On Thursday, a story popped up that seemed so crazy, so far-fetched, so entirely out of left field that most fans thought it couldn’t possibly be true. The story? It was about an Alabama fan named Zack Smartt, who spent $1,700… to get this tattoo inked on his back.
Yes, that really happened. And yes, it’s a story that could seemingly only happen in the world of college football.
It also got us wondering: How often does stuff like this happen? Are college logo tattoos a cottage industry?
The answer is apparently yes, since after we posted the original article yesterday a tattoo artist in Alabama named Chris Harrison saw it and reached out to us. His direct quote via Twitter: “I can’t even begin to tell you how many CFB tattoos I’ve done.”
Naturally, after hearing Chris’ take we were intrigued, and decided to follow-up with him. And on Thursday afternoon Chris was nice enough to agree to an interview with Crystal Ball Run, where he shared his thoughts on the tattoo industry, the crazy Alabama back tattoo and his best stories inking college football team logos on his clients.
First off, tell us a little about yourself. Where do you work, and how long have you been doing tattoos for? How does one get involved with being a tattoo artist?
Well, like I said my name is Chris Harrison, and I’m actually in school right now, so I don’t tattoos full-time. I’m based out of Dothan, AL, and work at a few different shops in the area.
As for becoming a tattoo artist, well you don’t need to go to school or anything like that. Usually you just apprentice under someone, and do it for a predetermined amount of time to learn - I guess you’d call it a craft- for a few years.
I did mine back when I got out of the Navy in Virginia Beach, VA, and have been doing tattoos since the late 1990’s. Probably right around 1998 is when I started.
So you told me on Twitter you couldn’t “even begin to tell you how many CFB tattoos I’ve done.” Well, go ahead and expand on that.
Well, Dothan is in the Southeast corner of the state, and the biggest school we are actually near is Florida State. The closest D-1 school in-state is Troy, and the closest big Alabama school is actually Auburn. However, I’d say the majority of people in Dothan are Alabama fans, and the majority of tattoos I’ve done are Alabama too.
So yeah, mostly it’s Alabama tattoos, but I’ve done a lot of others too. Alabama is followed closely by Auburn, Florida State, Florida, a couple Miami tattoos and maybe one or two Georgia. I also think I did Tennessee once too.
Generally though, I’d say I’ve done more of the Alabama, the “Script A” than anything else.
Have you done anything as big as the one we saw from the Alabama fan? Any really good stories?
To be honest, most of the tattoos I’ve done have actually been small to medium sized.
The craziest one I ever did though was actually an Auburn fan’s entire rib cage. I did the side of his torso and it was supposed to look like the skin was being ripped away by the Auburn Tiger, with his insides as blue and orange. That was definitely the craziest one I’ve ever done.
It took 5-6 hours.
This is a dumb question, but as someone without any tattoos, I’m curious: What do you charge your clients based on? The size? Time it takes? Black versus white ink? Honestly I have no idea, so I’m just more intrigued than anything else.
Usually, it’s just based on the size of the tattoo and the amount of time it takes. Most artists including myself don’t charge based on colored ink as opposed to black and white.
Given how long you’ve been doing this, do you notice any difference between the fan bases that you encounter? Like say, do Alabama fans act differently in general than Auburn fans do?
No, I honestly can’t tell a difference. What I can tell you though is the difference is based on how the team is doing.
When the team is doing well, more fans come out. As you can imagine, I have done a lot of Alabama and Auburn tattoos the last three or four years. They all seem to be coming out of the woodwork.
So I guess it’s safe to say that based on that, maybe people don’t understand that a tattoo really does last forever. Somebody needs to tell them that their team’s win streak might not last nearly as long, huh?
Funny you mention that. My proudest moment as an FSU fan was when a Miami fan came in and asked me to cover up “The U” logo he had tattooed on his neck. I guess he had gotten it when they were winning or whatever and didn’t want it anymore.
Anyway, so he came in and told me that he just wanted me to go over it in black ink; make it look like a big bullet hole. I told him ‘Man, it’s just going to look like a big black mark and it’s not going to look good.” But he didn’t listen, and it looked exactly like that. There wasn’t really much I could do, it’s what he wanted.
I’m also proud to say that I got my Florida State tattoo the day after they lost, so it definitely wasn’t a spur of the moment thing.
Oh man, when did you get that done?
November 2009, Bobby Bowden’s last year. I can’t remember the game specifically, but they finished 7-6 that year.
It wasn’t a very fun time, but I got it anyway.
Alright, so if you had to guess how many college logo type tattoos you’ve done through the years, how many do you think?
Oh, easily 200-300.
Wow, that many?
Yeah, but like I said, most were small and not what we saw on that guy’s back.
The biggest ones I’ve done were the Auburn rib cage one I already mentioned, and also I guess a big Alabama tattoo. It was the old logo of a big elephant, with a big “A” in the middle.
What’d you think of the tattoo that made all the headlines on Thursday?
Oh man, I thought it was some great work, really, really great work. If I had to guess, I’d take it too quite a bit of time and a couple sessions (editor’s note: Per Smartt himself, the tattoo took close to 10.5 hours and three full sessions to complete).
I’ve done similar stuff, but nothing quite like that.
Ok, last question: Say your son, brother, nephew, whoever said that they wanted the tattoo that we saw today, what would you tell them?
You better save up!
All the pictures provided in this article are courtesy of Chris, and his own original work. For more information or to reach out for his services, be sure to follow on Twitter @tattoo_harry.
For updates on all Aaron’s articles, opinion, analysis and more, be sure to follow on Twitter @Aaron_Torres.