inhuman.
My girlfriend was behind me getting tattooed by artist Mike Capone, and things seemed awfully quiet. I asked Larry if he could fill me in on how things were going with her, and he said, “She’s handling it pretty good for her first tattoo.”
Once my dagger was finished, Larry wiped all the excess ink and blood from my arm, wrapped up the tattoo and showed me the mirror. As always, I was happy with his work, but I didn’t really feel complete.
“Is it cool if I get another one?”
“Round 2? Let’s go for it,” said Larry.
I went through the process again, but this time I got a goofy looking cat in a sailor’s hat near my left elbow. After we were done, I paid Larry and told him that I would be seeing him again in about a month to touch up the piece on my left shoulder.
Overall, I always look forward to Friday the 13th in hopes of being able to get a tattoo at Legacy because the people are great, and the atmosphere is very relaxed and homely.
If you missed out on this Friday the 13th special, don’t worry! There’s another one coming up in April 2018, and there will be all sorts of fun flash designs for those who are looking to get an inexpensive first tattoo, or fill in what little bit of bare skin is left.
For more information about Legacy Irons Tattoo, visit them at @legacyironstatoo on Instagram or in person at 121-C W McGee St, Greensboro, NC 27401.
If you would like to check out any individual artists’ work visit their personal Instagram pages: @larrywaynetattoo, @natehalltattooer, @deeself, @michael_capone, @mitchellwillard and @davidmcappella.