It seems like art is everywhere in Miami these days: galleries, hotels and condos, parks and street corners. But long before the Basel boom caused an explosion of galleries in the city, the inhabitants adorned themselves with a different artistic genre: body art.
Today, Miami’s tattoo scene is bustling, in part by tourists who want a lifetime memory of the magical city, but supported by a dedicated group of inked artists and designers who want to make the world a better place, a sleeve at a time. Whether you’re getting your first tattoo or filling that last part of your body with an ode to your mom, these are the best tattoo shops in town.
1. Ocho Placas. Ocho Placas considers it the best store in Miami for traditional and neo-traditional tattoos. Come here for impeccably precise outlines, solid blacks that stand out and beautiful old-fashioned designs that will make you feel like you came back with a memory of a WWII island hopping campaign. world in the South Pacific. If Sailor Jerry isn’t exactly your style, check out the unique and eye-catching floral work of artist Pooka Machine. Veteran tattoo artists Javier Betancourt and John Vale took over Ocho Placas in 2009 after the untimely death of its founder, Jose Luis Carrera, who opened the shop in 2001. But don’t be fooled by the morbid story – the people here are creating consistently one of the most vivid tattoo art of all 305. 6240 SW Eighth St., Miami; 305-264-0888; ochoplacastattoo.com.
2. Tattoo & Co. Midtown Miami. If scarifying pan con lechÃ³n and cortaditos while getting inked isn’t quite your thing, head north to downtown and see Tattoo & Co. Reflecting the neighborhood’s eclectic artistic styles, Tattoo & Co. excels in almost any tattoo style, but owner Javier Acero’s tribal designs and watercolors by artist Alejandra Idarraga are especially powerful. The shop also hosts a list of visiting tattoo artists. Tattoo & Co’s outstanding artists and its clean, friendly atmosphere mean that the place is usually booked quite securely, so be sure to call well in advance to make an appointment. But don’t worry – if you walk in and all the artists are busy, the Lily Orozco drill will be more than happy to sit with you and satisfy your body art craving. 3449 NE First Ave., Miami; 305-485-0770; tatouageandco.com.
3. Iris tattoo studio. Iris ranks in the top three because of the work he does to change the traditional American tattoo aesthetic and because his watercolor and geometric designs really capture the Wynwood and Miami vibe. The shop was founded in Argentina four years ago by Nahuel Hilal after his horrific experience in a tattoo parlor in Buenos Aires. âI walked in and everyone was so rude to me,â says Hilal. “I was also very disappointed with the aesthetics of a lot of mainstream tattoos – the blacks, the reds, the gloomy ones.” The Miami outpost, opened by Kenneth Springer, debuted in 2016. Iris Tattoo artists are all skilled graphic designers, and the store’s mission is to make tattooing more accessible and enjoyable by bringing design sensitivity to the inking process. The friendly and creative character of the boutique is reflected in its clientele. This is not where haggard, full-bodied Yakuza bosses come to get inked. Instead, Iris might just be the best place in Miami to get your first tattoo, and to get one as unique and odd as the city itself. 2700 N. Miami Ave., Suite 508, Miami; 786-615-9186; iristattoomia.com.
4. Hateful love tattoo. This is the tattoo shop featured on the TLC reality show Miami ink. It’s the store that helped make the South Beach lifestyle noticeable and visible, and it arguably put Miami on the map as a destination for the art of body modification. Owned by the highly recognizable Ami James, Love Hate Tattoo is known to do a great job in all styles, but resident artists such as Federico Ferroni and Darren Brass are best known for their eclectic blends of traditional Japanese sensibilities and modern realistic. Because Love Hate always welcomes a large number of visiting tattoo artists (sometimes up to eight), the shop usually caters to a large number of impulsive tourists looking for a permanent souvenir from South Beach. But discriminate against this boutique at your own peril – while the fashion for famous tattoo artists has never quite caught on, the pieces from iconic Love Hate artists are large, bold, and easily recognizable by connoisseurs of the world. Arts and crafts. 1360 Washington Avenue, Miami Beach; 305-531-4556; facebook.com/miamiink.lovehatetattoos.
5. Lou’s tattoos. Founded by Lou Sciberra, a Maltese immigrant who started tattooing in Queens when inking people was still illegal in New York City, Tattoos by Lou’s Dadeland have proudly held the banner of alternative culture since 1986. Now run by Lou’s daughter Michelle, Tattoos by Lou is a successful three-store franchise with satellite locations in North Miami and South Beach. Dadeland artists Troy Lane and Lenny Rodriguez do big, bold tattoos with great depth and great contrast, while Ozzy PÃ©rez specializes in lettering. The shop is also home to Ken Cameron – Michelle’s husband and co-owner of Tattoos by Lou – a true legend in the ink world who handcraft some of the best tattoo machines on the planet. Although the aesthetic of Tattoos by Lou leans towards traditional American and Japanese, the pedigree, cleanliness and quality of the store are unmistakable. Plus, where else in Miami can you get a tattoo from artists who have studied with tattoo pioneers, then jump next to one of Miami’s oldest head shops, High Tide Tobacco & Gifts? 9820 S. Dixie Hwy., Miami; 305-670-6694; tattoosbylou.com.