HOUMA — It's not uncommon to see someone with a tattoo nowadays — especially a New Orleans Saints-themed one.
During the team's magical 2009 season that ended with a Super Bowl triumph over the Indianapolis Colts, local tattoo shop owners say they saw a predictable uptick in business.
As the Saints kept winning, so too did the number of tattoos people wanted on their skin, they said.
According to T.J. Parfait, the amount of fleur-de-lis requests he's received in the last few months is staggering.
“We do fleurs-de-lys on a daily basis,” said Parfait, who works at Skin Lab Tattoo and Piercing on Corporate Boulevard in Houma. “When they were winning all those games last season, we had a time where we did 13 of them in a four-day period.”
Throughout history, the fleur-de-lis has represented many things, including royalty and religion. The symbol, an artistic representation of a lily or an iris has been found on ancient Greek and Roman coins.
While popular, fleur-de-lis tattoos aren't the only thing customers have asked for.
“Since we're a customized shop we've done some really cool stuff here,” Parfait said. “We've put the Superdome on people, the championship trophy and a whole bunch of other items that came out great.”
Being a veteran tattoo artist, Randy Benoit of Randy's Fine Line Tattoos in Thibodaux, doesn't know of many things that's captivated the complete interest of his customers more than the New Orleans Saints.
“I remember when they were starting to win a lot, I told my guys to get ready,” Benoit said. “Sure enough, as they pushed toward the Super Bowl and eventually won it, our business really picked up. When it comes to the fleur-de-lis tattoos, a lot of people refer to it as their culture. I don't argue with them because it definitely means something special to them.”
Along with tattooing his fair share of fleurs-de-lys, Benoit has preserved the Super Bowl win on others' skin in a number of other ways.
“One of the cooler things I did was putting a picture of the championship trophy on the backside of a guy's shoulder,” he said.
Upon being prompted, readers responded to The Courier and Daily Comet with their stories and examples of Saints tattoos they have.
The common bond among all of these individuals is their love for the Saints and what the team means to them.
That love prompted a woman from Ohio to accept her husband's proposal.
“My wife (Erika) moved down here last year,” Justin Matherne said in a Sept. 7 e-mail sent to The Courier. “She kept begging me for a tattoo. My only condition was for her to get a fleur-de-lis with ‘Who Dat' underneath. We made a bet that she would get it if the Saints won the Super Bowl. At the time, she didn't understand why the Saints were so important to us down here and why someone would get a football logo on their body. As the season went on she slowly understood the game and the importance of the Saints to our area. After the Saints won the Super Bowl, she got the tattoo, not cause of the bet, but on her own because she finally understood why we love this team so much.”
Other e-mails talked about entire families celebrating the Super Bowl victory by going together to get Saints-inspired tattoos.
Yet another included a tale of a father telling his son that he would get a tattoo if the Saints ever won the Super Bowl.
It just so happens that promise was made 29 years ago when the Saints were struggling through a dismal 4-12 season.
“I was 13 when my Dad mentioned it (getting a tattoo),” said out-of-towner Ricky Beavers.
Although his father's health wouldn't allow him to fulfill that promise, Beavers decided to step forward and honor his father's pledge.
The tattoo features a fleur-de-lis painted black and gold with his family drawn up like a second-line band with the words “Who Dat” dancing across the picture.
“One month after the Super Bowl, I scheduled an appointment with Freaky Tiki Tattoo owner English Craig in New Orleans,” said Beavers, who comes down to the Houma area occasionally for work. “It needed to be done in New Orleans. I was positive of that. I had never gotten a tattoo, so this experience was brand new. I always said my first one would be this one. So at 42 years old, I did it.”
While some have only recently gotten their Saints ink, others chose a path less traveled.
For example, Dana Bowles of Richland, Miss.
Bowles walked inside a tattoo shop in 1996 and had the tattoo artist put a black-and-gold Saints helmet on her ankle.
“People were teasing me because they were doing so bad back then,” Bowles said. “People told me I should put Los Angeles Saints or ‘Aints' on my ankle.”
Fourteen years later, Bowles said she is now the one doing the teasing.
“It was great,” the 40-year-old said of the Saints Super Bowl victory. “I've been a fan since I was a little girl, and I'm actually planning on going in soon to add to my tattoo. I'll probably put XLIV in memory of their championship, Who Dat Nation and something else.”