In case we haven’t been clear, let us say it one more time loudly for those in the back: No one should have to defend their choice of tattoos nor the placement of them. But despite our opinion, neck tattoos have had a real bad rep, historically speaking. Often negatively associated with jail, gangs, and ultimately, criminality, tattoos on one’s neck, hands, and face seem to be up there as most frowned upon. While tattoos in general have made their way from counterculture to mainstream (you could argue musicians have had a big hand in this), it was only a matter of time before the more taboo tattoo placements rose in popularity and acceptance as well.
But if you take a scroll through #necktattoo on Insta, you still might think, “Whoa, these are intense,” when looking at the pics. Yet it’s important to realize that more modern, maybe less-aggressive, neck tattoos are popping up right under our noses (or should we say, chins?).
Take Justin and Hailey Bieber’s recently published wedding pics, where her new neck tattoo by L.A. artist Dr. Woo is on full display. And the newlyweds aren’t the only celebs bringing neck tattoos into the spotlight. Artists like Ariana Grande, Rihanna, Halsey, Sophia Richie, and Kehlani have long been paving the way for popular culture to accept this placement. Check out 14 non-aggressive neck tattoos for some inspo below—or in case you still need convincing that this placement can be just as pretty as any other.
1. Twice as nice
Maybe it’s just us, but we think it’s something special when one tattoo artist leaves their work on another artist. Lara Maju left these delicate, hand poked, ornamental pieces on artist Rosa Laura. On the lower part of the neck, this tattoo would only ever-so-slightly peek out from a classic crewneck tee.
2. Delicate dotwork
Another source of effortless symmetry comes from Toronto artist Bryndon Shepherd. Here, he frames the client’s existing neck tattoos, almost creating a sense of unity between them all through his dotwork. “I thought this kind of design would be great for a neck piece because it has nice simple, elegant-looking shapes. It’s open, and it’s not too heavy,” Shepherd tells Inside Out. “I like to think about how it would look on the body close up and afar. This style of work is more design-based than illustrative, and meant to adorn the body in a more ornamental way as opposed to saying something with an image. This kind of work needs to flow nicely in conjunction with the shape of the body to have the final impact. This is one of the reasons why I really like doing pieces symmetrically.”
3. Free falling
This minimally-outlined duo was done by UK artist Yoyo. “My client wanted a custom piece on his neck, something delicate and that is quite different from what we usually see in terms of neck tattoos,” they tell Inside Out. “As he was going through a bit of a personal transformative period, and as such a tattoo must be done. He requested a design idea where a red figure is leaving a black one, ascending towards something, with the black one sort of bent over like it’s being shed.”
4. A seriously cute cockroach
We never thought the day would come that these words would be uttered, but that is an extremely good-looking cockroach. What could be seen as a grotesque insect—and as a result a potentially stomach-turning tattoo—is actually pretty playful. Although placed directly in the middle of the client’s neck, the asymmetrical nature of the design helps to make it a little more relaxed. We’re at the point where this piece has even got us wondering if, like neck tattoos, cockroaches have unfairly been given a bed rep.
5. Free bird
Unless you’re ornithophobic, there’s nothing scary to be said about birds or this piece. Maybe it’s the fact that it’s paired with a quote about love and an outline of a heart, but this tattoo just gives us all of the soft, gentle, romantic feels. The artist carefully used white ink to create depth with natural shading, a technique often used for more complex tattoos.
6. So supernatural
You don’t need to go storming area 51 to find extraterrestrial life—you can just hit up your fave alien-friendly artist. In Mira Mariah’s signature script, she adorns the side of her client’s neck with the word “alien” paired with an added lil’ spark. Is the spark from a shooting star? A UFO? We’ll add that to the list of unknowns about outer space.
7. A wreath redux
These flowing flowers start at the chest and work their way up. The centered-but-not-quite placement of this design enhances the organic feel of the design itself. But before you go ahead and try and book an appointment with Toronto’s highly sought-after Jess Chen, know that her bookings are currently closed. It appears she’s exploring other avenues for her art, such as ceramics, print, and ready-to-wear apparel. (We’re so down for some Jess Chen merch, for the record.)
8. Heart of the matter
We’re not saying you ~have~ to wear hoop earrings that perfectly frame your tiny neck tattoo, but it is a nice touch. Whether you choose to get a heart tattoo for your significant other, friends, family, or for your damn self, there’s something about the intimacy of neck tattoos that makes this design feel extra personal.
9. Be (Bieber?) my lover
With a whopping 22.6 million followers on Instagram, we can’t help but think that Hailey Bieber’s latest neck tattoo might influence a new wave of clients. Done by one of LA’s celebrity artists Dr. Woo—who has an impressive 1.6 million plus followers on IG himself—the soft cursive script curves gently around the side of the supermodel’s neck. If you’re wondering how he consistently gets such fine lines and stunning detail, it all comes down to working with single-needle tattooing.
10. Jewelry redefined
This incredibly delicate piece is even deeper than we could’ve imagined. Featured in the exhibit “Documenting The Body” at the Immigration Museum in Melbourne, Australia, this piece brings together tattoos and jewelry to form a single composition. We’ll try not to butcher the rest of the explanation, but we *strongly* encourage you read the caption for yourself.
11. All the way down
While a lot of neck tattoos start and end at the neck, they certainly don’t have to. Don’t believe us? Just check out this piece by Montreal-based artist Marc Bonin (who has also spent some time at Inside Out studio). The sketched anatomical heart traces down the neckline and plants its roots close to the client’s actual heart.
It might be obvious, but artists are often inspired by other artists. Here we see how Brittany Randell got some serious inspo from Michelangelo in this recreation of The Creation of Adam.
13. Au natural
As with some other pieces by this Korean artist, what might typically require a touch-up turns into something beautiful. In their words, they explained how the client originally thought they had to get the lines touched up to become darker and clearer, but after some thoughtful reflection they stuck to their original intention: “There are sets of moments that don’t know what they are. Away from the joy of strong conviction, you must endure the wait required by a faint and unclear attitude. Sometimes, instead of having to endure something in response to that demand, it could be fun to ask for that wait as well.”
14. Blooms upon blooms
Reinstating the fact that not all tattoos have to have meaning, this client simply got this piece purely for her love of flowers. “My neck piece was just another cute kind of moment for me,” explains Mei Pang in one of her tattoo tour YouTube videos. “I love flowers. It’s as simple as that.” Fun fact: most of Pang’s tattoos are symmetrical, so what she carries on one side of the body is mirrored on the other, with nearly all done by artist Corben Matsell-Savage.
If you liked our post 14 Ideas for Neck Tattoos That Aren’t Aggressive at All, make sure to check out 15 Space Tattoos That Are Actually Out of This World.