A picture is worth a thousand words, and a tattoo is worth a lifetime of stories. So what do 10 of the most popular mens’ tattoos say about the men who have them permanently inked on their bodies? Saffron Florea, a tattoo artist at Main Street Ink in Findlay, Ohio, provides some insight into what a few common tattoos truly mean and how they make a man appear.
1. Black Bands
A man with black bands on his arm sees himself a warrior, either physically or mentally. Florea says that arm bands typically have deep religious meaning, and they originally symbolized grief over the loss of a loved one.
2. Last Name
The men I’ve met who have chosen to adorn their back and shoulders with their last name had a God complex and were arrogant and conceited. Florea agrees, saying “[A last name back tattoo] is not the best look. It used to be known [as a] gang affiliation [symbol.] Now, it just makes you look like a tool.”
3. Tribal Ink
When I lived in Hawaii, many local men wore tribal tattoos to honor their heritage and culture. Florea says that solid black sleeve tattoos originated from tribal cultures. But stateside, some men choose this type of tattoo because they want to appear badass or warrior-like, not because the tat holds any cultural significance to them.
4. American Flag
A simple American flag tattoo can signify many different things. It could mean that the owner of the tattoo is just a redneck but it could also show that he has proudly served his country or is close to someone who has.
Florea concurs, saying, “There’s not [necessarily] a hidden meaning [behind American flag tattoos.] They originated as a [traditional] American style and are now used in a broad range of art.”
5. Liquor Bottles
This guy either is (or was) a partier. He loves alcohol so much that he chose to permanently ink a picture of his favorite kind on his body. Florea says there is no deeper historical meaning to liquor tattoos – these guys just love to drink.
You’d think that a wing tattoo would often have a religious meaning, but you’re wrong. Guys who choose this tattoo are confident and maybe even a little pompous. You’re most likely to see them in a muscle shirt, showing off their gains. Florea simply states, “This tattoo has no meaning, and [it] just looks bad.”
Gun tattoos originally signified gang affiliation, but Florea doesn’t mince words as to their meaning now. According to Florea, gun tattoos are tacky and mean that the men who choose them are irresponsible, careless, and have risky lifestyles.
Florea says that skulls first made an appearance in traditional tattoo styles, but they now have become popular and lost their original significance. Men who have skull tattoos want to seem like they don’t fear death, which in turn makes them appear arrogant.
Florea has never found star tattoos to have a deep or historical meaning. Stars are purely aesthetic and appear juvenile. This may mean that the man wearing them is childish, immature, or seriously afraid of growing up.
10. Koi Fish
Florea says koi fish tattoos originally symbolized spiritual growth. A man with any variety of this tattoo believes that he is spiritual, but whether or not that is his reality or simply a well-thought up facade is a mystery.