There are so many types of tribal tattoos that it can be hard to decide on one. From being aesthetically pleasing to sharing stories of heritage, you want to be sure that the tattoo expresses who you are. We’ve hand-picked some of the best tribal tattoos for men to take the stress off your shoulders and put an awesome tattoo on them.
1. Filipino Tribal Tattoos
Tattoos have been an essential part of the Filipino community for over 500 years. Historically known to protect you from enemies, this kind of tattoo is more than just aesthetically pleasing. With simplistic designs that complement the body and linear strokes that flow around the designated area, this is a design that is a lot more approachable and unique than some other forms of tribal tattoos.
2. African Tribal Tattoos
Africa is known as the home of storytelling, so when it comes to their tribal tattoos, there is more than meets the eye. With hidden meanings of bravery and courageousness, these pieces represent the strength of whoever is wearing it. Although a lot of these tattoos do tell a story, history shows that many tribes had these purely for aesthetic purposes. The African Tribal style tends to be heavier on the shading and more of a statement piece than others.
3. Hawaiian Tribal Tattoos
Hawaiin tattoos are often seen as a softer approach to the tribal tattoo game. Seeing as the ocean heavily influences their culture, it’s only natural that their tattoos compliment that. With reoccurring imagery of water animals, this style of tattoos is ideal for the kind of guy who loves to hang out around water and the outdoors.
4. Polynesian Tribal Tattoo
With over 1000 islands in Polynesia, a lot of their tribal tattoos have allowed a little bit of creative freedom with what you decide to get. Traditionally being heavy on black ink with a mixture of negative space makes this tattoo pleasing to the eye. Placement is important and has significant meaning in the Polynesian culture, so before getting one, be sure to research the area.
5. Indian Tribal Tattoos
Similar to Africa, Indian tribal tattoos were used for aesthetic purposes and were considered a more impressive alternative to jewelry and accessories. Traditional simplistic designs that range from a collection of straight lines to Indian gods symbolized power and strength. This allows more freedom for your creative input, which is great for larger pieces!
6. Native American Tribal Tattoos
When it comes to Native American tribal tattoos, you will often see a lot of animals. Wolves mixed in with totem poles are two awesome symbols of virtue that are seen a lot with this style. Within the Native American culture, there’s a theme of dream catchers which also looks great in any tattoo. Dream catchers and totem poles both look cool and symbolize warding off evil spirits and protection.
7. Samoan Tribal Tattoo
Although Samoa does fall under the Polynesian category, it does have its own unique flair. Samoan tribal tattoos have many sentimental meanings, but it depends on the person getting the piece. Each symbol can have multiple meanings which assures that your tattoo is one of a kind. These tattoos are often a collection of basic strokes to make one seriously cool artwork.
8. Cherokee Tribal Tattoos
Cherokee Indian tribal tattoos are striking and powerful. There are many symbolic meanings of these tattoos. Rooting from traditional tribal identification, this is a risky one to get on a whim. However, these pieces are more colorful and fun than other tribal designs, so they are worth looking into.
9. Celtic Tribal Tattoos
When people think Celtic tribal tattoos, they tend to think of the flash sheet at tattoo parlors. These designs are some of the most popular tattoos around, and from that, they have made mastered the art. With simplistic air-like swirls that fit into any part of your body, this is a great entry level tribal tattoo.
10. Mexican Tribal Tattoos
Mexico is known for its fantastic art scene and quirky take on life, and this translates to their tattoos. From Aztec tattoo styles to Sugar skulls, it’s easy to pick and choose when it comes to Mexican tribal tattoos. Getting inspiration from their impressive architecture is also a great way to make your piece unique. The creativeness that this culture encourages makes the style a lot less intimidating than other tribal tattoos.
11. Vikings Tribal Tattoo
Seeing some of us have roots that stem from Vikings, getting a symbol that represents that is a no-brainer. Viking tattoos are a less popular style, so it’s unlikely you’re going to meet someone with the same tattoo as you. With their alphabet characters rarely being seen in modern tattoos, it’s guaranteed that your design will be unique.
12. Irish Tribal Tattoo
Irish and Celtic tribal tattoos are often very similar design-wise, but it largely varies depending on the area. The designs are heavier in shading and usually cover a larger area of the body. Irish tattoos are quirky and always look very traditional; it’s the kind of tattoo that won’t go out of style.
13. Aztec Tribal Tattoo
The ancient Aztec civilization was fascinating and existed in Central Mexico in the 14th to 16th centuries. They used body art for several purposes, including decorative and symbolic. Their inking could indicate social standing, honor the gods, and be worn to instill fear in their enemies. Warriors would have been adorned with body art that is visually striking and rich in symbolism. If you feel connected to the Aztecs or can trace your ancestry back to these peoples, you may be inspired to get an Aztec tribal tattoo. This could include important markings, including eagles, serpents, and calendars. Alternatively, you can choose an abstract design with patterns.
14. Small Tribal Tattoos
Tribal tattoos have different meanings depending on the culture they originate from. They can be large and detailed, cover much of the body, or small and simple. Regardless of the size, the importance remains the same. A small tattoo is appealing for men who want to hide their body art easily. You are also not limited in placement, allowing you to choose somewhere discreet like the inner wrist or make a bold statement with a neck or face inking. A small tribal design is a way to honor your ancestors and feel connected to your heritage, so choose wisely.
15. Simple Tribal Tattoos
Some tribal tattoos are incredibly detailed, while others are minimalistic and focus on the basics. Tribal markings differ from culture to culture, but examples include patterns and recognizable images such as flowers or animals. Its thick lines and black ink also define the tribal style. The lack of color and shading makes for a simple tattoo that is still symbolic. The placement of your chosen design is just as crucial as the inking itself. In some tribes, certain areas are sacred and reserved for the most important individuals or the highest accomplishments. Consider this before getting inked, as you do not wish to be offensive.
16. Tribal Forearm Tattoo
Tribal tattoos are a fantastic way to feel closer to your ancestors and honor your heritage. There is some debate about whether it is offensive to get tribal inking, but if you have researched your design, understood its symbolism, and chosen it for the right reasons, there should not be a problem. The forearm provides you with a versatile location if you want somewhere to show off your piece or cover it up easily. Forearm tattoos are popular for men because they let you look at your chosen design daily. They are also low on the tattoo pain chart scale and large enough to allow for a design with detail. Choose markings that wrap around the arm. Or focus on the inner side of the forearm for a more discreet option.
17. Tribal Sleeve Tattoo
Tribal markings can say a lot about the wearer, including determining marital status, social hierarchy, and achievements. They should be inked as a way to honor your culture and ancestry and should be worn with pride. There are several different designs to choose from, and the symbolism of your chosen imagery will depend on the culture you are inspired by. If you want a large and detailed piece, consider a sleeve tattoo. The beauty of sleeve designs is they are incredibly creative and often tell a story. A full sleeve will cover your entire arm up to your wrist and include several images of meaning to you. Sleeves are time-consuming to complete and expensive. They can also be painful, especially around the elbow and wrist. That said, the result is worth it, especially for a tattoo that is rich in meaning.
18. Tribal Armband Tattoo
If you want to show off your pride and your ancestry, a simple but effective way to do that would be with an armband tattoo. The appeal of these pieces is that they are highly decorative and often look as though you are wearing a piece of jewelry; the design will also mimic this as it wraps around your arm. Although the meaning behind the chosen pattern and imagery differs from culture to culture, armband tattoos are generally associated with strength and power. The arm also provides you with a versatile location for body art and can be shown off easily. This lets you wear your ink with pride.
19. Tribal Leg Tattoo
The appeal of leg tattoos is they are versatile. The leg provides you with a large area to get the design of your choosing, and you will not be restricted for size. The area can also be covered up easily or shown off when you want and is low on the pain scale, although the closer you ink the knee or inner thigh, the more discomfort you will experience. Tribal tattoos are often created in black ink and defined by thick black lines, giving them distinct appearances. These patterns will change from culture to culture, but choosing to get inked on the leg can also be flattering. The way the designs and images are inked could complement the natural curve of your leg and enhance your muscle tone.
20. Tribal Back Tattoos
Back tattoos are popular for men who want a large and detailed design. The area does not restrict you with space, allowing you to add several images and markings to create a deeply symbolic piece that tells a story. Alternatively, a small and simple design will look just as good here. In addition, the back is a versatile location that can be covered up easily and is ideal for someone who wants to keep their design private. It is also not considered high on the pain scale because of the thick skin, muscle, and fat. That said, the closer you ink toward the spine and hip bones, the more discomfort you will experience. A tribal tattoo can be created using unique patterns and lines or represent images of nature. Regardless of your design, the back provides the ideal canvas and can highlight your muscle definition.
21. Tribal Shoulder Tattoo
Shoulder tattoos are a placement that is often associated with strength and power. The area is also considered one of the most flattering and masculine parts of a man’s body. The location is versatile, allowing you to show it off when you want or cover it up. Plus, the shoulder is not susceptible to stretching and will not fade as fast as some other areas. You can also let your artwork cover part of your arm or back for more detailed pieces. Tribal imagery, or the more stylized tribal art style, looks great on the shoulder and can be designed to look as though it is moving with your body; the lines and angles will compliment your natural curves. The result is a striking and symbolic design that you will be proud of.
22. Tribal Hand Tattoos
Hand tattoos are a controversial location because of their visibility. Designs here often demand attention and are considered to be rebellious. That said, hand designs with tribal markings can be a way to show off the importance of your culture or what your heritage means to you and is a source of pride. The visibility can be positive, as you can look at your chosen tattoo every day and remind yourself of the importance behind it. It can also be a rite of passage or indicative of social status. That said, hand inking does hurt because of the thin skin, lack of muscle, and proximity to bone. It is not a location that should be decided on a whim, and you need to give some serious consideration to the pros and cons involved.
23. Tribal Face Tattoos
Tribal tattoos are important and culturally significant. They can tell a lot about the wearer, including their tribe, social standing, and achievements. Face tattoos are a bold and rebellious choice for regular ink, but for tribal designs, this location has significance and can be sacred. For example, the Maori Tā Moko tradition involves inking on the face and can show ancestry. Moko could also be inked for rites of passages, such as adulthood. If you are getting your body art because of its cultural significance, the pain is unlikely to deter you. That said, we should mention that face tattoos hurt. There is also still a stigma attached to getting inked, especially in locations that are so visible, so this is something to consider.
24. Tribal Neck Tattoos
Neck tattoos are an excellent choice for people who want visible body art and will make a statement. Unlike other locations, which can easily be covered with clothing or accessories, the neck is usually on display. The visibility is part of its appeal, but it can also be a drawback because of the stigma associated with tattoos. Designs here will hurt because of the thin skin, general sensitivity of the area, and the lack of fat and muscle. This is part of the appeal for some men because it shows that they could endure the pain. If you want to honor and celebrate your heritage, the neck may be a great choice. It could also have significance, depending on the culture.
25. Tribal Thigh Tattoo
The thigh provides one of the best placements for body art because it is versatile and low on the pain scale. The appeal of a thigh tattoo is that the area is large enough to allow for a detailed tribal marking and can include several images. Or you could keep your piece small and simple, which will be just as effective. The great thing about tribal designs is that they complement the body’s natural curves and enhance muscle tone. You can also cover up your inking easily or show it off when you want. In addition, the thick skin, muscle, and fat in the area make it one of the least painful locations to get inked, although the detail and how large your design is will impact your overall level of discomfort.
26. Tribal Wolf Tattoo
The wolf is an animal that has been valued by many cultures. It is often associated with loyalty, family, and protection but can symbolize strength and resilience. When deciding on a wolf tattoo, consider the culture you are honoring. For example, for many Native American tribes, the wolf has significance. Some have viewed the animal as having healing powers, while others link it to power, strength, and spirituality. If you opt for a tribal art style piece, this will usually involve limited detail and feature thick black lines. For a more detailed option, you can include intricate patterns and symbols.
27. Tribal Dragon Tattoo
The dragon has played an important role in many cultures and is often associated with wisdom, power, and fearlessness. Dragon tattoos can make visually interesting pieces and wrap around the body. The way many tribal pieces are designed can also give the illusion of movement as it complements the body’s natural lines and curves. You can opt for a large piece covering your entire arm or leg or keep it small and simple. The tribal art style is created with black ink and no shading, resulting in a very distinct appearance that often focuses on the basic form of the chosen image. Ink your dragon and wear it with pride as it symbolizes qualities that are important to you.
28. Tribal Lion Tattoo
A lion tattoo is a thoughtful and striking choice. The creature is greatly important to some cultures and represents courage and bravery. It is a symbol of wealth, royalty, and respect, and your inking could be a way to convey these qualities. The lion can also symbolize strength and power when shown with its mouth open and roaring. Pelts of lions were worn by some tribes and could distinguish social standing and achievements. When deciding on the design of your piece, consider the meaning it has to you. This is a wonderful way to honor your heritage. Or, you could opt for a more stylized version with the tribal art style. This is often with black ink, thick and purposeful lines, and slight shading.
29. Tribal Scorpion Tattoo
If you want to instill fear in someone or convey that you are not to be messed with, you can do this with a scorpion tattoo. The predatory arachnid is often associated with danger and pain but can also symbolize strength. They have also played a role in different cultures; for example, Borneo tattoos have featured a scorpion, or the Kala, which is what it is locally referred to. The Iban people have also used it. The symbol can be used by warriors and can protect them.
30. Tribal Sun Tattoo
Tribal inking can say a lot about the wearer, from social standing to marital status. They have played an important role in several tribes, who use their tattoos to convey a message of power, protection, strength, and much more. The sun is a universal symbol of light, guidance, direction, and life. A sun tattoo is often associated with birth and growth. Plus, it has been respected and feared by ancient peoples. For example, the Aztecs believed they had to perform blood sacrifices for the sun to continue to rise. Choosing a sun design is incredibly meaningful, and there is a wide range of styles to pick from; simple and minimalist or more detailed. Your placement can also play an important part in your decision. Different areas hold importance to various cultures, but you can consider places like the back or leg for a large and striking piece.
31. Tribal Turtle Tattoo
One of the most well-known tribal designs that feature a turtle is Polynesian. The turtle represents perseverance, resourcefulness, and longevity. It is also often associated with family. In addition to being a way to honor your culture and feel closer to your ancestors, you can also be inspired by the meaning related to your piece; it can serve as a reminder to live each day to its fullest. The placement of body art is significant for Polynesian tattoos, and you should consider this before choosing the location. The result is a striking and beautiful inking that is rich in meaning.
32. Tribal Bear Tattoo
The bear is a mighty animal feared and respected by humans. It is often associated with courage and power but can symbolize endurance and spirituality. Warriors have worn bear pelts to show their hunting skills and instill fear in others. They have also been worn to protect and channel the creature’s strength. For some Native American tribes, the bear is an important symbol of power and can be used for protection. It can also have a spiritual meaning. When deciding on your design, you can show the whole bear, or just its head. The bear’s paws and claws represent connection, protection, and leadership.
33. Tribal Cross Tattoo
The cross is a universally recognized symbol of faith and has been used to indicate devotion. It has also been a popular image to get done in the tribal art style, and this is the perfect option for someone who wants a striking design that stands out. The use of thick black lines gives the cross tattoo a very masculine feel, and it is excellent for the man who wants to show the world what his beliefs mean to him. When deciding on the placement, somewhere, you can view every day may be a good choice. You can remind yourself of the importance of your inking and the meaning associated with it.
34. Tribal Elephant Tattoo
Elephant tattoos are associated with strength, loyalty, prosperity, and family. They are an excellent choice for someone who values these qualities or wants to remind themselves of the importance of this symbolism. The tribal style uses black ink and patterns to create visually interesting artwork. You may choose to fill the outline of an elephant with symbolic markings or choose to keep it simple by focusing on the basic form of this gigantic mammal. When deciding on the placement, consider how big your design will be. For larger and more intricate pieces, the chest or back are fantastic locations for body art and will not restrict you with size or detail.
35. Tribal Eagle Tattoo
The eagle is a majestic bird that many cultures have prized. For the Aztecs, it was a sign of strength and power, and there was a division of warriors, the eagle warriors, who adorned themselves with feathers of the bird of prey. This was to show their strength and channel the eagle’s qualities during battle. Native American peoples have used the feathers for decorative and ceremonial purposes. Your choice of style for your eagle tattoo should depend on which culture has inspired you. It is important to understand the meaning behind tribal tattoos before replicating them, as you do not wish to be culturally insensitive.
36. Tribal Flower Tattoo
Tribal designs are a fantastic way to honor your heritage or feel closer to your ancestors. That said, in recent years, there has been a more modern approach to tribal tattooing, inspired by the style of the traditional inking. These are stylized designs that feature thick black lines and limited shading. Some also choose to incorporate color into their artwork, although this is less common. One design that would lend itself well to color is a flower tattoo. Blooms are associated with life, beauty, and growth. Different flowers also have importance to other cultures, and these peoples have a unique approach to their portrayal of them—for example, flowers in Polynesian body art.
37. Tribal Owl Tattoo
Tribal tattoos have played an important role in many cultures. There are different symbols and patterns associated with these cultures which are sacred and meaningful. Before inking anything, you should research what they mean and why they are important. The owl is a bird associated with wisdom and knowledge and respected and revered by many cultures. Your chosen design will be influenced by the culture that has inspired you, and the meaning attached to it will differ. The tribal style is very distinct, using thick black lines and limited shading. It can be basic, focusing on the bird’s outline or a detailed owl tattoo with interesting markings and patterns.
38. Tribal Tiger Tattoo
The style and meaning of tribal tattoos differ slightly from culture to culture, but they are generally markings with great importance. They are used to distinguish the wearer, tell a story about them, and honor their heritage. To show social standing and accomplishments and indicate that they are strong. For this reason, it is not surprising that a tiger tattoo is inked in the tribal style. The big cat is a fearsome and clever creature with excellent hunting skills. It is important to several Asian cultures and has featured in folklore. There are multiple designs to choose from, but the focus is mostly on black ink and interesting lines and curves that form a pattern. Wear your tribal tiger tattoo with pride and acknowledge what it means to you.
39. Tribal Heart Tattoo
The heart is a universally recognized symbol of love and commitment. It is simple and easy to tattoo and can be done in various sizes and styles. Your heart tattoo will focus on the tribal type of artwork and will typically be completed in black ink. Your piece can serve as a reminder of what is important in your life, including your culture and family. A modern approach to these designs could be inked as a memorial piece, paying tribute to someone you have loved and lost. Your body art can be abstract and more an expression of your feelings, or it can be a recognizable heart shape. The choice is yours, so work with your tattoo artist to find the option that best reflects the symbolism you want and your preferred style.
40. Tribal Feather Tattoo
Feathers have had great importance to several cultures and have served a decorative and symbolic purpose. Different birds also have varying symbolism associated with them; for example, an eagle represents power and courage. The Aztec warriors would adorn themselves with eagle feathers before going into battle to instill fear in their enemies and channel the bird’s strength. Native American tribes have used feathers on their arrows, clothing, and spiritual ceremonies. Your chosen feather tattoo style will depend on the culture you are connected to but do your research beforehand to ensure that you are not insensitive.
Tribal Tattoos FAQs
What does a tribal tattoo mean?
Tribal tattoos' meaning will change from culture to culture, and between designs. Many tell the story of the wearer's heritage, as well as achievements. They can also be a symbol of protection, power, and strength. It's essential to know the meaning behind each design element and the significance of placement.
Is it disrespectful to get a tribal tattoo?
Without a full and comprehensive understanding of the meaning and significance of tribal tattoos, yes, it's disrespectful. If a particular culture and their tattoo practices are of interest to you, you should research it thoroughly to appreciate it before you ink. You also need a unique design that's representative of you — never copy someone else's. Getting a tribal tattoo because they look cool is cultural appropriation and shows no respect for the tradition or culture.
Can I get a tribal tattoo?
Ideally, if you're considering a tribal tattoo, it's part of your culture, ethnicity, and heritage. In which case, it's not a problem. If it's not part of your heritage, but you have a full and comprehensive understanding and appreciation of the meaning and significance of tribal tattoos, it can also be ok. However, if you're getting it just because they look cool, it would be best to consider a different design.
Cailyn Cox holds a degree in journalism and has been working with The Trend Spotter as a writer for over ten years. She has worked with some of the most prestigious women’s and men's lifestyle publications. For her, writing is not just a job; it’s a passion, which is why each article she writes is approached with such enthusiasm and dedication. She has extensive knowledge of hairstyles, tattoos, and beauty and has made a career out of creating informative articles that appeal to women and men of all ages.
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