Your tattoos should be able to stand alone as pieces of art. Sure, if you have sleeves, legs and a torso full of sprawling tattoos, they might not all be winners. When you’re ready for your next tattoo, the tattoo artists and parlors below are some of the very best to do it.
While it may be more expensive or require a longer lead time to get a tattoo at one of the places below, you’ll be much happier with them later in life. Trust us, that one you picked off the wall at some hole-in-the-wall tattoo shop on the boardwalk is not as cool as you think. Stick and pokes done in your college dorm room? It’s going to be a no from us. Plus, anything you didn’t take care of using the best tattoo lotions, tattoo soaps and tattoo sunscreens might not look at good as they once did. And, last but not least, anything you got before you turned at least 21? Forget about it.
The best tattoos for men can be artistic, silly, sentimental or all of the above. If you need inspiration for your next ink, we’ve collected some of our favorite artists and men’s tattoo trends below. So keep reading to find tattoos for guys (and anybody else, too) to inspire you. Be sure to follow these tattoo parlors and artists on Instagram so that you can book them once the world finally starts opening up.
1. Abstract Symbolism by Bang Bang Tattoo Parlor
When getting a tattoo, much of the enjoyment comes from the story that goes along with it. Having decoration can be intriguing, but when you have an intricate, abstract piece of art on your body, you need an absolute professional to wield the tattoo gun. In the image below, no passerby can tell what exactly the wearer of the tattoo wants to convey. It’s mysterious and intriguing, a great combination to strive for with your ink!
2. Fine Line Work by Dr. Woo
Some tattoo ideas can start with only a basic image because they symbolize so much more! As the image is what is essential, it needn’t be cluttered unnecessarily. However, to add some style and artistic flair to the tattoo you’ll be putting on your body, add in single needle circles or detail as seen on this Elephant from LA Rockstar Tattoo Artist Dr. Woo. Just look at how gorgeous it becomes with the fine details, making it seem less like just an Elephant and more like a magnificent dream.
3. Script Tattoos
A mantra, phrase, song lyric or literary quotation may be significant to you, so much so that you wish to be reminded of it constantly and have it tastefully written on your skin. This has been one of the top tattoo trends among men and women in recent years. If the quote comes from someone close to you, you can even have it done in their handwriting to give it that personal touch.
One of the authors of this very piece has words from his late father on one inner bicep, and it’s his favorite of five tattoos! If not from a particular person, you should seek out someone who specializes in script tattoos so that the lettering is even, level and beautiful. This will, in 99/100 cases, mean you should NOT GET IT IN OLD ENGLISH FONT. And if you’re in New York City, seek out Hector Daniels of New York’s Bang Bang tattoo, a specialist in script tattoos.
4. Sailor Jerry-Style Tattoos by Old Ironsides
The old-timey nautical style of tattoos has recently made a resurgence due to their classic look and symbolism. Defined by their distinct black line around the edge, older-looking designs without much detail, and bold basic colors, these tattoos have meaning going back nearly 200 years. Swallows and Sparrows can symbolize survival of traveling over great distances, and ships and women can represent safe havens or part of your past. Old Ironsides, formerly Sailor Jerry Tattoo in Honolulu, is perfect for just such work… and you can enjoy a vacation while you’re there.
5. Stick and Pokes by Grey Fitzgerald
Grey (aka @grey.tattoos on Instagram) is a tattoo artist from Chicago who specializes in stick and poke tattooing. Stick and poke tattoos don’t require a gun, solely needle and ink. This handmade style of tattoos is popular among DIY punks (not to mention prison inmates), but it can also be used to great effect by professional tattoo artists. Grey’s work is wildly impressive with an amazing range that includes cute characters, florals, stars and more.
6. Gorgeously Precise Renderings by Miki
If you’re looking for the thinnest lines and most detailed work we’ve ever seen, look no further than tattoos crafted by Korean artist Miki (@_miki__kim on Instagram). Her work is heavily tied to Korean culture and features insane, gory and political imagery. Her artwork is so delicately tattooed on the skin that it’s almost beyond words. Miki tattoos primarily out of Seoul but hits the road occasionally when she can, and depending on where you are in this world, finding her could be a bit of a hike. All in all, to have a tattoo done by Miki will be well worth it.
7. Glitchy Lined Faces by Kevin Tattoos
If you ever get the chance to be tattooed by Brooklyn-based artist Kevin (@kevin.tattoos on Instagram), consider yourself so damn lucky. His artwork is aesthetically unmatched by any other artist we’ve seen, and his creations are beyond our level of tattoo knowledge. He uses thick and thin linework to create unimaginably unreal faces that glitch, slide and chop around in various arrangements. Stylistically, most of his faces are relatively the same, but they all come with a unique look and a feel of semi-tragic circumstances. One thing that’s for sure is Kevin has 100% mastered this technique, so don’t head to a random tattoo studio and try to recreate anything like this. If you’re going to get this style of tattoo anywhere on your body, hit up Kevin himself and get your ass to Brooklyn.
Below features a tattoo Kevin did on our editor Tyler Schoeber.
8. Face Tattoos
Face tattoos are very much on the rise. Hell, they might even be considered normalized nowadays. From Travis Barker to Lil Wayne to even Aaron Carter, face tattoos have become some of the most popular tattoos for guys to receive in 2022. Here’s the thing: make sure you know you want the tattoo forever and ever. You can cover up something on your arm, but it’s nearly impossible to do the same with your face.
9. Tribal Tattoos Inspired by Polynesian Tattoo Art
Quick disclaimer: if you do not have a distinct connection to the tribal tattoo you are getting, do not get it. They can quickly become trite and make you look ridiculous if you get them because you think they look cool. That said, if you do, the Polynesian tattooing culture is magnificent and can create beautiful works that follow the contours of your body, highlighting both your person and artwork. The Rock and his Samoan Heritage are a prime example thereof. As you can see in the post, not even the remarkable Ryan Reynolds can pull off the Tribal Tattoo without a connection like the Rock. Overall, tribal tats are some of the best-looking tattoos for guys that have a connection to the meaning.
10. Geometric Tattoos by Saved Tattoo
Beautiful design in the form of repeating lines and geometric symmetry, or, for that matter, asymmetry, can create a jaw-dropping effect that may not need to have as much meaning, but can instead be wearable art. Scott Campbell, celebrity tattoo artist and owner of Saved Tattoo in Brooklyn has created his own particular style of geometric tattoos. His combination of geometry and fine art side by side can create truly stunning pieces. In the example below, we see an incredibly detailed skull partnered with Campbell’s signature arrows and lines, which makes for a memorable tattoo for guys.
11. Family Portraits by Alican Gorgu
Looking for a totally unique way to commemorate your favorite family portrait? Istanbul-based artist Alican Gorgu (@pigmentninja on Instagram) creates beautiful color and black and grey faceless tattoos mimicking your most prized family photo. Although it’s pretty tough to get to Istanbul currently in the middle of a pandemic, when life is normal, Gorgu often travels to various locations around the world in order to reach more clients. Aside from this, you can also commission Gorgu for a drawing of any tattoo you may want to be done by a local artist instead. Her colorful line drawings aren’t too complex, so any reasonably talented tattoo artist should be able to handle the job.
12. Western Figures by John Starr at Gnostic Tattoo
Here’s another Brooklyn favorite. Gnostic Tattoo is home to John Starr (@johnstarr_ on Instagram), an artist specializing in custom and traditional tattooing. He has a specific knack for western figures, animals and old-school, pin-uppy portraiture. If you find yourself at Gnostic, be sure to get something from John — he simply kills it every time. Plus, western figures are baller. You’ll surely want one on your skin forever, no?
13. Tiny Tattoos by Brooke Candy
Have you ever wanted to get tatted by a musical artist? Well, you can. Brooke Candy is an influential name in the music scene just as much as she is in the world of tattooing. She picked up a tattoo gun during quarantine and hasn’t put it down since. But, because being tattooed by Brooke is more or less of a meet and greet, expect these to be pretty pricy even if they are small. Our editor Tyler Schoeber had a tattoo done by Brooke and loved every minute of his time with her. She was incredibly professional, super nice and the tattoo came out looking dope.