Considering a tattoo and looking for ideas? Here are some cool, timeless subjects, styles, and inspiration for guys to start the process.
Keep in mind, tattoos are personal, symbolic, and only you have to live with it. When you carry a piece of body art through life, you’ll often forget it’s there. The last thing we want is for you to look down, remember, and regret (you’ll have plenty of other things to regret in life).
We’re here for the guy who doesn’t know where to start and can’t make up his mind. Get the creative wheels moving before picking the first tribal sleeve you see on Instagram. If this is your first tattoo, check our tips before you reach out to an artist.
Timeless, handsome tattoos for guys include:
When in doubt, get black ink. Whether it’s a Hello Kitty assigned to you after losing Fantasy Football or an entire sleeve, it’s always a good idea to use black ink. Every tattoo fades with time, but color rapidly ages on the skin and loses its luster long before black ink does. Retouching color is also not fun. Keep things classic and whatever you do— black ink or color — do not get white ink. It looks like your skin is boiling and almost never comes out the way the Instagram picture makes it look.
Save the superheroes for your bedsheets and re-create an ancient figure like Atlas, Beowulf, Merlin, or Kali. There are encyclopedias full of mythological beings and two simple ways to pick one that’s right for you are: 1) find a myth you relate to (faith, beauty, generosity, strength, etc.), and 2) a figure you like the look of. Master sculptors and painters have already done your artwork. Fear not of choosing a tat that goes out of style. These are timeless, with a perfect balance of masculine and feminine energy. Get inspired by tattoo artist Ivan Golubev.
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Let your geek flag fly. Instead of choosing between type and artwork, blend the two into a stylized code that to the unsuspecting eye appears as a translation-less design. You and your band of, well, band geeks, will understand the deeper meaning. It’s fun to get a tattoo that keeps a secret and isn’t blatant. After all, you’re a man of mystery. Plus, your piece need only make sense to you. Bonus: stylized code looks cool as you age. Take it from the master, Hungarian tattoo artist Balazs Bercsenyi. You’ll want to get on his waitlist and book a flight to Brooklyn for your tattoo.
Modern Throwbacks to Childhood
Are you a mega manga fan? Do throwback cartoons or video games transport you to foggy, happy formative years? If characters or a series are part of your identity, embrace the throwback but make it elegant. Find inspiration from the insanely talented South Korean tattoo artist, Woojin Choi, known by the pseudonym Oozy. His gorgeous black-ink tattoos are clean, grown-up renditions that don’t lose the spirit of their inspiratory characters and stories. We’ve started watching Naruto in order to justify getting one of his pieces.
Abstract Distorted Segments
Abstract tattoos, in essence, fracture an image until it becomes something else. You’ll need a killer artist to pull one of these off but if you do, your tattoo becomes a one-of-a-kind masterpiece. Both for guys who are solely interested in an elaborate visual and those who value deeper meanings, draft the piece with your artist to create layers of context and substance. This is a great way to incorporate geometric hints without going full-on triangles and squares (a trend that will pass soon and join tribal and Chinese symbols). Start conceiving your distorted dream with a heavy study of tattoo artist Oscar Akermo’s work.
The mechanical and anatomical breakdown of inanimate items like this Porsche 911 by Oozy is a fresh take on simple tattoos. If you have an item (or person or animal) you want as your subject, consider whether a full or half X-ray view would add artful detail and depth. Think of this as a mix between Hannibal and a supercar mechanic. Great for dudes with side passions and hobbies.
You’ve gone back and forth between getting a tattoo and nothing has stuck. Often, the urge to get inked is greater than the love of a design, and this is where trouble arises. If you can’t pick an image or word, screw them both and opt for small, obscure numbers. These can indicate a day of the year, pages in a book, coordinates on a map, or another code that references a place, phrase, or person you care about. Once the tattoo is done and the rush lifts, you won’t be shaking your head at the barbed wire chain around your belly button. Similarly, a small and simple power word can substitute numbers. The alternative is a massive word on your chest. No regrets, right?
Google it right now because dot work is really awesome. If you’re set on a tattoo concept but can’t decide the style, consider this technique. It takes longer and artists usually offer follow-up sessions, but the result is stunning. As the name suggests, dot work is a series of individual dots that make up your image. The technique has been around for ages and was used for religious and cultural tattoos, but now it’s emerging again for its artistry. So go wild with your design, pick whatever you want — dot work elevates any piece. Tip: Diligently research your dot work artist and don’t settle.
To clarify, not the name of your girlfriend or boyfriend. Tattoos are a wonderful avenue to express heritage and pride. Surnames can feel like you’re carrying the support of your family even when they’re far away, and names of loved ones passed away are a beautiful way to keep their memory alive. It’s a sub-trend to get tattooed with the name or a phrase done in exact penmanship of a relative, which we wholeheartedly support. Bring in an old letter or card for your artist to scan and resize. A rule of thumb: Keep the name small- to medium-sized and embrace nicknames.
Now that you’re inked, here are our favorite aftercare tips.
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