The supreme artistry of Mark Mahoney comes in three layers. His look: The Boston-born, Los Angeles-based tattoo icon’s signature style involves meticulously sculpted pepper-hued hair, blindingly white teeth, piercing blue eyes, and a flawlessly color-coordinated outfit that consists of at least one piece of ridiculously rare vintage. This time it was throwback Gianni Versace grey alligator crocodile print Medusa wingtip shoes, which pair well with his grey pinstripe pants and light pink, immaculately pressed silk shirt. (The legend scores most of his retro gems on eBay or through top-tier designer connections. "You can never have too much Versace," he says.)
His talk: As the owner and principal artist of famed Hollywood tattoo parlor, Shamrock Social Club, Mahoney’s intriguing personal experiences combined with a decades-spanning career of inking individuals across the globe has allowed him to become a sponge of knowledge that can keep up with any subject. "He really knows a little bit about everything," says BlackBook fashion director Christopher Campbell, Mahoney’s latest client. "From subcultures in L.A. to what Hedi Slimane is doing at Yves Saint Laurent, he gets it all. That’s the sign of a truly great artist: being able to take inspiration from so many different aspects of life. He’s such an enlightened dude." The dude’s voice hums with swagger, to boot.
His craft: There’s a reason why Johnny Depp, Lady Gaga, David Beckham, Rihanna, Lady Gaga, and a host of other famous faces flock to Mahoney whenever they’re in town. Considered the founding father of black and grey art with a single needle, the Irish-Catholic artist’s hyper-realistic portraits of religious iconography are unparalleled, which is why Campbell opted for a prayer card of The Sacred Heart of Jesus on his right forearm. "I’m really into old prayer cards," Campbell explains. "They’re so fascinating. My mother’s family is Irish Catholic, too, so we’d always do wakes at the Frank E. Campbell Funeral Chapel in New York and there would be a different stack of cards there every time."
"It’s a beautiful choice," adds Mahoney while gently grazing the needle over his subject’s skin like a painter with his brush. As with any artist, greatness takes time. Campbell’s four-hour session included Mahoney taking breaks to greet visitors, chat with old, sober friends (who gladly hang around the artist’s appointments simply to entertain him with memories of their wild and crazy, drug-infused days; his friend, "Eclectic Buyer" Jim Dunn, needs his own reality show stat) and to admire the work of his well-trained staff. "Man, that’s fuckin’ bomb," the cool cat says of a freshly inked eagle piece marked on a blissfully satisfied customer’s upper arm.
Besides charming celebrities and BlackBook editors with his potent presence, Mahoney has also captured the attention of LA-based premium denim and lifestyle brand Citizens of Humanity, who recently featured him as a subject in their exclusive "Just Like You" philanthropic video series. A limited edition T-shirt was also created for the project, and all proceeds benefit Homeboy Industries—a youth program founded by Father Greg Boyle in1992 that provides hope, training and support to formerly gang-involved men and women.
"Before moving to Los Angeles from Boston, I didn’t know anything about the Mexican-American culture," Mahoney reveals. "When I finally came here, the whole lowrider scene and gang culture just blew my mind. The people were so cool; I loved their personal style and sense of honor and integrity. The whole culture speaks to me. Father Boyle has made it his life’s work to help people in his community."
Purchase the Mark Mahoney x Citizens of Humanity tee for $38 at citizensofhumanity.com.
[All photos by Jimmy Bazan]