CHICAGO — How popular are tattoos of the city's flag in the Chicago area?
One West Town tattoo artist got requests for the tattoo so much — and has received so many questions about its design — that he created a decorative poster that explains the flag.
To help dispel the myths and symbolism behind the iconic flag, Nick Colella, owner of Great Lakes Tattoo, is selling his "know your flag" prints for $20 to curious customers and proud Chicagoans alike.
Colella said he originally painted the handy guide as sort of a short-hand way to explain the flag to people interested in getting it tattooed on them.
"No one knew what it was about, but they wanted it," Colella said. "It drove me nuts."
There's no denying the flag design is a popular tattoo choice in the area. The tattoo's popularity is documented in a blog called "Chicago Flag Tattoos" and also a Twitter account.
But, like a lot of proud, lifelong Chicagoans (he was born in Norwood Park), Colella gets exasperated when asked to describe the basics of the flag, especially to people with questionable Chicago roots.
"People get it all the time," he said. "They are popular in the city and for people who want to be in the city, too."
The painting hung in shops Colella worked at for about 10 years, he said. When he opened Great Lakes, 1148 W. Grand Ave., it was hung more prominently, he said.
After hearing for years that he should sell prints of the painting, Colella said he finally caved.
The print details the basics behind Chicago's flag: That the white stripes represent the North, West and South sides, and that the blue stripes represent the local bodies of water.
Colella also explains what the four stars represent and what each point on each start represents, information which can hardly be memorized and is basically insider baseball.
"There's so much going on in that flag," he said. "Like, the points on the stars is kind of ridiculous."
Not that you need to know the intricacies of the flag to sport a tattoo, but it helps to know what the art on your body symbolizes, Colella said.
Colella said the reason for the flag's popularity as a tattoo is twofold: It has a simple, "dominant" design and is a visible stand-in for the city. Tattoos depicting hometowns all are popular even when the place doesn't have an iconic symbol.
"It's so visually appealing," said Colella, whose had the flag tatted on his hand for about 15 years. "It's so easily identified. I definitely understand [the appeal]."
Check out the print at Great Lakes online store or visit the shop at 1148 W. Grand Ave.
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