Tattoo’s, they’re everywhere nowadays. Symbols of adventure, allegiance, conviction, memorial, or often youthful high jinks. Many used to have a discreet tribute hidden somewhere up a sleeve: a girlfriend’s name, a port visited or military rank. But where once they were the preserve of the outlaw and the eccentric, visible tattoos are now mainstream. Although human beings have been marking themselves since we were living in caves, in the 21st century, the tattoo became almost an It-accessory.
From the supermodel with the delicately placed finger adornment to the platinum-selling hip-hop artist with full-face coverage, via the red carpet at Cannes, the tattoo is everywhere. But with more tattoo shops popping up than artisanal coffee roasters (the number of tattoo parlours in Britain alone has tripled to more than 1,000 over the past decade), we have compiled a worldwide guide to reputable parlours for the inking novice.
MR GIANMAURIZIO FERCIONI
- Mr Gianmaurizio Fercioni. Photograph by Mr Giovanni Santarelli d’Angelo
Queequeg Tattoo Studio, Milan
The original tattoo dandy, Mr Fercioni cuts an imposing figure in his bespoke suits and shock of white hair. A Milanese fixture since the early 1960s, he boasts an aristocratic ancestry to back up his elegant demeanour (or at least he claims to be the illegitimate grandson of King Victor Emmanuel III). These days, he combines his tatouage with his sartorial expertise, advising on costume for film and theatre. Expect tall tales and history lessons accompanying his solid traditional designs.
- JonBoy. Photograph by Ms Alysha Rainwaters
Bang Bang, New York
It may seem an unlikely career path for a man who once dreamt of being a pastor, but Mr Jonathan “JonBoy” Valena traded the cassock and rosaries of seminary training for a life at the tattoo gun. Famous as the “guy who tattoos Ms Kendall Jenner”, JonBoy is as renowned for his light touch and delicate designs as for his celebrity clientele. Now located at Bang Bang in the Lower East Side, and a member of the same church community as Mr Justin Bieber and Ms Hailey Baldwin, rubbing shoulders with some of the most Insta-savvy celebs of our age has certainly not harmed his profile.
MR MAXIME PLESCIA-BÜCHI
- Mr Maxime Plescia-Büchi. Photograph by Ms Dunja Opalko, courtesy of Sang Bleu
Sang Bleu, London
Swiss tattooist Mr Plescia-Büchi’s Sang Bleu operation has more of the feel of a multimedia project that simple tattoo parlour, his work blurring the lines between art, craft and design. Popularising a clean, geometric approach, his work is genuinely modern, and his background in graphic design instantly recognisable. In demand as much for that design expertise as his tattoo skills, he has collaborated with everyone from Mr Rick Owens to Mr Kanye West.
MR FREDDY CORBIN
- Mr Freddy Corbin. Photograph by Mr Tuukka Koski
Temple Tattoo, Oakland
Known as “Mr Nice Guy”, Mr Corbin’s Temple Tattoo blends the sacred and the profane to a tee. As an apprentice to one of the godfathers of modern tattoo craft Mr Don Ed Hardy, Mr Corbin was already a veteran by the boom in the age of the internet. Your go-to in the Bay Area for religious iconography, he has erroneously been linked to inking Mr Tupac Shakur (although he did work on Mötley Crüe’s Mr Tommy Lee). He also came up with the Sons Of Anarchy back patch, squeezing in a cameo in the show seen behind the chair for former Black Flag frontman Mr Henry Rollins.
MR MARIO DESA
- Mr Mario Desa. Photograph by Mr Patrick Moore, Great Lakes Tattoo
Great Lakes Tattoo, Chicago
Chicago is a proud working-class city, and its enviable tattoo heritage is a testament to this. Icon Mr Norman Keith Collins, better known as Sailor Jerry, got his start in the Windy City, and the tradition of down-to-earth unpretentiousness still abides there. That legacy is safe in the hands of Mr Desa at Great Lakes Tattoo. Utilising his background in graffiti, Mr Desa’s work is bold and no-nonsense American tattooing at its best.
MR MARK MAHONEY
- Mr Mark Mahoney. Photograph by Mr Mark Nixon
Shamrock Social Club, Los Angeles
A New England emigre, Mr Mahoney is now Mr Hollywood: the great and good of the movie world are covered in work from the man who pioneered “black and grey” designs, an intricate style using a single needle that has its origins in the Californian penal system. His infamous Shamrock Social Club has the motto “Where the elite and the underground meet”; its Sunset Boulevard address as quintessentially LA as the Chateau Marmont and the Whisky a Go Go.
- Horiyoshi III. Photograph by Mr Tobias Kegler
Horiyoshi Tattoo Museum, Yokohama
The man who bought the incredible art of Irezumi, or Japanese full-body tattoo art to the attention of the world. Horiyoshi’s striking work relies solely on time-honoured motifs from Japanese folklore and custom. The designs are applied freehand and painstakingly pressed into the flesh – a “bodysuit” can take up to five hundred hours to complete. Despite being lauded the world over for its beauty and intricacy, Japanese tattooing still retains a domestic discrimination: banned by the government in the mid-19th century, the artform went underground, forging a strong link to the criminal underworld of the yakuza. Despite being legalised by the American occupation forces in 1948, the stigma remains; the display of tattooed flesh is still banned in public baths and frowned upon by polite society to this day.
MR JAVIER RODRÍGUEZ
- Mr Javi Rodríguez. Photograph courtesy of LTW Tattoo
Barcelona offers many delights to the curious traveller, not least of them the opportunity for a good-quality tattoo. Located a stone’s throw from the Museum of Contemporary Art, LTW (Love The World) has a sterling reputation and more than two decades of experience under its belt. Veteran Mr Javi Rodríguez is your man for punchy, bold traditional Western tattoos that pop to life; lowbrow motifs rendered with a master’s eye. A man who prides himself on his appearance and fresh kicks, his designs have graced collaboration tees with cult streetwear label The Hundreds.
MS LIZZIE RENAUD
- Ms Lizzie Renaud. Photograph by Mr Jess Baumung
Speakeasy Tattoo, Toronto
Queen of the True North, Ms Renaud comes from a fine-art background and runs the inclusive and queer-positive Speakeasy Tattoo in Toronto’s Palmerston-Little Italy neighbourhood. Known for her clean lines and pretense-free attitude, Ms Renaud marries contemporary themes with reverence for tradition. With a global clientele that includes Mr Noah Shebib (Drake’s producer, better known as 40), The Kids in the Hall’s Mr Scott Thompson, and RuPaul’s right-hand woman, Ms Michelle Visage, her signature lady heads are becoming a must-have collectors’ piece.