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30 Coolest Tribal Tattoos For Men

30 Coolest Tribal Tattoos For Men, October 31, 2019

by MWT Team

Dwayne Johnson wearing a tribal tattoo on his shoulder

Tribal Tattoos for Men

90's nostalgia doesn't seem to be going anywhere, and there are some fun trends that pop up as a result of the urge to throwback, reinvent, and rediscover old favorites.

Tattoos made their way into mainstream pop culture in the 90s and everyone across all genres was wearing them.

Think back to sexpot Pamela Anderson with her barbed wire and Tommy Lee with his Koi fish, Sporty Spice's Celtic cross and chain, or teen heartthrob turned reality star Nick Lachey's tribal ink.

Perhaps the most infamous example of 90's tattoo in Hollywood's A-list is Mike Tyson's tribal face tattoo.

Though he got the ink in 2003, the bold move encompasses that 90's dedication to self expression and letting your freak flag fly.



What Is A Tribal Tattoo?

Simply put, tribal tattoos are black and grey tattoos that features bold pattern designs, inspired by ancient warriors of a particular tribe or culture who used to wear these tattoos in order to intimidate their enemies.

Tribal tattoos for men are having a moment right now, and are one of the top requested designs in tattoo parlours.

Let's explore the trend, how did we get here and is tribal ink right for you?


Modern Moves On Throwback Trends

Tribal tattoos never went away, but they are definitely making a huge comeback, especially for men.

Tattooing has come a long way since the 90s and artists are exploring all kinds of new techniques in their art.

Not only that, but many enthusiasts are setting themselves apart by exploring old world techniques such as stick and poke, or Polynesian Tatau.

As a result, men can get that 90's homage with a more modern and individualized aesthetic.


Why Are Tribal Tattoos For Men Popular?

Many men are drawn to the idea of tribal tattoos because of their bold lines, and how the shapes conform to their muscles.

Tribal tattoos definitely enhance the male form, especially when considering the two most famous examples of tribal tattoos in Hollywood's current A-list.

Dating back to ancient times, tribal tattoos still are one of the most popular tattoos these days, Jason Momoa and Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson being credited with repopularizing this tattoo style.

The living legendary tribal tattoo artist Whang-od Oggay is the last remaining tattooist of her tribe in Philippines who practices the hand tapping tattoo technique, being featured in many TV documentaries and prestigious journals, which also helped in repopularizing tribal tattoos.


Celebrity Men With Tribal Tattoos

Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson has a traditional Polynesian Tatau, meaning he went to an artist who learned the technique as part of a family tradition that stretches hundreds of years into the past.

Polynesian Tatau are full of rich symbolism and tell the story of the wearer’s family.

It is a badge of honour to represent your family with a Polynesian Tatau because the process is long and painful - enduring the process means you are stepping into adulthood.

The ink is applied with handmade tools known as au ta - traditionally fashioned from a comb made of bone and piece of turtle shell tied together with coconut fibre onto a wooden handle.

The Tatau can take weeks to apply, and may not heal completely for a full year.

Tatau is not merely a beautiful aesthetic, it is a ritualized practice.

And a traditional artist won't give a piece to just anybody - they have to be part of the community.

Game of Thrones introduced us to another manly man with tribal ink: Jason Mamoa.

Though he wore some fake tattoos to play Aquaman, the man is no stranger to ink.

Mamoa is also Polynesian, and received an armband tattoo as an homage to his Native Hawaiian roots.

He has repeating rows of symmetrical triangles meant to represent shark teeth.

This is a reference to his family's guardian spirit: 'aumakuea. Having the ink on his body is meant to "take the darkness out of your heart and bring the light in" he says.

Of course, every guy dreams of having the good looks, muscled body and charisma of Jason Mamoa or Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. So these guys, in combination with our love of all things 90's, have brought the tribal tattoo into the spotlight.


Types Of Tribal Tattoos

Polynesian Tatau is only one form of tribal tattoo - the style can be inspired by different cultures.

Many tribal tattoos for men feature Native American imagery; including dream catchers, totem animals, and head dresses.

These images, like Polynesian Tatau patterns, are deeply significant to the Native American culture - and should not be worn lightly.

In traditional Native American culture a tattoo has spiritual meaning, and a design is carefully chosen based on the tribe you belong to and the qualities you wish to invoke.

Tribal tattoos for men could also be influenced by Celtic traditions.

Celtic warriors would often wear tribal designs in battle.

These designs may have included the pure knot to symbolise eternal life, swirls and trinities to represent nature and motion, or power animals such as a dragon.

Some tribal tattoos hold no cultural significance and are just bold lines that curl themselves across the body in interesting shapes.

Many men opt for "Superman Tribal" - Tribal lines around the Superman logo, or "Rose Tribal" - a combination of feminine grace and masculine strength.


Is It Alright To Get A Tribal Tattoo?

Though tribal tattoos are popular for men, many people are starting to ask themselves about cultural appropriation and if tribal tattoos are included in that.

For years, many people chose tattoos based on what was pleasing to the eye.

The problem with that is - that design means something to somebody.

Many cultures have been persecuted for their beliefs, cast out, or asked to cover up the things that identify them as "other" in Western society.

To then choose a design at random as someone who has never been a part of that culture feels flippant and insulting.

If you feel in your heart that a tribal tattoo is right for you - do your research.

Your family probably has a fascinating history, and you can follow in Jason Mamoa or Dwayne Johnson's footsteps by finding a way to honor that history with your tattoo.

Alternatively, educate yourself on the culture you want to pay homage to with your tattoo.

Work with the community, read about the history, and speak to Elders about your wish to get a traditional tattoo from their culture.

There is a big difference between cultural exchange and cultural appropriation.


Are Tribal Tattoos a Passing Fad?

People from different ancient practices will continue to honour their legacy with tattoos - so tribal tattoos aren't going anywhere.

Tribal tattoos for men will always be around- but the trend of getting a tribal tattoo from a particular culture, without first knowing the significance behind the art, is most likely on its way out.

Take your time before choosing your artwork!

There are so many stories of people who read one article, think they know what a tattoo means and get the ink, only to find out later that the significance is completely different than their original intention!

If a tribal tattoo feels right for you, by all means - go ahead.

Just make sure you've really thought about it.


Tribal Tattoo Photo Gallery

Tribal tattoos require a high pain tolerance, but being an adaptable tattoo style you can opt for getting a small tribal tattoo in a less sensitive skin area.

Tribal tattoos for men can be a beautiful expression of your masculinity and heritage.

Aesthetically they will highlight your body shape and make your muscles pop with their bold lines.

From forearm tattoos to large sleeve tattoos, we gathered the best photos to familiarize with tribal tattoos!

Starting to think about getting inked? Check out our gallery below for some inspiration.


1

Jason Momoa wearing a tribal tattoo on his forearm Photo credits


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Dwayne Johnson wearing a tribal tattoo on his shoulder Photo credits


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Man wearing a sleeve tribal tattoo on his arm Photo credits


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Man wearing a sleeve tribal tattoo on his left arm Photo credits


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Man wearing a tribal tattoo on his forearm Photo credits


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Man wearing a sleeve tribal tattoo on his arm Photo credits


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Man wearing a tribal tattoo on his forearm Photo credits


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Man wearing two tribal tattoos on his knee and his calf Photo credits


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Man wearing two tribal tattoos on his legs Photo credits


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Man wearing a sleeve tribal tattoo on his leg Photo credits


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Man wearing two tribal tattoos on his thighs Photo credits


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Man wearing a tribal tattoo on his shoulder Photo credits


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Man wearing a tribal tattoo on his arms and his chest Photo credits


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Man wearing a large tribal tattoo on his arms, chest and abdomen Photo credits


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Man wearing a large tribal tattoo on his chest Photo credits


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Man wearing a tribal tattoo on his chest and arms Photo credits


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Man wearing a large tribal tattoo on his back Photo credits


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Man wearing a sleeve tribal tattoo on his arm Photo credits


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Man wearing a large tribal tattoo on his back and arms Photo credits


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Aquaman wearing a large tribal tattoo Photo credits


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Man wearing a tribal tattoo on his arm and his chest Photo credits


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Man wearing a bracelet tribal tattoo on his forearm Photo credits


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Man wearing a sleeve tribal tattoo on his leg Photo credits


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Man wearing a sleeve tribal tattoo on his arm Photo credits


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Man wearing a  full body tribal tattoo Photo credits


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Man wearing a Samoan tribal tattoo on his back Photo credits


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Man wearing two sleeve tribal tattoos on his arms Photo credits


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Man wearing a sleeve tribal tattoo on his arm Photo credits


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Man wearing a sleeve tribal tattoo on his arm and chest Photo credits


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Man wearing a full bodysuit tribal tattoo Photo credits


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


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