If we are going to think about tattoos for men, the first thing we can picture out are bad-ass designs. These are often bolder and more fiercer than women. We can also picture out big designs that cover their entire bodies. But while these are indeed the stereotypical tattoos, some men prefer the subtle types that will provoke your thoughts. But of course, the designs can vary and can be different from men to men.
That is because the tattoo industry is growing more than ever. While we often think about men if we think of tattoos, there are now more women who are interested in tattoos. Apart from that, the designs have become rather varied. You can now see tattoos of almost anything – from meaningful symbols to surrealistic unique designs.
History of Tattoos
- 1 History of Tattoos
- 2 Types of Tattoos for Men
- 3 Meaningful Tattoos for Men
- 4 Aftercare Tip
Some people who are not familiar with body art, specifically tattoos, would think it just came this century. But the truth it, it is one of the oldest forms of art. Ancient civilizations such as in Egypt have already done tattoos.
However, while today’s purpose for tattoos are mainly for self-expression, it was different back then. In Ancient Egypt, tattoos were more or less a way for magic and medication. They have tattoos that are said to heal certain diseases and even labor pains. For native Americans, tattoos were more as a way of entering manhood or for conjuring spirit animals. Polynesians would have tattoos as a way to identify which tribe they belong to. Some tribes also use tattoos to signify a person’s standing in the society.
Nonetheless, there really is no definitive time when tattoos were invented. It did reach Europe through sailors who have voyaged to the Polynesian islands. Since then, it had reached both ends of the world.
The process of tattooing back then is also far more painful than what we do today. They had no mechanical tattoo guns that made the process easier. Although the tattoos back then were little, tattooist would have to use sharp-ended sticks from plants, shark teeth, and the anything they can find in nature. While some of these traditional tattooing procedures still live to these day, less artists have mastered it.
The designs have also incredibly changed since then. Tattoos now can be purely for aesthetics. Back then, tattoos are symbols and have deeper meaning. Of course, most of the designs we have now are more than just pretty pictures.
People back then also choose their surroundings as their main source of inspiration. Polynesians, for example, often draw a pattern of shark teeth, waves, sun rays, and other animals.
Types of Tattoos for Men
As we have said before, tattoos for men have now become extremely varied. While we won’t put everything into a category, we’re diving into the most popular types we’ve seen yet. These can be based on the style or where they are placed.
Needless to say, here are the most common types of tattoos you’ll see on men:
Tattoos nowadays can be extremely vibrant. Tattoos that female often choose usually have this subtle and pastel-y colors while men commonly opt for the bright and loud colors to accentuate the design. However, the most common type you’ll see are the monochrome ones. It’s either just black or with varying grey shades.
But these aren’t just the classic tattoos you’ll see. A lot of these tattoos are in different styles such as 3D. Artists today have been able to master certain techniques that allow them to create depth and change your perception. Even with monochromatic colors, they can fool you into thinking a tattoo is a real black and white photograph.
And of course, there are the designs that are more classic but has more details. While the classic tattoos from before are still great, they somehow lack the finer details. Nowadays, even a wolf’s fur is extremely detailed.
Full back and/or chest tattoos
Full back and/or chest tattoos have also become part of the mainstream tattoos for men. These types of tattoos are often filled with various elements. It can be a full picture or scene or it can be an abstract of many different tattoos that have come together as one. There are colored tattoos and monochrome ones. Some designs are in 3D while others are in glorious classic styles.
A full back tattoo is not actually just a men’s thing. A lot of women are now getting more daring and bolder in their tattoo decisions. You’ll likely see quite a few women who have a full back of tattoo that although a little subtler, has a lot of shared characteristics with masculine designs.
However, full chest tattoos are rather rare for women. That’s because breast tattoos could be extremely painful and no one really wants to go through such torture. For men though, it’s quite easier to get a full chest tattoo since nothing is blocking the way. They can get fully inked on both sides and a lot of people have actually done that.
Bigger full body designs are often an accumulation of their tattoos rather than just one massive picture. Although some are actually creating designs that coincide with their previous tattoos.
Full sleeve tattoos
Apart from full back and chest tattoos, men are also known to don full sleeve tattoos. This comes from the wrists (sometimes even from the hands) to the shoulders. You can see a lot of men with just one full sleeve of tattoos. But many tattoo enthusiasts are getting both sleeves filled with ink.
As with the chest and back tattoos, these kinds are rather a collection. However, the bigger pieces are often on the outer bicep area. Another big piece can be found on the forearm.
Many of these full sleeve tattoos are also in modern tribal design. These are usually more for aesthetic and just copies the vibe of traditional tribal tattoos. These types are the most commonly chosen design since they can really highlight your muscular arms.
Of course, full sleeves can be in full color or in black and grey.
You can also see a lot of men with a Gothic tattoo. Gothic tattoos are often those with a much darker tone with kinds of designs that you’ll often associate with metal or heavy metal. Certain designs include black or fallen angels, hearts and thorns, Gothic portraits, and more.
These kinds of designs are typically considered as masculine and heavy. But there are also women who prefer to have Gothic-style tattoos than those cutesy ones. Then again, the tattoo industry is changing and people can’t really stereotype tattoo designs anymore.
Still, you’ll definitely see most of these Gothic styles in men.
Biomechanical tattoos have actually just gained popularity these past few years. They are basically a design that mixes mechanisms with the human body. These are also often created in 3D.
So, the design is typically this: it’s as if there’s been a massive hole in your body and instead of seeing muscles or bones, you’ll see mechanical wirings, gears, and more. These are, as said, often in 3D to give off the feeling that you’re really looking inside your body. It’s basically a cyborg design where you are half man, half machine.
This has been particularly trendy nowadays where the legs or arms have these “holes” and inside you’ll see something metal. Another common design involves a “hole” on the chest and it shows a mechanical heart.
There may be women who are also fond of this design. But so far, the majority of designs we’ve seen are worn by men.
3D tattoos are another trending tattoos for men. These are now a favorite among tattoo enthusiasts, especially for the men who like something much more extra.
As with the name, these tattoos have the three dimensional effect. It can either make them look like they’ve jumped out of your skin or that they are photos. These kinds of tattoo designs require a great tattoo artist since doing it can be extremely challenging. Your tattoo artist should be a master of several techniques such as shadowing, highlighting, and blurring. They should also be really good artists to be able to draw something so realistic.
3D tattoo designs also vary. There are animals that look so real, hyper-realistic portraits of people, the biomechanical tattoo we’ve mentioned above, and more.
But perhaps one of the designs that’s been gaining popularity are the illusions. One example is the “carved out” look. Basically, the design looks like you carved out a portion of your body. Most often the background or the “insides” are pitch black. It’s really trippy and you’d look like you are hollow and had nothing inside.
Meaningful Tattoos for Men
There are so many men who create designs that are purely for aesthetics.
However, there are also lots of men who create designs for its looks and also for its meanings. Tattoos these days have become a platform for them to express themselves. Each tattoo often holds something deeper – something that they relate to.
Other tattoos come from their everyday lives or from an event that changed their life.
A reminder though: tattoos could have different meanings from person to person. It doesn’t mean that the rose is the universal symbol of love that it carries the same meaning for a person. Some tattoos have stories – even the simpler ones. For that person, the rose might be a reminder of a person they love or it could simply mean they find roses beautiful.
Nevertheless, here are some of the most meaningful tattoos you can get for your next ink:
The ankh is an Egyptian symbol that represent eternal life. It can also mean that there is life after death since Egyptians believe in the afterlife. However, some believe the sign to be the sign of the god of the sun, Ra.
This symbol resembles a cross but it has a loop on the top. Some just actually refer to it as the symbol of life. For tattoo enthusiasts, it can denote that life is worth living. The design is made to remind them that they are living and that there is hope while they breathe.
Skulls can be pretty scary, especially as a masculine tattoo. The shadows make it more eerie and almost lifelike. They pretty much mean the same thing in the tattoo industry as in real world: death.
However, while many people will find it a little negative, most tattoo enthusiasts do not. In fact, they have turned this into something positive. How it goes is that having a skull tattoo means you are not afraid of death and you accept it as a part of life. Ironically, it’s also been known as a symbol of living life. Many have it as a reminder that life is short and they should enjoy life while they can.
While sugar skulls are mostly for women, these are also tattoos for men. Sugar skulls are a little different than the normal ones. These originated from Mexico for they Day of the Dead celebration.
Normal skulls represent death. Sugar skulls, on the other hand, represent your dead relatives. In reality, Mexicans engrave the name of their deceased loved one on the forehead of the skull. You can also do this in your tattoo. You’ll also want to make your design unique and design it as how your loved one life. It could be simple but elegant, fierce and bold, or lively and fun.
Lions are known as the King of the Jungle. They are fierce, brave, powerful, and always known as the leader. These are also how lions are seen in the world of tattoos. Most often, those who get these types of tattoos feel that they can relate to these animals.
Lion tattoos can be in any style. However, men are more likely to get it in a realistic style. The designs center on the focused demeanor of lions; as if they are on a hunt and checking on their prey. Roaring lions are also great designs that you can have on your back or chest.
You can usually find angel tattoos on the backside of a man. Usually, it covers their entire back and depicts an angel ascending to (or descending from) heaven. They are often in full battle gear, ready to slay demons and monsters apart. And most of the times, the enemies are also depicted in the tattoo. It’s like a religious painting of a heavenly battle.
While women often have cute little angels and angels praying, men’s design are mostly badass. They show the warrior side of angels.
Other more religious men also tend to put the cross into their tattoos. This is the symbol of unwavering faith and ultimate sacrifice. With a cross on the design, it really becomes a Christian tattoo and becomes a symbol of their faith in God.
Angels, as solo elements, are also mostly religious. They are known to be the messengers of God. But most of the time, they are symbols of protection; that’s why they’re usually in battle form. Apart from that, they have also become a symbol of dedication to our lost loved ones.
A single tree or a forest is also a fan favorite among men. These designs often give a vibe of peacefulness and calm. But more than that, trees are a symbol of resilience, diligence, and perseverance. They remain strong and proud no matter what storm comes their way. They also give life to the creatures around them and cover them from the sun or rain.
Most of the time, forest tattoos are done in silhouettes. You’ll only get to see the forms of the trees but not really its details. Apart from that, the usual background is either night or sunset, with a beautiful painted sky. This is great as both as small or larger tattoo design.
Another popular design is the Tree of Life. It depicts an old tree with its roots and leaves coming in a full circle. This is an older symbol from the Celtics that means eternal cycle of life.
Band tattoos created with trees or forest designs are also rather common. These go around the legs or arms.
One unique style you can do is pointilism. Basically, you create the picture with just dots. It can be a grueling job, but without it can also be less painful than traditional tattooing.
Among the birds, eagles are the most popular tattoos for men. They represent nobility, strength, power, and even patriotism. The latter is because it is the national symbol of the United States of America. An eagle in a suit or with the US flag’s background could symbolize just that.
However, it can also be a good choice for descendants or members of Native American tribes. They see eagles are noble creatures and the earthly counterpart of the mythical Thunderbird. Natives believe that eagles are guardians and guides.
But other people just like the eagle for its aesthetic and its fierce and noble demeanor. A popular design often shows the eagles swooping down on its prey or with a snake on its talons.
7. Geometric patterns
A lot of men are also fond of abstract designs that are crisp, cool, and oftentimes minimalist. These characteristics are often found in geometric tattoos that could either be normal shapes and lines or a pattern of various geometrical shapes.
These types of tattoos are normally for aesthetic purposes only. They don’t have any meaning unless you add a few elements to it. Sometimes, a few shapes such as the circle or triangle may be known as powerful shapes. Circles are often a symbol of eternal life and infinity. Triangles are often seen as powerful shapes since they were the shape of the pyramid.
Geometric patterns are now more known as modern tattoo designs.
Quote tattoos are more popular with women. However, there are also lots of men who are actually fond of having quotes as tattoos. While women’s designs are more delicate and usually in script, men’s tattoos are more fancy. They use more stylized fonts such as blocks in order to make them 3D.
Men’s quote tattoos are also accompanied by other elements – often relating to the quote. Or perhaps they would add a quote on a bigger type of tattoo.
Of course, the meaning can vary depending on what quote they used. Some can be pretty inspiring, others bad-ass, and some witty. Usually, these quotes are something the wearer relates to. They even use these as a daily inspiration. There are longer types of quote tattoos that include several lines. Meanwhile, some like it a little shorter. They even one-worded quotes to make a bigger impact.
Wings are closely related to angel tattoos as the most common type of wing tattoo designs are those that are similar to these beings. However, some have made their wing designs after a phoenix’s wings, an eagle’s or any other bird.
Basically, these wing tattoos are located on the back part – where wings are supposed to be. They are often big and can cover the majority of the back. Other designs are more minimalist while others look crazy real, with 3D effects. Some even have blood designs on the roots of the wings to make it look like they actually had one.
These designs are known to be a symbol of freedom. However, some believe that wings are related to angels and so they see it as a sign of guidance and protection. There are even designs that are made to honor their deceased loved ones.
10. Nautical star
Sea-themed tattoos are pretty common among men. But perhaps one of the most popular design of the category is a nautical star. This often accompanies a compass; another object that is usually used by seafarers.
Nautical stars can be used as a close link to the navy as it is basically their sign. Military men would have these tattooed on them whenever they go to missions. This is to remind them that they have a home to go back to and they are protected and guided by the stars.
And that’s pretty much the meaning of this tattoo. It’s a symbol of guidance and is based on the Northern Star. Back in the days when compasses were not yet a thing, seafarers and travelers would only need to locate the Northern star to get back home safely.
Since we’re already on the topic of sea-themed tattoos, another popular design is the ship. This can often be seen on a man’s chest, sleeves, or back. These designs are often bigger and colorful as how the entire picture is depicted could provide audience with more hints of what it’s possibly about.
Why is this so?
Ships, according to the tattoo industry, is the symbol of the wearer himself and his life. Oftentimes, the ship represents the wearer while the sea represents life. More often, these designs could tell where a person is in his life. For example, a ship sailing in a calm wind often represents satisfaction, relaxation, and pretty much a good time in their life. On the other hand, a tattered ship sailing through rough seas could say that the wearer is in a bad time of his life. He’s barely hanging and his mind is in chaos.
These are a great reminder to look back at your life at the time you had the tattoo. If you’ve been through rough times back then and you’re in a much better place, it’s a good reminder that life is still good. You only need to survive and become bigger and everything can get better. If you’re in a rough time at present and you had calm seas on your tattoo, be reminded that life will get better.
Since men’s tattoos are often bigger, they need to care for it more. How well they do their aftercare could really tell how their tattoo is going to end up.
Most of the time, poor aftercare leads to scarring or worse, infections. These could entirely ruin the tattoo’s look and you’ll have very limited options on how to make it better. Meanwhile, take good care of it and it will stay vibrant for a long time. Even after years or so, it will look as if you have only had it yesterday.
So, what’s the secret?
Clean your tattoo but try not to touch it as often when its healing. You should also be gentle with your movements and use mild products. When it’s fully healed, you need to protect and hydrate it with sunscreen and lotion, respectively. These can help protect it from outside factors that can make it fade quickly.
You’ll also want to stay away from pools and the beach for a while when your tattoo is healing. But no worries, once it heals, you can go back to your normal routine.