New York City is as crammed with quality tattoo studios as a sold out show at a trashy venue on a Saturday night, but for as packed as the place is, only one shop has a boot firmly planted in the city’s music scene. New York Hardcore Tattoo was built on the fringes of rock and roll. Back in 1999, not long after tattooing was legalized, Vinnie Stigma — the guitarist of Agnostic Front — and Jimmy Gestapo of Murphy's Law fame banded together and founded the parlor, and tattooists have been banging out body art there ever since. Though it’s under different ownership now, NYHC’s insignia still hangs proudly (albeit a bit weatherworn) on its awning, under which some of the most influential punk rockers of all time once hung out.
New York Hardcore Tattoo doesn’t look quite the same as it used to in the late ‘90s and early 2000s. Just like the music scene that it grew out of, the shop has rolled with the punches over time, becoming less niched due to body art’s growth in popularity over the last decade. It used to be as much of a clubhouse for punk rockers as a tattoo operation. They’d have barbeques in the backyard and throw parties after hours, but because of the boom in the industry, gentrification of the Lower East Side, and globalization of the hardcore scene, it’s had to switch up its business model a bit. Though it’s more straight-laced these days, the hardcore spirit still lives on within its walls. People regularly drop in to get body art that shows their love for the music. “What’s different about this shop when compared to any other one I’ve worked at is that it is themed around New York hardcore punk,” says Mark Harada, the current owner. “Because the music scene is so involved with tattooing, people travel here from all over the world just to get tattoos of the NYHC cross.”
Four tattooists that hold down the fort at New York Hardcore Tattoo — Harada, Jeremy T Miller, Miykey Kwasnik, and Sweety — and they’re well-versed in a number of styles. “Everyone around here is well-rounded. We all came to tattooing at a time when there was no specializing. Whatever walked in the door you had to do a good job of it,” says Miller. “Someone wanting a set realistic of black and grey realistic praying hands would come in. The next would want a traditional piece, and then right onto a full Japanese sleeve.” Their street shop schooling in the art form made each of them versatile in terms of style, and the team prides itself on being able to service any prospective client that sets foot inside the studio.
The Nitty Gritty Details
New York Hardcore Tattoo is located in the middle of the Lower East Side at 127 Stanton Street, not far from where CBGB used to stand, god rest its antiestablishmentarian soul. The shop is closest to the MJZ Essex stop and the Delancey station on the F line. It’s open seven days a week, 12 - 10pm Sunday to Wednesday, and 12 - 11pm Thursday to Saturday. It’s cash only there, so don’t forget to hit up the bank before swinging by to get a tattoo of the NYHC insignia. If you’re lucky, you may even run into Vinnie Stigma, who still drops by from time to time. They also throw kickass art parties every once in awhile, so keep up with what's going down on their Instagram.