Here's how Friday the 13th became a 'holiday' for tattoos

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By Angela Garrity, Guest blogger

It’s almost Friday the 13th and you know what that means—time for a new tattoo. If you’re wondering where this unorthodox ritual came from, you can tip your hat to traditional ink styles of sailors and a shop in Dallas, Texas.

A close-up of a person with skull and flower tattoos sitting on a stool with ripped jeans

Vice reports that the trend of Friday the 13th tattoos started when the now-defunct Pair O’ Dice tattoo shop began participating in the developing tattoo tradition known then as Friday the 13th flash-sheet deals. The day boasts $13 tattoos, most with the number 13 worked into them somehow, or some other appropriately spooky theme—black cats, blood, coffins, a hockey mask. Most designs are about the size of a silver dollar.

For tattoo shops, Friday the 13th is akin to their Black Friday, as customers flood shops looking for cheap deals for permanent adornments. Friday the 13th generally occurs several times a year, versus the one insane day that retailers must face, year after year.

Oliver Peck is credited for jumpstarting the “holiday” in the ink world, as he threw his first big Friday the 13th get-together in 1995 at Pair O' Dice, with the party lasting 24 hours. Everything is bigger in Texas, right?

"I definitely wasn't the first person to do it, the number 13 tattoo on Friday the 13th," Oliver Peck, of Elm St. Tattoo in Dallas, said in the Vice article. "But, I definitely made it an event." 


Peck also credits sailors as another waver of influence as to why people started tattooing “13” on their bodies.

Because the number has always been considered bad luck, he says, sailors would get "13" tattooed as an antidote to keep bad luck away. "Bad luck would come your way, it would see the number 13, see that bad luck is already there, and it would pass on by," he said to Vice.

(Left: Tattoo by @laroccatatto at Elm Street Tattoo. Right: Tattoo by @david_steed at Elm Street Tattoo)

Not every design has the superstitious number attached to it, however.

A $13 tat is a great deal, but pack some patience if you dare to step foot into a shop in hopes of getting some “retail ink therapy” in celebration of Friday the 13th. Historically, long lines usually form rather quickly with tattoo deal seekers before the doors even open, leaving some tattoo artists less than thrilled.

Like it or not, Friday the 13th tattoos aren’t going to be killed off anytime soon.

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