On NYC tattoo culture + what tattoos mean to me ...

When did tattoo culture start in NYC and who's to credit with its inception?

According to an article from Vice, despite tattooing being banned in New York City in 1961, Mike Bakatay, didn't hesitate to open his own shop in a loft on the Bowery in 1976. 40 years later, Bakatay's son, Mehai, runs his father's shop. It's now labeled as the oldest tattoo parlor in NYC, and Mehai is carrying on the legacy of his revolutionary dad. The shop's name is Fineline Tattoo.

New York City is thought of the birthplace of many arts, from tattoos to high-end fashion. Time Out names some of the best places in NYC to get tattoos, whether it be your first, first of many, tenth, twentieth, etc. as the following:

1. East River Tattoo | Greenpoint
2. Fleur Noire Tattoo Parlor | Williamsburg
3. Fun City Tattoo | East Village
4. Tea Leigh | Brooklyn
5. Daredevil Tattoo | Chinatown

You can get the complete list of the best tattoo shops in NYC from Time Out here.

Though I'm no longer NYC-based, I appreciated the many arts of New York while I lived there for a few years after graduating college. Of course, I still appreciate them in a different life and capacity now.

New York is home to some of the most individual, artistic, creative, and free-spirited people I've ever met. I will always be grateful for the confident, free-spirits I met there, and the city that enabled me to  carry the same spirit within my own individuality.

Now WI-based, I have three tattoos myself that reflect my heart, which lived in NYC many years beyond and while I was physically living there. Now my heart belongs closer to my family and friends, in the place I grew up ...

I will always be grateful to NYC for the life I lived there, and for showing me a diverse, inclusive culture I will always be proud to have been a part of. I love to visit and vacation there still. The city is still a part of me, just in a very different way today.

So, what tattoos do I have? Let me show you ... 

Photo Credit: Finch & Fawn

1. My Ode to T1D - Placement: Left-hand, Middle Finger

My first tattoo is a cluster of symbols that speaks to my experience with type 1 diabetes: "I am better than my highs and lows" is its meaning. Type 1 diabetes is a whirlwind of a condition, and, while it doesn't define my entire being, it's part of me, and always will be, even if (hopefully) I'm cured of it one day.

Photo Credit: Julia in Red Blog

2. "Je Suis Prest" - Placement: Right side of my Right Foot in Handwritten font

I was obsessed with STAR's "Outlander" for a while. There's also a rose that starts the text in red and green color. It's important to me because the French culture is something I studied, thought about minoring in while I was enrolled at the University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point, and admired as an instituion. I learned the basics, but have forgotten an embarassing amount to date. My hopes are high for me picking it back up at some point, though. Time will tell ... I'm a driven person, too. If I want to relearn it one day, I will, and better than the first time around.

Side note: Has anyone tried Rosetta Stone?

I aspire to travel to France on vacation one day. While I'm not fluent in the language (yet), it's a tattoo I own that keeps me motivated, inspired, and remembering a different self, a college-level Julia that has grown throughout the years, and become multi-layered: more driven, more creative, and all inclusive of her passions and loves and life.

(Also, I still love "Outlander." I just wouldn't say I'm "obsessed" now. 😉)

Photo Credit: Pinterest/Tumblr, The Virtual Typewriter

3. "It's part of me apart from me," Bon Iver lyrics - Placement: Right side of my rib cage in typewriter font

Bon Iver has been my favorite band for many, many years, probably since college, "Holocene" being my favorite song -- 33 GOD," my next favorite. These particular lyrics have always spoken to me in a special way ... To me, tattoos are simple. They are a reflection of my artistic spirit. I figure, it's my body and I can paint it and dress it how I like, with respect to its health. My tattoos are a reflection of my passions. They are a refleciton of myself. I love my tattoos. I wouldn't have them any other way. I haven't shown this one off as much as the others, but that's for a reason - these tattoos are for me. They're not for anyone else. I don't feel a need or craving for attention or to "show them off." They're more special than that to me. They don't need to be under a spotlight to be important. Their importance is a private art.

That's what tattoos really mean to me. They're a refleciton of my individuality. NYC is full of hyper-individuals. Maybe that's what drew me there for so many years and brought me there, and to where I am in my life now. My road has stemmed many places: New York, New Jersey, Chicago, Las Vegas, Atlanta, Dallas, Los Angeles, among many other places. My life has always been wherever I am. "Wherever you go, there you are," right? I have always believed you don't belong to one place, but wherever you are ...

Now, back in Wisconsin I feel completely myself having experienced so many walks of life and focusing on one path I'm very excited about now. I am wherever I go.

To me, tattoos speak to the potential a human being has to live many lives within one lifetime. Tattoos, like life, have limitless potential. NYC owns the same vibe, to me. It's all a great circle of creativity, art, individuality, and love.

What do tattoos mean to you? Do you have any? Do you aspire to have any? Share in the comments.

Like this post? Read Manhattan Minds' "Siren Song of the Tattoo Salon?" next.

Julia Flaherty is a Contributor to the Manhattan Minds ideology:

"Manhattan Minds is a growing community of fellow doers and thinkers who live in, love and follow New York City events and trends in Art, Beauty, Fashion and Lifestyle. We're inspired to share our perspectives and recommendations on Manhattan art, beauty, fashion and lifestyle."
Do you want to be a Manhattan Minds Contributor? Get more information + share your stories here.

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Pssst! If you're looking to get a tattoo in the Appleton area, I recommend Colt's Timeless Tattoos, or if you're searching the Green Bay area, I recommend Tattoo Noveau!


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