10 Tattoo Cliches To Avoid At All Cost

Written by Kate Sedgwick

Feature photo by Jessica Driver / Above photo by Timm Williams

If you have tattoos (like me) then you know that people are often asking for advice about being inked. If you’re not tattooed, here is a short guide to some mistakes to avoid.

Before you go under the needle, have a look to see what the following might say about you.

Photo by Enricus

Tribal Band/Barbed Wire – Upper Arm

This tattoo proclaims you as a member of the tribe, that’s true. The sad part is that the tribe in question is the “sub-literati.”

Super Hard Neck Tattoo

The placement implies anything but hardness, no matter the subject matter. This is the mark of the young man with erectile dysfunction, or at the very least, a premature ejaculator. Can you say overcompensation? Go ahead and try again. I’m willing to be patient.

Garden Variety Butterfly Tramp Stamp

Beware the secret garden below. The butterfly belies a much more sinister truth, and though the garden is sure to be properly pruned, the implication that insect life may seek exodus from the deep cleavage below may not be so far off the mark.

Look At My Boobs Sacred Heart

Frank Zappa had it right about you Catholic girls. Too many years cooped up with the same sex have you making this desperate and permanent plea for male attention that you reiterate every time you “forget” to close those top buttons.

Photo by goodeye03

Any Placement Of A Dolphin

Bad enough on a necklace or a t-shirt, the dolphin tattoo indicates a desire to be seen as peace and earth loving. The bad news is that you were probably inspired to get it after an alcohol fueled domestic abuse disturbance that resulted in your arrest.

Nautical Star

Would you cut it out already? The closest you’ve been to the open water is happy hour near the naval base during shore leave.

Photo by haycarrieanne

Angel Wings On The Back

In your desire to be different, you committed the error of putting puny, atrophied angel wings on your back in an indelible medium. Were they suddenly to become corporeal, you’d be left with useless nubs that make getting dressed impossible. Shows severe spatial orientation issues.

Flower On The Ankle

The design you picked out gave you a familiar, warm-fuzzy feeling. It’s unfortunate that you failed to recognize it was because it resembled the packaging on your favorite feminine hygiene product. A future of daytime soaps awaits you.

Tazmanian Devil

Any Looney Tunes character pretty much says the same thing, but Taz is the mark of the beast – as in Old Milwaukee. The calling card of the unemployable, the Tazmanian Devil shows a character deficit that pretty much guarantees you will complacently be the recipient of public assistance for the rest of your life.

Low-Abdominal, Sub-Navel Tribal

Your shirt’s too short and your pants are too low and that means we can all see your belly tattoo. With or without a belly button ring, this almost definitely indicates a cavalier approach to birth control. Pretty soon, your tattoo will be ravaged by your impending and unplanned pregnancy.

38 thoughts on “10 Tattoo Cliches To Avoid At All Cost

  1. John

    Kate, I don’t know what your tattoo says about you but the fact that you have at least one, and then bash everyone else for theirs, screams that you need counseling.

    1. Trina

      Okay, you guys took this beyond personally, she was pointing out tattoo cliches. And she was right, all those tattoos are all pretty cliche. I think a tattoo should be personal and original, not something trending. Just saying..

    2. hollie

      I have two tattoos and counting. I think its weird no one has mentioned anything about religous tats or tats with their kids names or tats of loved one that have passed. Tats themselves are cliche, but then again, what isnt these days? We have the dumb blondes, slutty burnettes, flammin gays, manly butch b*tches. Come on, I believe this site was to relay a message about how the public may view you accordng to your tat and its place on your body. Would it be cliche for us all to say opinions are like a$$holes, everybody has one but some smell worse than others. I guess the same is with tats, you don’t have to like my tat, and you don’t have to look at it either. I do however, in my opinion, think that some people take tats to the extreme. I would never recomend getting tats that can keep you from gainful employment. Employers only think about their customers and don’t want to hire someone with tatts all over them exposed to frighten granny away, just sayin…

      1. IamCliche

        Your a cliche. This world and all its inhabitors are CLICHES. The word cliche, is a cliche.

  2. Travis

    Pretty funny that you can claim to have a tat, only to talk trash about people who have them. I guess youre that fat girl in high school who was made fun of constantly so now you use the internet and your dry wit to insult anyone willing to listen to your tripe.

    All youre doing is coming across as a hypocrite b*tch. Nice.

    1. None of your damn business

      I’m guessing you were the stuck-up jock who was to good to talk to the fat girls in high school. Now that you’re old and not in the spotlight anymore you probably use the internet to whack off.

  3. Chandler

    How could you miss the infamous “Tramp Stamp” tattoo?! This tattoo marks nearly every skeez’s lower back. At least a top 3 tattoo cliche…

  4. West Coast

    This is just a bitchy commentary that lacks depth of the topic (tattoos) and pose. I see no intelligence on your part as an author not your style that you are an interesting person.

  5. Dee

    Here’s an old gals opinion :
    Saw a beautiful young woman with a large tat showing below her navel level T-shirt ….. and mistook it for rampant PUBES.
    Ugh, ugh, ugh.
    OK – so my eyesight is not so good anymore, but, omg, I hate to think what that butterfly/whatever tat is going to turn into after child bearing.

    And whilst working in Taiwan, a colleague very proudly showed his Manadarin ‘love’ tattoo that turned out to actually translate to something like ‘Pigs Bum’ – so beware!

  6. jellrun

    oh girl…i am a tatooer…still dont know why poeple do this ore that…but 4 u i have a good advice…why u dont try a common mans inside heater..may helps..lol

  7. Amanda

    Um, Okay there . . . im 17 and have 2 tattoos and they are perfect. I have a mother daughter and my first one was with my dad. And also, i plan on getting many more. There is nothing wrong with tatoos if you get them tastefully. . . .Ur dumb.

  8. Smiley

    How cliche! A fad whose time has come and gone. No one is creative anymore; everyone just follows the leader (be it a movie or TV star or an athlete). Sad that we have become a nation of pretenders. Why not make something of your life rather than blemish what God gave you?

  9. Fey

    Hmm….Considering those ‘Cliches’, I think that maybe you need to re-evaluate what’s going on. A tattoo is an expression of a person’s inner self. A Faerie holding a rose with blood from a thorn, Angel wings on the back, hell even band insignias all show something about someone.

    You need to start seeing people for people and not what their tats say about their ‘problems’ or anything like that. I may not have a tat yet, but I will soon and one of those listed might just be my choice.

  10. Brian

    Wow you people are harsh! I think to each their own, but i happen to agree with some of the spots you write about. I currently have 7 tatts and counting, all strategically placed because i work in corporate america. I have one bad drunken tribal on my leg, but other than that all of mine are original and unique, they also have much meaning to me. Tattoos can go either way, classy or trashy…and what you listed are the trshy ones. And the quote from Smiley “Why not make something of your life rather than blemish what God gave you” I have made something of my life, i am a mature, responsible, 20 something yearold who makes high six figures. I have made an exeptional life and complimented my body that god gave me with meaningful art.

  11. Smiley

    I just found this in an old posting. Seemed to capture the essence of my earlier post. Cheers!

    Once the symbol of nonconformity in a hopelessly conservative political landscape, the tattoo has now become the exact opposite – total conformity posing as nonconformity. Like when emo kids pretend they’re all total individuals that nobody understands, but they all somehow manage to look, sound, and act the same. Tattoos have taken on many different meanings in modern society: men with any sort of oriental symbol tattooed on their arms or torso are generally pretentious, pseudo-political douchebags. Guys with barbed wire circling their arms tend to be insecure assholes who probably work out a lot, refer to themselves as “badasses,” and secretly hate everything about who they are. Granted, there are still those older men who got tattoos back when they actually meant something, but they are a dying breed in the face of this new wave of tattooed douchebaggery – the men who were getting inked back in the day are forced to watch, horrified, as an entire generation of neo-yuppies singlehandedly steals one of their generational symbols and perverts it beyond all recognition.

  12. Trisha

    I have 3 differant tatoo’s some of which you have down graded, however each and every one of mine I put alot of thought into and they have special meaning. Since you say you have a tatoo here is an bit of advise; people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.

  13. Megan

    its an opinion site. everyone thinks everyone else is an idiot. tattooed or not, you have to admit a lot of people run around with the things listed above. if you get offended over a website like this, you need to get over your egomania and laugh at it. that’s all it is; just a satirical observation. its hard to imagine anyone getting pissy over a web article thinking of something permanent to place on their body anyway.

  14. Kevin

    Nice! There need to be more blogs like this. You forgot Chinese or Japanese scripts, though: the biggest cliche of them all.

    I think this is akin to songwriting advice blogs: lyrical cliches to avoid. The problem is creator myopia, i.e. it’s easier to see problems and unoriginality in other people’s work. Songwriters seriously think they are being original when they say “When I look into your eyes” and “I’ll be there for you,” and “When my back’s against the wall,” etc.

    And I’m sure people get upset when you point out that something PERMANENT they have committed their life to, a tattoo, is not as ‘unique’ as they thought it was. The mass public, judging by music and movie charts, have notoriously bad taste and doesn’t actually want something original and interesting but, instead, usually goes for tired, formulaic, trite, hackneyed and easily-digestible material.

    But that’s fine because that helps the indie hipsters feel more interesting, and there’d be an overwhelming amount of excellent material otherwise. And then again, the important thing about a tattoo is that it means something significant to the person. Why does it matter if it’s ‘original’ and ‘unique’? Tattoos are by nature iconic, and icons are inherently cliche. If a person is a Christian and wears a cross, is that a cliche or a connection to a tradition that is meaningful to her or him? Part of tattooing is a sense of belonging and connection , literally marking out a connection to other like-minded people and signally a connection to a commitment to body art and the malleability of the body. As you know, tattoos emerged from tribal scarification of the flesh and often served as rites of passage, marking out the person as a fully-fledged member of the community.

    That being said, your article is very important since it makes people in the market for a tattoo more self-critical and aware about their choice of image. At least if they get the dolphin on the ankle, etc. it will be with the full awareness that it’s a cliche, and that’s better than blind ignorance that it is. The point of a tattoo is that someone is choosing to do it.

  15. Kevin

    Oops, sorry about my typo on has/have on my post. “Mass public” is a collective noun so it should be “has.” Hopefully the grammar police will not arrest me.

  16. Renee

    So much hate! It is astounding to see people be so judgmental. People either feel one extreme or the other, either pro tattoo and oooh it defines the inner me, or hating on them saying they are stupid and cliche. Its like discussing music with a 10th grader, no more basis in reality then flying dragons. Way I figure it is this, the only opinion you should even bother making about tattoos is whether or not you’re going to get one. Who cares if anyone else does?

  17. Chuckles

    i agree with renee. judgin ppl with steriotypes and “cliches” is just jacked up. let the ppl do wut they want. who cares why they do wut they do? its their life.

  18. Tatted Up.

    I have a fairy and butterfly tattoo. I honestly was bummed that it was a fad. But my Native American name given by my paternal grandma translates to butterfly, and my maternal grandmother, has always loved fairies and gardens and has surrounded me with fairy gifts since I was little. Though my tattoo may look like a cliche, it has a lot of meaning to me.

    Tattoos are artworks for people to express themselves. I do agree that their are definately tattoo mistakes, but until you ask the person “why did you get that tattoo?” You can’t assume anything about the person. The person with the Japanese script may think they have the word “love” when it really says “dog”, or they may have been adopted into a Japanese family and the script has in depth meaning.

  19. Abhi

    I have a Garfield tattoo on my left upper arm.I gave it much thought before getting it.Read about the whole cliche hings and all,as cartoons etc are so passe.However,Garfield was the first cartoon I read when I was a kid and he sort of shared my personality when I grew up,hypercritical and lazy to the core(PS love lasagna too!!).So I guess its about the meaning something has to you.
    Getting a tattoo of Lord Vishnu now(wiki to learn more).
    And I had the same concept as so many people that guys or girls with too many tattoos don’t know what to do with their lives.Trust me,in the company I’m working in(and its a big multinational),the hardest and most sincere workers all bear the proof of going under the needle more than once!!

  20. Brhino

    for those of you who are bashing this post. this post was made to point out the idiots like you who honestly think that these unimaginative tattoos are cool. i dont care if you honestly think that what the tattoo means in turn means something to you, come up with your own f***in idea for it, your not in a tribe, so dont get a tribal arm band and end up in the never touch a booby club for being that guy that chooses his tattoo from the books they leave out in the tattoo shop just try to to make an extra buck off the idiots that come in. drink coke and try again. great post Kate

  21. Rita

    to the comments below- just because you have a tattoo doesn’t mean you can’t say shit about other people’s tattoos. obviously one of your tattoos made this list, thus your anger at the author. she’s right, and you’re a tool.

  22. DDub

    Claiming to be a non-comformist or individualist by doing what every body else is doing to rebel (i.e. get a tat) is the most conformist thing to do. Next time you get a tattoo, it should be of sheep, because that’s what you are.

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