Dom Gabriel Uses Tattoos, Nail Art and Fashion to Express Himself
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Dom Gabriel Uses Tattoos, Nail Art and Fashion to Express Himself

Photography by Sonia Broman

“Because I get tattoos so impulsively, I know exactly what I was going through when I got each one.”

“I’m very impulsive with my tattoos,” says Dom Gabriel over a video call. “When I think of one, I get it done within 24 hours.” The singer-songwriter for the band Døntcall originally hails from Scarborough, Ont., but has been in L.A. since the February release of Perfect Match, the Netflix supercast dating show he appeared on. (Before that, he was on Netflix’s The Mole.)

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Dom Gabriel Uses Tattoos, Nail Art and Fashion to Express Himself
Photography by Sonia Broman

Today, he has over a million followers on TikTok, where he shows off his intricate nail-art designs, bonds with followers over his love of pop-punk music and Taylor Swift (“Taylor Swift is emo; she is pop-punk — I don’t care what anybody says!”) and, most of all, pokes fun at his emotional nature. He’s quick to point out that he’s a Cancer, which is often thought of as the zodiac’s most sensitive sign. In fact, Gabriel has the words “CRY BABY” tattooed behind his ear; he got it done right after Perfect Match wrapped filming to pay homage to how he was portrayed on the show. “As soon as I landed back home, I was like, ‘I have to get this.’” Recently, Gabriel launched a clothing collaboration with Canadian athleisure brand Peace Collective, also called CRYBABY, which is available to shop now.

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Dom Gabriel Uses Tattoos, Nail Art and Fashion to Express Himself
Photography by Nolan Begley

A lifelong emo skater kid, Gabriel says he sees his tattoos as a visual diary, not only capturing moments of his life but also tracking his mental and emotional state at the time of each new permanent addition. “When I started getting tattoos, I would get my elbow, stomach or hands done,” says Gabriel. “My tattoo artist [Matt Vanasse of Toronto’s Corner Pocket Tattoo] says I used to pick the most painful areas to get tattooed; I think that this was a subconscious choice and reflective of the fact that I wasn’t in the best place mentally.”

And when it comes to the tattoos themselves, the progression is as clear as day. “Because I get tattoos so impulsively, I know exactly what I was going through when I got each one,” he says. “I can literally see my personal growth.” Gabriel explains that the nature of his tattoos has gotten progressively happier. For example, one of his hands is inked with images of a knife and coffin, whereas the other hand is adorned with flowers. “My tattoos have become more colourful and wholesome over time.”

Dom Gabriel Uses Tattoos, Nail Art and Fashion to Express Himself
Photography by Albert Hoang

Gabriel’s ink journey started out wholesome, too. Kind of. He got his first tattoo (“Miles” — his brother’s name) at age 16 — though he says his motives were partly mischievous. “I wanted a bunch of tattoos, and I knew if I had one already, when I went to other tattoo shops, they wouldn’t question me or ask for my ID,” he explains. “So I convinced my mom to let me get my little brother’s name tattooed. Two days later, I got my entire bicep done.”

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Now that he’s essentially covered in ink — he’s lost count of how many he has — Gabriel says he’s not too concerned with how sentimental they are. “I have a few that I got while I was drunk, which were bad decisions, but I think that’s kind of cool.” In fact, the self-proclaimed romantic once got matching tattoos (a leaf) with a girl on a first date. “We never spoke again,” he laughs.

Yet getting another matching tattoo, or even a future partner’s name or initials tattooed, isn’t off the table. “I think it’s badass,” he says. “Though knowing how emotional I am, I’d probably get her first, middle and last name.”

Dom Gabriel Uses Tattoos, Nail Art and Fashion to Express Himself
Photography by Sonia Broman

Gabriel not only wears his heart on his (tattoo) sleeve but also uses nails and fashion as forms of creative self-expression. A nail-art lover who calls his nail artist (Diana at Toronto’s Luxy Nails) the “best in the world,” he often shows off his intricate designs on TikTok, to the delight of his followers.

He also experiments with androgynous fashion, regularly wearing crop tops and skirts and taking style inspiration from Prince, David Bowie, Dennis Rodman and Kurt Cobain. Anime and the Final Fantasy video-game series are also major sources of inspiration for Gabriel since “the characters flirt with androgyny and blend masculine and feminine styles.”

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Dom Gabriel Uses Tattoos, Nail Art and Fashion to Express Himself
Photography courtesy of Araz/Blush Nail Bar

These days, Gabriel has found a style that’s true to who he is in all of his creative outputs: music, tattoos, nails and fashion. “When I got my neck tattoo, I thought my mom would freak out, but she didn’t even notice,” he says. “A few days later, I asked her, ‘Are you serious?’ and she was like, ‘I thought you’ve always had that!’ Now, when I get a new one, people don’t even notice. I think that means I’ve found my aesthetic.”

And although he has a carefree, laid-back approach to what he gets tattooed on his body, Gabriel doesn’t downplay the important role that ink has had in his life. “Once I committed to my hand tattoos in particular, I felt like I had to really make it, because there was no going into the corporate world after that,” he says. “That isn’t even necessarily true anymore, but it was a mental thing. I knew I was destined to do something creative, and when I got my whole hand tattooed, I told myself, ‘You have no choice but to become an entertainer now, so get to it.’”

This article first appeared in FASHION’s Summer 2023 issue. Find out more here.

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