Every tattoo tells a story. Whether your design is highly personal or something you decided to get just for fun, it’s a reflection of you. And part of the beauty of tattoos is that they tell our ongoing stories. We evolve as people. The person you are now and your beliefs, style, and values are likely different from the person you were five years ago. As a result, our tattoos may not always reflect who we are at present. In this sense, a tattoo is similar to a photo in a scrapbook; it reflects only a fleeting moment in our lives.
Typically we use tattoo designs to tell our stories, but what about design location? Does placement also factor into the stories our tattoos tell? The short answer is: yes, your tattoo location can certainly give onlookers some insight into who you are. But there’s no science when it comes to what your tattoo placement says about you.
Perhaps your tattoo location says nothing about you and you chose it entirely based on your artist’s feedback. Alternatively, your placement may reveal quite a lot about your values. Maybe you care deeply about family, for instance, so you got a tattoo dedicated to them and placed it right over your heart. If the descriptions below don’t reflect you though, don’t worry. Ultimately all that matters when you’re getting a tattoo is that you’re happy with the design and where it’s going. With that in mind, we chatted with tattoo artists and clients to find out what you can learn about someone from the location of their ink.
Bold tattoo aficionado: hand, front and side of neck, and face
Sporting a tattoo in a central, highly visible location is a bold decision. If you already have (or are considering getting) a tattoo on your hand, the front or side of your neck, or your face, you might be a risk taker and you’re likely very confident in your style. Chances are, according to Mira Miriah, a Brooklyn-based tattooer who recently got her own hands tattooed, that you already have quite a few tattoos and if not, you’re probably an aficionado who plans to get more ink in the future. You know people are going to see your tattoos and maybe you enjoy that thought. You might assume that some of those people will judge you for your tattoo choices, but that doesn’t bother you.
In short, you’re a confident tattoo lover. That’s what your tattoo placement says about you here, and it says it loud and clear.
Cautious client: ribs, inner bicep, feet, and back
I was very cautious the first, second and third time I got tattooed. My first tattoo was on my upper back, and my second and third were on my ribs. Like many other people easing their way into lifelong body art, I chose placements that were easy to hide for my first few designs.
Speaking with tattooers, this is an approach that many people take when determining the location of their first design. “I still find this very surprising, but I get a lot of first tattoo rib requests,” says Portland-based artist Mariah Woodman. “The torso is a notoriously painful area but I think a lot of people want their first tattoo to be somewhere a bit more private.” If you’re wearing ink on your ribs, feet, inner bicep or back, what your tattoo placement says about you is likely quite simple: you wanted a tattoo in a place that felt safe. This isn’t a bad thing! Tattoos are for you, so do whatever leaves you feeling your best.
Accessorizer: fingers and ears
Tattoos are permanent accessories. If you’re considering getting a tattoo in one of these areas, you’re likely an accessorizer.
Perhaps you enjoy the added flair to your appearance that a good pair of shoes, a hat, a necklace, rings, or earrings can provide. Alternatively, like me, maybe you’ve never been a big accessory wearer but like the thought of having something permanent adorning your extremities so you don’t need to think about what accessories you’ll put on in the morning. Regardless, you’re into visual representations of the self and appreciate a good accessory when you see one.
Deeply personal or sentimental: thigh, ribs, chest, upper arm
Individuals who get very personal tattoos tend to choose similar locations to those frequented by cautious first-timers. These areas (thighs, chest, ribs, and upper arm) are easily hidden, yes, but rather than reflecting a desire for safety in this case, they more closely reflect a desire for privacy. A friend of mine recently got two very personal tattoos in memory of her grandma in two of these locations. Another friend admits the reason they got their tattoo on their thigh was precisely because it was so personal. It’s a design for them, not for onlookers. And it’s for this same reason that I choose my upper arm for tattoos that remind me of my loved ones.
The loud and proud, and daring first-timer: forearm
When asked why she chose the placement of her first tattoo, Woodman explains, “I went with the forearm because I wanted to show it off. I got it on my 18th birthday and although I don’t hate it now, I definitely would have filled that space with something cooler if I had waited a year or two.” Unsurprisingly, the forearm is a popular location for many first-timers who know they’ll end up with a larger collection of tattoos in the future. They want ink they can show off, and this high-visibility, low-pain area is the perfect spot.
But the forearm is also incredibly popular for people who already have ink. In that case, maybe what your tattoo placement says about you is that you’re proud of your designs and want others to enjoy them too.
Already covered: anywhere the ink fits
Sometimes your tattoo placement doesn’t say anything about you. If you’re covered in tattoos, for example, you’ll probably put a new design wherever it fits. Mariah admits that as a heavily tattooed individual, this is something she does all the time. In any case, your tattoo design choices are more reflective of who you are than your choice of placement, and your tattoos tell stories regardless.
If you liked our post, What Your Tattoo Placement Says About You, check out The Best Ways to Prepare for a Tattoo.