StrikeTheBox.com, a Web site that allows firefighters to share images of their tattoos, is quickly reaching a world-wide audience. Each week numerous new tattoos are added to the online gallery which includes over 3000 tattoo images from firefighters in the United States, Australia, Israel, Croatia, Germany and other countries.
"The Web site is uniting firefighters from around the world," said Strike The Box founder Roger Hall, who has been a firefighter for 20 years. "It's the best job in the world. Firefighters truly have passion for their work, and we're so proud of the work we do."
After 911, more firefighters than ever visited StrikeTheBox.com for inspiration, as they searched for the perfect memorial and tribute tattoos.
"It took off like wildfire," said Hall. "Never did I think it would get to this level. People are inspired by the site, and I get so much enjoyment from that."
The website currently lists photographs of over 3,000 firefighting related tattoos. Some tattoos feature portraits of real-life firefighters who perished in 911. Others include family tributes, such as a firefighter who honored his still-living father with a tattoo portrait. The most common tattoo is of the Maltese cross symbol, which is typically found on a firefighter's badge. Fire-breathing dragons and the water dragon are also common, as are protective icons and symbols.
The history of firefighters getting tattooed dates back to the Edo period in Japan. "Firefighters in Japan would get tattooed in the 1600s to 1800s with protective coy fish or water symbols. Today, 400 years later, firefighters are still getting protective tattoos," said Hall, who has a tattoo of the Patron Saint of firefighters, St. Florian, on his upper arm. He got the tattoo a month after September 11, 2001.
Hall started the site at the beginning of 2000 when he wanted to get a tattoo himself. After going online to get inspiration for a tattoo of his own he was unable to find one example. That sparked the idea for the site and shortly after that he had a friend who sold t-shirts at local firefighter conventions take a few pictures of firefighter's tattoos. He posted those first few images online. Soon fellow firemen began to ask to post images of their tattoos on his Web site as well. Before long, StrikeTheBox.com became a virtual gathering place to share meaningful tattoos and get inspiration for future tattoos from fellow firemen from around the world.
"People will be surprised at how remarkable these tattoos are," said Hall, who posts color and black & white, high-resolution images of tattoos on the site. "Many tattoo artists are classically trained artists and painters. Their work should be hung up in art galleries."
Hall has been a firefighter for 20 years in Nashua, New Hampshire. He started Strike The Box in 2000 and was inspired to get a tattoo of his own, a 9/11 tribute, less than a month after September, 11th.