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Steve Chicago Tattoo

Steve sent in a photo of his arm right after the line work was done and was kind enough to update us when the color was finished with both updated photos and why he wanted a Chicago flag tattoo.

Steve: I got the tattoo as a tribute to growing up around Chicago, and then teaching for Chicago Public Schools. I’m in the National Guard and my unit is located at the Jones Armory at 52nd and Cottage Grove. I wanted to always be able to take a bit of home with me no matter where I went, and as such put in architectural elements that I love. The buildings represented are all unique and represent something about the City to me, the flag is there, as is the municipal device and the lights from the 1893 World’s Fair. On my other arm I have Sue from the Field Museum which is just another way to bring memories of home with me on my wanderings.

Steve Chicago Tattoo Linework

Steve Sue the TRex Tattoo


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I saw the back of Kaylee’s leg at a bus stop near my work and she was kind enough to talk to a stranger with an odd question.

CFT: So that’s the logo for Reggie’s Rock Club and it gets you a discount on drinks there and you were saying before I started recording that maybe you were drunk when you got it.

Kaylee: Maybe. Yeah, we have a bunch of different logos and, one of our logos is the Reggie’s R in place of the Chicago stars.

CFT: When you picked it out, did you think, “Yes! Chicago!” or was it just like, “Free, nearly free booze”?

Kaylee: Free booze.

CFT: Are you a Chicago native?

Kaylee: No, I’m from Milwaukee, but I’ve been here for I think 8 years. Also, we all have it, like a big Reggie’s family, we all have them.

CFT: Okay. Awesome.

Kaylee: A couple other people have the flag too, but not exactly like mine. Other people have just like black flag, like a Chicago flag that’s black, with Reggie’s R’s in it, or other people have just the star and their R.

CFT: Okay. I’ll have to stop by and interview everybody.

Kaylee: Yeah. Good to meet you!

CFT: Good to meet you! Thanks so much for not being afraid of a stranger stopping you at a bus stop.

Kaylee: It’s because I’m from the Midwest.



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Alaina Chicago Flag Tattoo

Alaina sent her tattoo in via the CFT email and I asked her the core question of the site: what is it about Chicago that made her want to get this tattoo?

Alaina: I guess that question is better answered as why I love Chicago so much that I was willing to permanently scar my body with its symbol :) And it’s because it’s the greatest city in the world. I grew up in the western suburbs (Wheaton) but moved to the city 17 years ago… I like to tell people 2 more years and I will officially be able to say I’m “from” Chicago as I’ll have lived downtown longer than the burbs!

The people make it great. We’re the salt of the earth who also have class. We’re kind to strangers, intelligent because of our world renowned education options (U of C, Northwestern), we’re humble, tough (anyone who endures the winters we do has to be tough), and just downright authentic. And this city is GORGEOUS. We have a lake that, for all intents and purposes, is an ocean, our streets are clean, our skyline is breathtaking… there’s so little not to love about this city, other than the weather. But I think it’s because of the weather we have to endure that makes us awe struck by the springs, summers and the short autumns we get. It doesn’t matter how lazy a Chicagoan may be, once the weather is nice, we’ll be outside soaking up every second of it.

It’s my home and always will be… even if I move away.

Stephanie Hasz

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Stephanie Hasz Chicago Flag Tattoo closeup

Stephanie Hasz is a Chicago stand up comedian and I saw her Chicago flag stars wrist tattoo while she was co-hosting a live episode of the literary podcast Tomefoolery.

CFT: So, Steph! You have a Chicago flag that’s on your wrist.

Stephanie: I do. I have the stars on my wrist in black.

CFT: What’s your Chicago flag tattoo story?

Stephanie: I got it last summer. I’ve been living in Chicago for 6 years and I just felt like, well, it sounds cheesy when I talk about it. It just felt like the city changed who I was as a person and someday I’m going to move away for comedy purposes, and I wanted to get something to commemorate it before I left. I couldn’t figure it out for the longest time, and then I just said, “You know what, I’ll just get the stars,” because a lot of people have, you know, the stripes and the stars. I just didn’t want floating stripes on my body, so yeah, just got the stars. In black because I guess I thought it would look tougher.

CFT: Okay. Did you move here for comedy or was that part of the transformation?

Stephanie: I mean, I wanted to do comedy, but that wasn’t something I discovered while I was here. Yeah, I wouldn’t say that that was a factor. I moved here for grad school, just because I’d been living in rural Wisconsin and needed to not do that anymore.

CFT: So, 6 years. I hear a lot of 10-year stories, as a marker, but it wasn’t about the time for you, it was about the transformation.

Stephanie: Yeah, that is definitely not a huge chunk of time. It was a transformation phase, I would say. I just feel like Chicago made me the man I am, and that’s why I wanted something to remember it by.

CFT: Okay, that’s awesome. Where did you get it done?

Stephanie: I can’t think of the name of the place. It’s right next to Cole’s Bar in Logan Square on Milwaukee. I live in the neighborhood, and I had wanted it for a while and I had the day off, so I just walked down there and got it done.

CFT: Is a move on the horizon, or you just see that coming someday?

Stephanie: I think last year at this time, I was planning to move. I don’t think I was planning to still live here by now. But now I’m going to be here indefinitely. It wasn’t immediately, but I was like, “I don’t know if I’ll be here for 6 more months.”

CFT: Okay. It’s a great souvenir.

Stephanie: Yeah!

Stephanie Hasz Chicago Flag Tattoo

Rob Racine

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Rob Racine Chicago Flag Tattoo Closeup

Rob Racine isn’t a police officer, I just happened to meet him when we were all dressing up as Walking Dead characters for a WGN Morning News segment with Michael Rooker.

CFT: So, what’s your Chicago flag tattoo story?

Rob: Ok, I guess there’s not really a big story about it. I only have three tattoos, and I’ve always said if anybody’s going to put ink on their body that it should be something important, and I think that living in Chicago has been a big staple. I think that just living in Chicago has been such a big staple in who I am as a person, so… and the reason I guess mine is a little bit different than everybody else is that I don’t want to be the same as everyone. So, yeah, I guess that’s really my story.

CFT: Are you a native? Were you born here?

Rob: Yeah, I’ve lived in Chicago my whole life, and I was in the military, and I’ve traveled a lot for almost every job I’ve ever had, and I always just find myself just feeling at most home in Chicago.

CFT: Awesome! Where’d you get it done?

Rob: I got it done right off the Belmont Red Line at Chicago Tattoo. I’ve gotten all my tattoos there.

Rob Racine Chicago Flag Tattoo


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Jeff Chicago Flag Tattoo closeup

I met Jeff at the same block party as Karma. Our interview was pretty short, because Jeff was had just reached the front of a very long line for food.

CFT: So, tell me about your Chicago flag tattoo.

Jeff: I just got it because I’ve moved around a bunch. I’m originally from Rogers Park, and then I went to the suburbs, moved to Michigan for a while, came back to the suburbs, moved back down to Rogers Park. And I kind of made like a full circle, and that whole time Chicago was always like my home anyways. So, I just felt like getting it one day when I was hanging with some friends. It’s just what came to mind as something I wanted to d, because I didn’t know if I’d move again, so I wanted to remember.

CFT: So far, you haven’t moved again.

Jeff: I’ve been in Chicago since 2008 now and since I finally came back it’s been fun. If I move anywhere else, I want to be able to wear it on my sleeve all the time.

CFT: Where did you get it?

Jeff: Actually, I got it in my friend’s house.

CFT: Well, thanks so much!

Jeff: No problem, thank you.

Jeff Chicago Flag Tattoo


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Karma Chicago Flag Tattoo Closeup

Winter in Chicago is long and cold, even in a normal year, let alone 2013/2014’s “polar vortex” winter. So when the sun finally does come out and it’s glorious summer for a few brief months, we all get outside as much as we can. I’m sure that’s part of why so few seem to begrudge the scores of street festivals and block parties that take over the city all summer. I ran into Karma at a Dark Matter Coffee Block Party where CFT’s Erica Reid was DJing for an all-female Beastie Boys tribute.

CFT: Tell me about your Chicago flag tattoo.

Karma: I got my Chicago flag tattoo because I’m born and raised in Chicago, obviously. I got it the design I got it in because I wanted it to look beaten, and torn, and like it’s been through some shit. Because, you know, it’s fucking Chicago, and everyone’s been through some shit in Chicago. The city itself, too. It’s just really sporadic, with the way neighborhoods are. But it’s all mashed together and I love it. I love my city, you know? That’s why I got my tattoo.

CFT: Awesome! Where did you get it done?

Karma: I got it done by a friend’s friend who does tattoos. It was just, you know. He’s really good at what he does, it was just there, and I was like, “You know what? I’m going to get my Chicago flag right now.”

CFT: Awesome! Where was it in the sequence? You have a bunch of tattoos.

Karma: I think this is the newest one, it was this winter when I got it. The polar vortex winter.

CFT: So it’s like, I survived this…

Karma: Yes. Time to get my Chicago flag tattoo. My skin tore off my face.

CFT: Okay. Awesome. Any other Chicago tattoos…?

Karma: No. I probably will get a skyline somewhere, just like an outline of it, just because it looks cool, I love it. Love the city itself.

CFT: Awesome, thanks so much!

Karma: No problem, thank you!

Karma Chicago Flag Tattoo

Getting Back to It

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It’s spring in Chicago finally, sorta, for a few days there. But it means that the heavy coats are coming off and people are walking around with short sleeves and shorts every time the temperature creeps above 60° or so. Which means that I’m seeing Chicago flag tattoos everywhere again. I’ve got some interviews in the can from the last time it was warm that I’ve yet to post, and before a new day job ate up all my time. Work has calmed down and I did a new (albeit short) interview this week, so let’s get to posting, yes?

I’ll start off with a link to a story from a few months ago over at DNAinfo Chicago with a headline that lays it all out: This NCAA Tournament Player Has a Huge Chicago Flag Tattooed on His Back.

Joe Cocco

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Joe Cocco - Chicago Flag tattoo

This summer I noticed Joe’s tattoo while we were both running on the lakefront path and managed to catch up to him at a water fountain and tell him about the site. He emailed me a few days later and we met up for an interview at a Caribou Coffee (that’s now a Peets—I’m behind on interviews!). CFT’s Erica Reid was along for the interview and we tag-teamed on questions.

Fuzzy: So Joe, you’ve lived in Chicago your whole life. Your farthest move was 8 miles.

Joe: Yeah I grew up right by Oak Park, just inside the city limits. Same house that’s still there.

Fuzzy: So tell me about your tattoo.

Joe: I started running about 5 years ago now, and after I did my first marathon I knew I wanted to keep running. So I actually have on my other leg a band, and the back of the band, it’s roman numerals for 26.2. And then I wanted to get something that kind of represented Chicago and I had this idea pop in my head like, oh I can kind of do it on my calf because I run a lot , and it has a double meaning for me in the end. So that’s why I got the tattoo there. And I wanted Chicago just because I grew up here and this is home. I didn’t want to just do the straight flag somewhere else on my body, so I decided to do something a little bit different. And now I’m noticing the Chicago flag band around a limb or something a lot more. I don’t know if I just wasn’t paying attention, or started paying more afterwards.

Joe Cocco -Marathon tattoo

Fuzzy: Well I definitely think once you have one, there is that. There’s even a name for it. [It’s the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon, or “frequency illusion”.] It’s the something effect of when you clued in to something that you suddenly notice it’s everywhere. How long have you had it?

Joe: Oh gosh, I think I got it two-and-a-half years ago, three years ago? Somewhere around then. Once I finally figured out what I wanted and called my guy that does my tattoos and he’s like oh yeah I can take you in a couple days.

Fuzzy: Awesome. So you had a guy? I notice that you have a fair number of tattoos.

Joe: Yeah I think I’m at 12 now or something. I started off going to Uptown and I got a few at Tattoo Factory over there. And it kind of just felt like a “here’s your tattoo / here’s your money”, you just really exchange for services. And then my friend introduced me to this other guy and he’s hopped around for a few different places, but he’s done the majority of the rest of them. So I’ve been kind of going back to him for everything.

Fuzzy: Is he a secret?

Joe: Oh no, his name is Pony Lawson. They’re starting up a new tattoo shop called Mayday! Tattoo Co. It’s somewhere in Lincoln Park. My friend got a tattoo covered up on his leg, and I saw the work he did, and I was like holy, that’s really good. Like you don’t even know there’s another tattoo there, so I’ve been going to him for everything else. So he did that one.

Erica: I love that, having somebody you work with that knows you knows what you like.

Joe: I told him I’ll visit when I come home, squeeze it in. It almost feels like I’d be betraying him if I went somewhere else. Fuzzy: Where your tattoo is on your legs, people see it and you’re out running a lot. You get any high-fives? Any “You’ve got an awesome tattoo”?

Joe: I get it all the time. Randomly, people will stop and be like wow I love your tattoo. Or people will say, just walking past each other, “yeah Chicago!” And I’m like, “yeah Chicago!” It’s happened quite a few times at festivals. Lollapalooza this past year, seriously I would get stopped left and right. We’d stop people too if they had a Chicago flag tattoo. It was kind of just a bonding thing. It’s pretty cool. But basically that’s exactly what happens on the trails. Someone will just run up to you and they’ll like, give a thumbs-up or something.

Fuzzy: Awesome. And now you’re moving. It’s the tiniest part of the move I’m sure, but did you think, how can I move now that I have this tattoo? I’m sure the thought was more, how can I move I’ve lived here all my life?

Joe: So that’s what’s really cool about the tattoo. And I actually have, the Chicago skyline down down my rib cage. And the question I get the question a lot “well what would happen if they build another building?” And I’m like well, it’s the same thing with if wehad got the Olympics, there were talks of adding a fifth Star on the flag. It’s a moment in time for me, so something that I’ll always remember. I mean this is the skyline as of 2012. It’s just like a freeze frame and I’ll always remember it like that. So I get to take a piece of the city with me everywhere I go. And not just a piece, it’s like a moment of time in this city I guess. I don’t really know how to describe it.

Joe Cocco - Chicago skyline tattoo

Fuzzy: Now that is an awesome answer because of course I asked a false question. Your tattoos don’t bind you to anything.

Joe: That’s also kind of why I like getting tattoos because I’m not a super artistic or drawing kind of person. It’s really a great way for me to express things. I think that a lot of people can do that through painting, drawing, or writing. That’s kind of how I do it, by getting stuff on me permanently.

Erica: I feel the same way too. It gives me more confidence and I’m like “this is me”. I feel more myself when I get something new because it obviously means enough to you that you want it to become a part of you. That’s pretty powerful.

Joe: That’s exactly it.

Fuzzy: Any awesome miss-guesses on the flag?

Joe: Oh god, yeah. I think someone once asked if it was Texas or something. The skyline is always “is that New York?” No, it’s not New York. Or because it’s just a line, people often think it’s an EKG, like a heartbeat or something like that.

Erica: I bet it’s kind of cool though knowing that you’re moving somewhere else but you’re taking that part of Chicago with you.

Joe: It really is. And I mean, this is going to sound kind of strange, but if somebody notices it, then it’s like they can see that Chicago really matters, and is a huge deal to me. And San Francisco is just kind of a new chapter to experience.

Joe Cocco - Chicago Flag tattoo

Joe Cocco - Chicago Flag tattoo

April McCarron

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April McCarron Chicago skyline and star tattoo

April sent in her tattoo and story to the CFT Inbox

Hi, I found your site and love it! I sent the URL to a friend who moved to Louisiana who is trying to design a Chicago tattoo.

I recently got my new Chicago tattoo mid march from Noodles Tattoo in Warrenville. I had my boyfriend design it for me, based on my original idea for the tattoo.

I’m originally from the suburbs and am now back in the suburbs after spending many years living in the city itself. When I was up for a few jobs as far as Seattle last year I wanted a Chicago tattoo before I possibly left so I started designing. I wanted something that would have the flag and the skyline elements in it. Yet something that was simple, feminine and one I could show off easily while doing my 5ks.

I ended up accepting a job to stay local for many reasons. So since my company allows visible tattoos and I plan to stay with them for many years I finally got back to deciding on a design and location for the tattoo yet I was able to take my time.

My tattoo is on my right ankle, it’s a heartbeat that comes out of a Chicago red star that turns into the skyline then back to a heartbeat before re-connecting to the red star. When complimented on it since March I describe the meaning as “It represents my love for Chicago and how the city is and will always be a part of me.” I’m in love with my new tattoo—it even looks great with a cocktail dress!

Keep reading! The next most recent entry was Colin Morris or you can visit the Archives

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