Watch out for ladders, cracks in the sidewalk and black cats, it’s Friday the 13th. The day infamous for bad luck is oft-dreaded, but many tattoo lovers can’t wait for it to arrive.
Every Friday the 13th, people line up outside tattoo shops across the country to get a $13 tattoo. The only rule: it must incorporate the number 13. Although the internet may say the superstition around the number has roots in ancient texts that prove its status as a bad omen, experts say pop culture is to blame.
In an article published by the Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune, Shanny Luft, associate professor of religious studies at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, writes that we may never find the true origin of Friday the 13th. According to Luft, superstitions give cause to events we feel that need them in our tempt to make sense of the world.
The phenomenon started in Dallas just over 20 years ago with tattoo artist Oliver Peck, known for his role on the TV show “Ink Master.” Peck hosted the first Friday the 13th tattoo marathon at his downtown shop in the December 1996.
Some may wonder why so many people are willing to get an unlucky number permanently on their body, but most who participate don’t see it like that. Austin tattoo artist Randy Conner said it has another meaning for tattoo fans.
“In American culture, 13, I think, is usually an unlucky number,” Conner said. “In tattooing, 13 is kind of a lucky number.”
According to Conner, those in the tattooing community tend to embrace counterculture. This extends to acceptance of the number 13. He says the day creates a great opportunity to expose new audiences to the art.
“I like that there’s something that draws a lot of people into the world of tattoos,” Conner said. “A lot of times, they’re people getting their first tattoos.”
Geosciences Ph.D. student Sophie Goliber is getting her first Friday the 13th tattoo this week. Having just moved to Austin from Buffalo, New York, Goliber said she wants to get something that encompasses the spooky themes of the 13th as well as her new home. After looking up some of the designs that will be offered at the shop she plans to go to, she is learning toward getting a bat.
“Its Halloween themed — it’s my favorite holiday,” Goliber said. “Bats also have a significance for Austin too.”
Getting a tattoo is a big commitment, but Goliber is no stranger to criticism from those who don’t approve of inked skin.
“People are like, ‘Oh nice tattoo, that’s pretty permanent.’ I’m like, ‘Well … having a kid is pretty permanent, too,’ but I’m not getting questioned about that,” Goliber said. “It’s my body so I don’t really care. It’s for me.”