What makes Dr Woo of Shamrock Social Club one of the most coveted tattooists on the west coast? It’s a simple question of supply and demand. Supply? That’s the number of tattoos he can produce. Between five and eight a day, he says, depending on size. Demand? That’s the number of people willing to pay for one. With the waiting list for a piece of Dr Woo ink currently stretching well into the summer and beyond, it’s clear which way the scales are tipping here.
You could blame it on the kind of social media and word-of-mouth buzz that’s usually reserved for Pitchfork-approved indie musicians and limited-edition sneaker releases. And while it’s true that the kind of fine-line “fashion” tattoos that Dr Woo specialises in are having a moment – tiny, highly detailed and strictly monochrome, they can be found adorning the bodies (not to mention Instagram profiles) of music and fashion’s cool kids – it’s hard to deny that there’s something uniquely beautiful about the handiwork of this 33 year old from Agoura Hills, California.
Dr Woo on one of his two Harley-Davidsons, he also owns a 1948 Panhead
Dr Woo, real name Mr Brian Woo, first starting dabbling in tattoos when he was 13 or 14 years old, when he and a friend would stick-and-poke their legs after school. “I think that the idea of doing something so permanent without thinking about its future consequence gave us a rush,” he says. “That whole ‘I don’t give a f**k’ ideology was like a rite of passage for us as teenagers.” He worked as a fashion buyer and designer before landing a job at Shamrock as an apprentice to Mr Mark Mahoney. If it hadn’t been for the opportunity to work for his idol, he might still be in fashion – or something in the creative sphere, at least. “Fashion, art… I don’t know,” he says. “Some kind of creative branding.” In a way, that’s what he’s doing already.
We spent a Saturday with Dr Woo and his family to better understand what makes him tick. Watch our exclusive film, above, or read on to see his top five tattoos.
Dr Woo’s Top Five Tattoos
“A wolf made up of my constellations – the first time I used my signature circles and lines to create an image.”
“One of my favourite kind of tattoos to do are small images packed with detail… Ships always look great for some reason.”
“I do a great amount of lil’ dog portraits, but this one stood out – so much expression in her face. The owner said this is the face she makes when you say ‘tacos’.”
“These symbols have evolved so much since the beginning, when they consisted of a couple of simple lines… And, I feel that they keep evolving with each person.”
“Friendship tattoos should always be spontaneous and ridiculous.”
Film by Mr Antony Crook