Tattoo Legend Lyle Tuttle Says, “Don’t Get One, Stay Unique”

Xavier in Stories

Why does legendary tattoo artist, Lyle Tuttle advises us not to get a tattoo? Let’s find out why as he talks about Janis Joplin and more.


During his recent visit to Australia, the 84-year-old tattoo legend shared a bit about what he thinks of the contemporary tattoo scene as he looks back to his younger years.

The self-described “has-been” or wash out may admit that he’s lost most of his edge from his younger years but he’s very certain of the way he used to own and step up his own game back in the day. "I was hotter than a pistol at one time," the 84-year-old chuckled.


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    He had seen a string of rock stars come and go in his San Francisco shop door during his glory years in the American tattoo scene—one of them being the rock lioness Janis Joplin whom Tuttle described as the “crazy gal with her hair and bracelets on.” She paid Tuttle a visit for a bracelet tattoo and a tiny heart tattoo on the breast. That fateful meeting with Janis Joplin skyrocketed the then-young tattooer's career in the tattoo scene, making him a household name. That was also around the time tattooing was outlawed in New York City and the time when the women's liberation movement first made waves in America.

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    The two tattoos Joplin got the day soon became one of the tattoos Tuttle would go on to ink on hundreds of grieving fans after the blues rocker's passing. “I must've put a few hundred of those on after she passed on, people got them in memory of Janis,” Tuttle recalled.

    Lyle Tuttle (Nowand then)
    Lyle Tuttle (Nowand then)

    Since then, Lyle Tuttle went on to establish a reputation in the tattoo world, garnering respect from fellow tattoo artists and tattoo enthusiasts with his brand of traditional American style tattooing. He now spends most of his time travelling—making appearances in tattoo conventions all over the world and at a ripe age of 84, continuing to get tattoos as travel mementos.

    But these days he only has one advice to anybody who thinks of getting a tattoo. “Don't get one, and stay unique,” he says. Not something you'd expect from a seasoned tattoo artist. But he has his reasons. “Now it's a trend and a fad, and trends and fads end.” he observed. Tuttle still keeps his strict no-neck/face/hand tattoo policy to this day and scoffs at how times really have changed. Gone are the days when tattoos were regarded as hard-earned travel “stamps” one can't just get anytime and anywhere they please.

    Jade Baxter, ABC/Australia
    Jade Baxter, ABC/Australia

    Australian tattoo artist Jade Baxter agreed, “I think we've passed that point.” But she quickly added, “I think our nursing homes are going to look pretty rocking.”

    Read the rest here.



    When she's not writing for Tattoodo, Xavier likes experimenting with art and organizing local music shows. We're kidding, she's probably asleep. Follow her on Instagram @claudia_strife


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