Hollywood California, Friday night, June 13th 2014. Amongst the dressed up boys and girls ready to hit the next bar or club, or the numerous LA Kings fans watching their team about to win the Stanley Cup, another group of dedicated enthusiasts are patiently lining up inside tattoo parlours to get a $13 dollar piece. Many onlookers are puzzled as to why the shops are so busy, but it is commonplace in many tattoo studios in the USA to do small $13 tattoos ($20 with tip) for 24hrs on Friday the 13th, turning the unlucky day into a celebration for some.
My friend Patricia and I are amongst those who are waiting to get inked this evening. I’m back at the parlour where I first put needle to skin, True Tattoo, and am rapidly scanning the sheet that has all of the 13 tattoos available this evening and hastily filling out the obligatory waiver forms. The selection is vast, ranging from the more traditional (a spider with the number 13 in the middle) to the more humorous (the number 13 made from a dildo and anal beads), I even see that the peppermint candy that I got last time has remade the cut. We are joined by all manner of people, whilst predominantly a younger crowd, there are some older characters, notably a husband and wife with a rather bored looking daughter, too young to get one herself. Some are so completely covered that it begs the question, where they will attempt to add this next tattoo? Yet for others it may be their first and these newcomers are nervously eying up the size of the needles. However, as with the general vibe I have forever picked up from the tattoo community, it isn’t a pissing contest and everyone is far more interested in the tattoos they are going to get rather than the ones they already have.
Although I got my first tattoos in America, the majority I had done in Norwich back in the UK, where despite the numerous shops, the Friday the 13th phenomenon is not present. I remember when I first visited Factotum Body Modification and inquired about Friday the 13th tattoos. While aware of it, the artists were quick to dismiss it as an American thing. At the time I too began to forget the ‘holiday’, but when I returned to the States a few months ago and was told a Friday the 13th was coming up, I remembered the excitement.
There is definitely something special about a 13 tattoo other than just the price. All the tattoos have something to do with the number 13, they are small, and the selection is so great there is something for everyone. Most of all, they bring together a community that is extremely individualistic or has a variety of sub-genres. It doesn’t matter if you have navy, oriental, western, or tribal styles etc. everyone who has a 13 tattoo can collectively share their love for body art. Furthermore, the amount of business and attention it brings in for the studios is certainly worthwhile, and if the average customer is anything like me, they are going to want to come back for more.
Patricia and I leave True Tattoo just before midnight, tired from waiting for two hours and bruises on our arms. I’m still feeling the adrenaline rush that comes after being inked and while we refuel at a currywurst shop next door, we notice others with cling film around their arms, necks, and legs. There is an unspoken comradery between us and I feel pity that I can’t experience it back home. Surely there must be the demand and the means to do the same thing in Great Britain. We have until next February 13 2015 to figure something out. I mean, what’s the worst that could happen?