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25 Beautiful Samoan Tattoos For Men

The Revival Of Tatau: 25 Beautiful Samoan Tattoos For Men, October 12, 2019

by MWT Team

Man wearing a samoan tattoo on his shoulder

The Artistry Of Traditional Samoan Ink

Tattoos are becoming more commonplace for people from all walks of life.

While only a few years ago it was thought of as a rebellious act in pop culture, these days even the most "vanilla" person might choose to get inked.

While freedom of expression is encouraging, it's hardly exclusive to hipsters.

Since the beginning of time, people across the globe have found ways to show off their individuality, assert their religious beliefs, or tell their story without saying a word.

There is a fascinating history behind tattoo art, and choosing a design isn't always as simple as browsing Instagram.

Many people believe the practice of tattooing began in Polynesia with Samoan tattoos, known as Tatau.

What are Samoan Tattoos?

Samoan tattoos, also known as Polynesian tattoos, are a deeply significant cultural practice.

The most recognizable Polynesian male with traditional ink is none other than Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson.

He owes his Samoan heritage to his mother's side of the family, and wears his ink with pride.

With such a pillar of masculinity sporting Samoan tattoos, it's no wonder the style has become so popular.

Samoan tattoos are one of the many styles that can sometimes be lumped in with "tribal" art.

But you should probably know what tribe your design is from and what it signifies before leaping into making a permanent mark!

While anyone could go to a modern tattoo parlour with a photo of a Samoan inspired design, it's a longer, more ritualistic journey to the real thing.

Where did the Tatau Practice Begin?

A Samoan legend tells of two sister Goddesses, Taema and Tilafaiga, who brought the practice of tattooing to Samoa and Tonga. The sisters were meant to say that the practice of tattooing was for women by women. However, they became seasick and confused, saying the practice was made for men.

There are some women in Samoa with Tattoos, known as Malu. But it has been a largely male dominated practice, the technique passed down from father to son. Male tattoos are referred to as Pe'a.

For any gender, choosing to receive a traditional tattoo means you are moving into adulthood and ready for the responsibilities that come with it.

Tools of the Trade

The people of Samoa have never updated their technology for tattooing.

This is most likely because of the ritualistic element to the practice.

A traditional tatau is applied with sharpened boar's teeth, bound together with a piece of turtle shell and fastened to a wooden handle.

This tool is then hit with a small mallet to make an impression on the skin.

The ink is a paste made from the soot of burnt candlenut shells and mixed with coconut oil.

The Honour of Wearing a Samoan Tattoo

Male tattoos in Samoa are very large, and can take weeks or even months to complete.

Everything, from the tattooing itself to the healing afterward, is time consuming and painful.

This is a point of pride, and a symbol of maturity as well as the sacrifices a young adult will make for their community.

To not be able to complete the tattooing process brings shame to a family's reputation.

A tatau is meant to tell the wearer's life story, and will be specially designed by the artist to do so.

It is not unheard of for a non Samoan person to receive a traditional Polynesian tattoo, but it won't happen overnight.

A visitor will need to go to Samoa and prove themselves to the community, which may take years.

Sure, anyone can ask for a Polynesian inspired design at their local tattoo shop, but it will be a shallow representation of this deeply significant practice.

Common Themes in Tatau

Every Samoan tattoo is one of a kind, but there are some common images used in each piece.

This may include shark teeth, spearheads, ocean waves, tiki figures, and more. The meaning behind each of these images will change depending on their placement and the person wearing them.

Samoan Tattoos Photo Gallery

From sleeve tattoos to bracelet tattoos, we got everything covered. Take a look and let us know which tattoo is your favorite one!


Samoan tattoo designs on leg Photo credits


Samoan tattoo design on the human body Photo credits


Man wearing a Samoan tattoo on his chest Photo credits


Man with a Samoan tattoo design on his arm Photo credits


Two hands with Samoan tattoo designs Photo credits


Boy with Smaoan tattoo on his arm Photo credits


Man with a Samoan tattoo on his chest Photo credits


Man with Samoan tattoo design on his shoulder Photo credits


Boy with Samoan tattoo design on his left shoulder Photo credits


Small Samoan tattoo design on arm Photo credits


Man wearing a Samoan tattoo on his biceps Photo credits


Boy wearing a half sleeve Samoan tattoo Photo credits


Large Samoan tattoo design on the arm Photo credits


Man wearing a Samoan tattoo on his forearm Photo credits


Man wearing a Samoan tattoo on his elbow Photo credits


Elbow Samoan tattoo Photo credits


Man wearing a small Samoan tattoo on his right elbow Photo credits


Large Samoan tattoo on the elbow Photo credits


Large black and grey Samoan tattoo on the shoulder Photo credits


Man wearing a Samoan tattoo on his calf Photo credits


Man with large Samoan tattoo on his calf Photo credits


Man with a Samoan tattoo sitting on a chair Photo credits


Man wearing a full sleeve Samoan tattoo Photo credits


Muscled man wearing a samoan tattoo Photo credits


Man wearing a samoan tattoo on his back Photo credits

To Sum Up...

Samoan tattoos are striking in appearance, and we all want to be a little more like The Rock.

But sometimes there's more to a cool piece of ink than meets the eye, and it's worth understanding the backstory before you dive in.

It's fun to appreciate a culture and the beautiful practices that come with it, but wearing a design you know nothing about isn't always a great move.

You should choose something that speaks to you in every way, and comes from the heart.

If a Samoan tattoo doesn't feel right for you, try exploring your own lineage for some inspiration!

What's your favourite samoan tattoo? Tell us here!

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