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Did you know?…. Your tattoo history fix - Part 1 - Tattooing was illegal in New York?

Tattooing has been a popular form of self-expression for centuries, but it wasn't always legal in the United States. In fact, New York City had a ban on tattooing that lasted for over three decades, from 1961 to 1997. This ban was put in place due to a variety of reasons, including concerns about health and safety, and a belief that tattoos were associated with criminal activity. In this blog, we'll explore the history of the tattooing ban in New York, and discuss how it was eventually lifted.

The Origins of the Tattooing Ban

The ban on tattooing in New York City was put in place in 1961, following a hepatitis B outbreak that was traced back to a Coney Island tattoo parlor. At the time, there were no regulations in place to ensure the safety of tattooing procedures, and many artists were using unsanitary tools and methods. As a result, the city's health department decided to ban tattooing altogether, in an effort to prevent the spread of disease.

However, there were other factors at play as well. In the 1950s and 60s, tattoos were still considered taboo by many people, and were often associated with criminal activity. This perception was reinforced by movies and TV shows that portrayed tattooed characters as tough, rebellious, or even dangerous. As a result, many lawmakers and community leaders saw the ban on tattooing as a way to combat crime and maintain social order.

The Impact of the Ban

The ban on tattooing had a significant impact on the industry, as well as on the people who wanted to get tattoos. Many tattoo artists were forced to close their shops or move to other cities to continue their work. Meanwhile, people who wanted tattoos had to travel outside of the city to get them, which was inconvenient and often expensive.

In addition, the ban created a black market for tattooing, where people could get tattoos from unlicensed artists who operated in secret. These underground tattoo parlors were often even less safe than the legal ones, as they didn't have any oversight or regulation.

The Lift of the Ban

Over the years, there were several attempts to lift the ban on tattooing in New York City. However, it wasn't until 1997 that the ban was finally lifted, thanks in part to the efforts of tattoo artists, advocates, and community members who had been pushing for change.

The decision to lift the ban was based on several factors, including advances in tattooing technology and sanitation, as well as a growing acceptance of tattoos as a form of art and self-expression. Today, tattooing is legal and regulated in New York City, and there are many talented artists and shops that cater to a wide range of styles and tastes.


The ban on tattooing in New York City was a controversial and complex issue that had a significant impact on the city's tattoo industry and culture. While the ban was initially put in place out of concern for public health and safety, it also reflected broader societal attitudes towards tattoos and their association with criminality and deviance. However, as attitudes towards tattoos have evolved over time, so too have laws and regulations around tattooing. Today, tattooing is a thriving and respected industry in New York City and around the world, thanks to the hard work and dedication of artists, advocates, and supporters.


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