How 1 Famous Tattoo Artist Started the Ritual of $13 Tattoos on Friday the 13th

Halloween comes once a year — but for those who can’t enough spooky movies and scary stories, there’s always Friday the 13th to look forward to. And for those who love a little ink to go along with their scary Friday, they’re in luck, as tattoo shops across the country celebrate in offering cheap tattoos. It’s like an ink-lovers national holiday.

You can’t expect to walk into a parlor hoping for a cheap tattoo if you want your own design, however. Thrillist explains parlors typically have flash sheets of small Friday the 13th inspired tattoos they’ll offer you for $13. You can expect long lines, but in the end, it’s all worth it, as the tattoo options are often designed by the artists in-house. Now might be the perfect time to get a small piece of art inked by your favorite tattooist.

If you’re going for Friday the 13th discount ink, make sure you’re kind to the artist, too. The tattooists aren’t making much money on this day, so if you have a few extra dollars to spare, tips are welcomed. As New York’s Daredevil Tattoo mentions on their website, “The shop doesn’t make $$ on Friday the 13th, it actually cost us $$ and we are very tired at the end of the day so we really appreciate nice words and any nice reviews you can leave for us online.”

If you’re all set to get your discounted spooky-themed tat, we don’t blame you. But where did the tradition come from, anyway? In case you didn’t know, there’s one tattoo artist, in particular, who’s credited with starting the trend.

Ink Master judge Oliver Peck started the discounted tattoos

Oliver Peck, tattoo artist at Elm Street Tattoo

Oliver Peck, tattoo artist at Elm Street Tattoo | Oliver Peck via Instagram

If you’re a fan of Ink Master, then you certainly know who judge and tattoo artist Oliver Peck is (alternatively, you may know him as Kat Von D’s ex). Aside from the show, he’s also known for bringing the discounted Friday the 13th tattoos on the scene. VICE explains Peck started giving his friends and himself tattoos in 1988, and he went pro in 1991. Then, in 1995, he threw a party that lasted 24 hours to celebrate Friday the 13th — and that’s when he had his idea to start his own tradition.

“I definitely wasn’t the first person to do it, the number 13 on the Friday the 13th,” Peck said. Either way, he was inspired by another artist, Dave Lum, as he provided Halloween specials, too. Thus, the $13 tattoo on this special day of the year was born.

Peck currently works at Elm Street Tattoo in Dallas, Texas, and he said the shop can expect to complete 1,200 tattoos by the end of the day. And just like his party in 1995, Elm Street Tattoo is open 24 hours for Friday the 13th in order to get to all of the customers who want discounted ink.

The origin of the ’13’ tattoo

Not all Friday the 13th tattoos contain the actual number “13.” But history dictates it was quite common for sailors to have this number tattooed on them. Tattoo.com explains this number has always brought superstitions of bad luck to mind. So to combat any bad luck that might befall them on their journeys, sailors would get the number tattooed on them as a marked antidote. As Peck says, “Bad luck would come your way, it would see the number 13, see that bad luck is already there, and it would pass by.”

You should be careful if you’re getting numbers in any tattoo, though. A number of gangs utilize numbers to symbolize what groups they’re a part of — and you don’t want to accidentally mark yourself in a way you don’t mean to. Artist Iron Monk tells VICE, “Numbers can play a lot of politics in tattoos. If you don’t think about it, you could be walking in the wrong place or the wrong hood or the wrong city and … they might check you with those numbers on you.”

Want to join in on the event? What you should keep in mind

A tattoo of a hand holding a Polaroid photo done at Elm Street Tattoo

A tattoo of a hand holding a Polaroid photo of ghosts done at Elm Street Tattoo | Elm Street Tattoo via Instagram

If you’re looking for some small ink to memorialize the spooky day, it’s probably quite doable in your area. Here’s what you should keep in mind before going:

Go to a reputable shop. Tattoo parlors are seeing a high volume of people on Friday the 13th — but that doesn’t mean they should slack in quality or cleanliness. Look around the shop, ask about the process, and talk to the artist who’ll be doing your tattoo to make sure you’re getting exactly what you asked for. And as always, every piece of equipment should be sterilized.

Expect a line. Peck notes tattoo hopefuls start lining up around his shop before it opens — and many wait hours to save an extra $50. It’s part of the event, so be prepared.

A tip of $7 is often required. Your tattoo may be advertised for $13, but it’s quite common for a “lucky” tip of $7 to be expected or required. And of course, you should always be willing to tip your artist no matter what.

Not every shop participates. Have a specific shop in mind for where you want to go for your special ink? Make sure they’re doing the deal, as many shops will participate some years but not others.

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