The earliest evidence of tattoo art dates from 5000 BCE. In fact, Charles Darwin wrote that there was no country in the world that did not practice tattooing or some other form of permanent body decoration.
Across time and cultures, tattoos have many different forms and meanings. Today, getting your skin inked still remains one of the most popular ways to express your personality. But not all tattoos are made equal and badly executed, poorly designed, and simply questionable tattoos are more common than we think.
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“Which type of tattoo makes you cringe the most?” someone wondered on Ask Reddit, and the responses started flowing in. Below we wrapped up the most interesting responses that serve basically as a guide of what tattoos you should think twice before getting permanently carved on your body.
Nothing says “I’ve been to prison for cooking Meth in my trailer” like a Joker neck or face tattoo.
Image credits: Celer_Umbra
The “Only God Can Judge Me” tattoo.
No, we can all judge you.
Image credits: buck9000
Those creepy faces of babies, which look like there’s a little demon on your body
Image credits: Muximal
According to the Welcome Collection, the earliest evidence of tattoo art comes in the form of clay figurines that had their faces painted or engraved to represent tattoo marks. The oldest figures of this kind have been recovered from tombs in Japan dating to 5000 BCE or older.
Meanwhile, in terms of actual tattoos, the oldest known human to have tattoos preserved upon their mummified skin is a Bronze-Age man from around 3300 BCE. The man, named ‘Otzi the Iceman’ was found in the Otztal Alps glacier and he had an impressive number–57 tattoos.
I met a guy once who had a phrase in a foreign language on his arm. I asked him what it said and he replied «buy me a drink and I’ll tell you». So I bought him a drink and asked again. It turns out it actually said «buy me a drink and I’ll tell you». It apparently got him a lot of free drinks over the years.
Image credits: JebSenrab
I was at a concert years ago in Philly when this guy showed up with a tattoo of a woman that had some very poorly executed features (eg oddly crooked nose, teeth out of alignment, etc). My buddy says to me “if some tattoo guy screwed up a picture of my girlfriend that badly I’d kick his ass”. Well about ten minutes later this young lady shows up and damn if she didn’t look just like the tattoo.
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Armpit coochees. It’s when someone gets two woman’s legs tattooed around their armpit hair. Yes.
Image credits: anon
Scientists also traced back early proof of tattoos to the Middle Kingdom period of ancient Egypt. Meanwhile, in early Greek and Roman times (eighth to sixth century BCE), tattooing was associated with barbarians. They believe that the Greeks learned the art of tattooing from the Persians, and used it to mark slaves and criminals so they could be identified if they tried to escape. Later, the Romans continued this practice they learned from the Greeks.
Still today, tattoos remain these fascinating objects that bind cultures, societies, and people into a huge community of ink art lovers. But with the increasing amount of incredible tattoo artists and more people wiling to get their skin inked, bad tattoos are also getting more common.
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This young man wanted a tattoo on his back. It said something like, “Lisa please forgive me.” I told asked him if this was some last ditch effort to get this girl back. He said yes, and I told him this is a really bad idea you shouldn’t do this. He wanted the tattoo anyway, so he got it. If it worked out with him and the girl she will always remember this terrible thing he did that was so bad he had to go get a tattoo to try and prove how wrong he was. Or if it didn’t work out with them, whoever he dated afterwards would ask him what terrible thing he did that was so bad he had to go get a tattoo to try fix things with his ex. It seemed like a no win scenario with that tattoo. My advice is, if your tattoo artist is telling you that something isn’t a good idea to get, just take a moment and consider why.
Image credits: silverhandguild
“I refuse to sink” next to an anchor. That is literally what anchors are made for.
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I had to have a polyp removed from my colon a few years back. When they removed it, they actually tattooed a marker inside my colon, so that spot would be easier to find and check in a colonoscopy. So while, not a tattoo artist, I do have a tattoo up my a**. That qualifies as f*****d up.
While we can argue for hours on what is a bad and a good tattoo, and agree on the fact that every ink artwork is deeply personal and can indeed be incomprehensible to an outsider, it doesn’t change the fact that bad tattoos exist.
Dr. Kirby Farrell, a University of Massachusetts professor specializing in anthropology, psychology, and history, thinks there’s a bigger explanation for bad tattoos. For Farrell, bad tattoos are a representation a self-defense mechanism people have. They offer “physical and artistic representations of values you can identify with.”
I’m a tattoo artist. Had a regular come into the shop, he was an older swinger type and my coworker tattooed him.
He got Pinocchio tattooed above his junk with his penis as the nose, and script that said “Lie to Me”
I try not to judge tattoos but I figured you’d all appreciate this one
Edit: Obligatory “wow this blew up” edit. Thanks everyone for correcting my shrug
I actually plan on getting a biohazard symbol as a tattoo. Some people have said, “Eew, what, are you trying to be punk or edgy or something?” or something along those lines when I tell them, but then I explain it’s because of my career. I’m a medical lab tech, and I deal with biohazardous substances all day, so it’s a nod to the fact that the human body (and everything it produces) is considered biohazardous material. I’m just being a good little lab tech and labeling myself appropriately.
EDIT: It has been brought to my attention by several people that the biohazard symbol is used in the gay community to denote HIV+ status. I appreciate the information, but being the fact that I am a happily married bi woman, I don’t think it will affect me in the same manner.
Image credits: Syntania
Know a girl who tattooed her firstborn’s name… as a tramp stamp. Not what I would want someone to be looking at while tagging from behind.
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“People feel especially pressured to try to find their own magical reinforcement for things that the culture is not really helping you much with,” Farrell explained in an interview for Vice. He believes that bad tattoos give people exactly that, a reassurance that their existence is somehow different, heroic, and special, and the tattoos are meant to capture that.
Farrell argues further: “Like if you want to tattoo yourself with a line from your favorite song, almost certainly you’re feeling a kind of emotional excitement and admiration for that song. A kind of warm, romantic ecstasy. You hear people say, ‘It has special meaning for me.’ It’s a kind of emotional halo that’s around this object.”
I knew a guy who lost some bet with another group of friends and he had to get a tattoo of Scrat from Ice Age on his inner thigh…reaching for his nuts.
A cartel hitman got a pretty detailed back tattoo of a pretty unique murder scene, and when he was arrested and processed for something else entirely, the tattoo was so unique and obvious that it was a particular murder in question that he was arrested and convicted for the murder.
Lips on the neck.
I get it, you’re a gangster with an attitude problem and probably want to fight.
Image credits: LooseLeaf24
A defendant in the courtroom I clerked in during law school had “homicide” tattooed on his face, over his eyebrow. Not a great look.
Image credits: Silidon
Barbed wire around the arm that doesn’t even go all the way because it hurt too bad.
Image credits: DDKLondon
The tattoo of a clown holding a gun smoking a joint on my leg …..
Edit: Thanks for all the love and awards guys! Never thought my horrible tattoo from 9 years ago would blow up like this.
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Any tattoo with something in Chinese or Japanese written on it. I am learning Japanese coz why not, and I saw this dude with a tattoo saying sakana (fish). I was like, hey what does that mean and he said poison. He may have typed poisson into Google translate lol
Image credits: SC_FaiL
Former tattoo artist here, and it has to be infinity symbols.
ESPECIALLY when they want them to be “uNiQuE”, so they have you spend three hours drawing up different ways of cramming little McKayzleigh and Brackxston’s names, birthdates, birth weights, blood types, and favorite ice cream flavors in there.
Fine, I’ll find a way. I can work for my money.
“Oh, and can it also have a thin blue line in there for my husband?”
“And maybe some birds breaking off of it, cause my meemaw loves birds!”
Sighhhh. Yeah, okay.
“And can you do it on the side of my finger in white ink?”
F**k you, get out.
EDIT: Bonus points on these if they walk in holding a monogrammed Yeti tumbler full of the alcohol they’re trying to smuggle in.
Image credits: rumpertumpskins
That stupid cliche thing that says “life” one way and “death” the other.
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Couple tattoos like portraits or names. Mostly when they proudly tell you it’s because they’ve been together for 5 months and just know they stay together forever.
Image credits: Gingeraffe25
Chinese writing when they have no cultural connection to it and got it just because it “looks cool” specially western names “translated” into Chinese.
I had a gentleman come in when I’d only been tattooing for about three years. I was in the middle of a tattoo and somewhat (understandably) distracted. The fella pulls out his knob and shows me a poorly done star on the head. He wants it fixed… and wants me to add another star and a crescent moon added. If you’re asking yourself “why?”… you’re not alone. He told his wife he’d giver the moon and stars.
He made an appointment for the following day… a few hours after we’d opened. I remember feeling like I was waiting for my execution. Then I came to the realization that it was his dick about to get stabbed… not mine… and I got over it. When he showed up, I gave em a set of gloves and told em he was gonna be helpin stretch the skin. He was a good sport about it and all went well and fine… till he told me they were swingers and invited me over to their home to drink crown and bang his wife. I politely declined… which is probably why she got the only “tip” outta the deal. Almost two decades ago and I still remember it vividly.
Famous people. I get that you really are a fan of said famous person, but to permanently ink their face onto yourself is just wild IMHO.
Once i saw a dude in a gym who had an elephant tattooed in his crotch. Guess what was the trunk?
Image credits: serhiy_b
F*****g wings. Where you think you’re flying to??
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Had an older lady come in wanting a butterfly tattoo… on her labia. Actually turned out really pretty, she loved it and was a pleasure to work with! Every time I do a butterfly tatt now I think of her flaps.
I just started tattooing, so I was taking any kind of walk in I could get. This guy would come in every few weeks and get his girlfriend’s name tattooed on him. The same name, all different ways; in a diamond, attached to an infinity symbol, with a lady bug. One day he came in WITH her and I was surprised because i never seen her and always wanted to know who this muse of shitty name tattoos was! She seemed pissed off and unapproachable, the guy was in high spirits though. I skipped the small talk with her, did the tattoo, let them leave. He came in a few weeks later, alone. I finally asked him “why all the name tattoos?” He told me he would tattoo her name on himself every time he cheated on her and she found out. He then asked me if I would like to go to dinner after his tattoo. That was our last interaction.
A guy I worked with had a failed pregnancy. Stillborn. So he was mourning. I have very high quality work on my arms that is very visible. So he asks me who and how much. I tried explaining that with portrait work, you get what you pay for. He calls gets a price and then confronts me on the number like we were in cahoots. I reminded him that you don’t cheap on portrait work. And he told me he knows a guy who knows a guy. One last time I said don’t, but he fully believed I was in on scamming him.
He goes to guy of the guy and when he returns I ask if I can see how it turned out. He pulls up his shirt and starts to cry. He has what anyone can see is the worst tattoo of his dead baby on his chest. Just crying he said “I just wanted to remember him”
Don’t cheap out on dead baby portraits
I have a tramp stamp that says “no regrets” in very fancy cursive. It’s the only tattoo my dad laughed at rather than cringed. I can judge no one.
Image credits: Marzipanland
Nothing super weird and usually things I didn’t feel comfortable putting on people, I would turn away. But I had a coworker who would scoop them up and do the tattoo for them. One was a girl who had just turned 18. She wanted a chain around her waist with a lock hanging on it just above her vagina and the words “property of Dave” or whatever the f**k her boyfriends name was. First off, she was 18 so I figured the relationship probably wasn’t going to last so I wouldn’t do it for that reason. Then come to find out, her boyfriend had just been sentenced to life in prison for murder. The girl was making a terrible emotional mistake. I refused but my coworker did do the tattoo.
Image credits: ChampChains
Knew of a guy once who had “DUBSTEP” tattooed on his chest in VERY VERY large letters. He also insisted that dubstep was the future of music and was here to stay.
Image credits: Shadesmctuba
Had a lady come into the store I was working in with a big neck tattoo that said Daddy’s girl….may have been the most shocking one i’ve ever seen
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I once stood in line behind a lady who had, like, the bad tattoo parade going from the nape of her neck. She had “Only God Can Judge Me”, something in Asian characters, and an ugly, faded, poorly drawn crucifix.
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the thought that a lot of people have dead memes from 2017 in their arms or legs is kinda funny
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Tattoos that are gifts from you to someone else. For example “For your birthday, I got your birth date tattooed on me!”
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NSFW tattoos. Like its cool that you really love your girlfriends vagina, or that you want to showcase the ginormous imaginary d**k you have. But the rest of us don’t really want to see that.
To be fair though, I haven’t really seen these much in person. Mostly online.
Tattoos of brand logos. It’s basically free advertising. At least email them and ask what they would pay you if you advertised for them until you die.
My friend’s dad had a tattoo that covered his entire forearm of two pigs going at it doggy style (piggy style?) and it said “making bacon” above it. He was made to cover it up every time we visited but I saw it once and it’s quite graphic.
I knew a guy that got rabbit prints on his a** cheek leading to his butt hole.
“Want to see my new rabbit tattoo? Aw man it must’ve jump in his hole”
One time I saw a lower back tattoo that was a bullseye and it really solidified for me why those are called tramp stamps.
Image credits: SamDumberg
Guy wanted the thumbs up emoji on his taint. Apparently he wanted everyone down there to “know he appreciates a job well done”.
I passed him off to a male colleague, who did not stop giggling the entire half an hour session.
But as most artists on here have said, we get ridiculous requests all the time, but they either don’t show up, or we have to ask them to leave.
I’ve met the guy that had ‘Party ’til impact’ tattooed on his eyelids while intoxicated. I think he later had it removed.
Just saw a couple of days ago a writing on some dude: “Karna isnt a b***h” – just as I wrote it.
Image credits: melocop
8 ball on a guys testicle
Some vague inspirational quote that in all likelihood the tattoo-ee didn’t even choose before they went to the tatto parlor, but rather selected from a pre-chosen list written up by the parlor.
Any tattoos like “(name) + (name) together forever” because if that relationship goes down and the two break up, that is gonna be awkward
Any image that incorporates bodily hair.
My tattoo guy tells a story of a woman who wanted ‘Sweet Pea’ tattooed on her neck but insisted that it is spelled ‘Sweat Pee’. He declined.
Not a tattoo artist myself but trained a bit. Asked a master what the weirdest thing he tattooed was and he said, without hesitation “a pair of eyes on me mate’s balls”
When I was about 20yo I made a bet with the singer in my metal band that he couldn’t shave his beard for a year and if he made it the year I would get “property of [name redacted]” tattooed on my ass cheek.
He made it about 3 months and then had to shave because he was basically a young Gandalf.
So he has “property of xIFdp” tattooed on his left ass cheek.
My ex has a tattoo of a gravy boat sucking itself off.
I’ve seen a woman with the Rolling Stones’ lip-tongue thing inside of her armpit. Must have hurt like hell.
My friend asked this when he got his first tattoo. The tattoo artist said he had a totally sober girl come in and asked for the Kum n Go logo tattooed right above her ass. The artist went through and ensured she understood everything the tattoo implied and that it was permanent. She still got it.
I was in line behind a guy who had a tattoo on his neck of two obese, naked cartoon women going at it, tongues hanging out, flying sweat drops, the works.
Be happy, be free, live, laugh, stay positive, daddy’s lil girl, daddy’s princess…these tattoos they get. At least put some thought and make it original or unique or at least interesting
Image credits: fuckitaaaaaaaa
Any tattoos of genitals or an a**s makes me cringe.
Ones where the person gets a tattoo of someone using either their real nipple or belly button to replace the tattoo of a person’s nipple or belly button (e.g. Buddha with real belly button). S**t’s f*cking gross, don’t get one.
My artist said he tattooed a haunted house on some guy’s ribs, and the dude insisted on hiding penises everywhere in it. So, the wrought iron fence had penises, and the spire, and the chimney had smoke with swirls that concealed penises.
I don’t know the exact English word but in German it’s called “a*s antlers”. I’m not sure what it’s actually supposed to represent but it kind of looks like you’ve got a deer tossing your salad inside your pants
Sayings, especially ones that span multiple limbs/areas.
I was in the Army with a guy from Texas that thought he was hard as woodpecker lips. He had ‘Cowboy The [Hell] Up’ tattooed across his forearms (ostensibly so if he put his fists up to fight you, you would read it and…I don’t know, be scared or something?). But due to the size, he got ‘COWBOY THE’ on one arm and ‘[Hell] UP’ on the other.
Asked my first tattoo artist this question. Super professional guy who has gotten awards for his work. But he said he did some dodgy tattoos in order to get his reputation started. One of those was a girl who was an aspiring porn star. He tattooed her butthole to be a “more appealing” pink color.
A misspelled tattoo
Edit: a purposely misspelled tattoo makes sense, I meant ones that were by accident. Thanks for the award ?
Not an artist myself, but my boyfriend is. He got his start tattooing his dad, who was a literal Nazi. My boyfriend did his back piece, which was an eagle with a swastika behind it. The eagle had a dick bulge, bc bf’s dad wanted to be able to tell it was a man eagle.
One my sister did for a guy on his arm of a juice carton with a pussy on the side saying pussy juice
Edit:if I remember correctly it also had a droplet coming out the end of the straw
*me reading these replies to see if any of my tattoos are on here*
Hyper-realistic porn star facial tattoos.
Yes, you read that correctly, this is actually a thing. I just can’t imagine getting that permanently put on your body for display.
I’m not an artist, but several years ago I was waiting in a shop in my hometown to do a consultation for a tribute to my late step-dad, and there was a woman doing a consultation with my artist right before me.. this lady wanted to have “Jeff’s Slut” tattooed on her lower back.. apparently she’d been dating “Jeff” for like three months.. the artist declined to create her masterpiece (she was visibly upset about it) which let me know that I was in good hands..
Well I know someone who Asked for a 90 year old naked man Tattooed on his a**
Names of significant others…
You have a child, I get it, you love him.
But he will be a generic newborn for a few months, and you will think fondly ever after about his grown up version, with specific facial features. His baby picture will mean very little after a while.
I was an apprentice in a studio that seemed to attract the weirdest people ever.
Dude comes in carrying a baby, couldn’t have been more than 9 months old and demands we tattoo his full name on the child. Obviously we said no, and he went on a huge, emotional rant about how “she’s trying to say that child’s not mine, I want to make sure she never forgets whose he is!” We had to threaten him with police to get him to leave, because he wasn’t listening when we told him no. (We did call the Gardaí over it, his name was very common so they couldn’t do much.)
The worst that actually got tattooed was literally Hitler with cat eyes, the SS logo on a banner above it, and the words, “You’re a f****t”. That was a guest artist in the studio. The owner told him there was no way in hell that he would let him tattoo that under his studio’s name. The artist went on a rant about how Stalin and Mussolini were worse and we’d probably let him tattoo that. I told him the Tate Modern would likely love the piece if it was on canvas or something, but as a tattoo he was asking for his client to get beaten up. The owner stood his ground, and last I heard, the tattoo was done off the premises. Hope it was worth it, edgelord.
The weirdest was the guy who wanted a brown star outline tattooed on his elbow, because, “my ma says I can’t tell my arse from my elbow!” Once it was healed, apparently people didn’t get the joke, so he came back with printed photos from a disposable camera of his own butthole and he wanted that tattooed in the middle of the brown star. His girlfriend also got a tattoo of Tricia Takanawa humping David Bowie’s leg (Family Guy), so it was a really weird studio in general.
And no, I don’t tattoo anymore. I developed a physical disability and can’t do tattooing.
Idc what you want tattooed on your body. I do however hate seeing s****y work eg. Poor line work, muddy colors, incoherent shading, disproportionate shaping etc.
Bad portraits, misspellings.
I was in the supermarket today and saw a man with a full body Harley Quinn tattoo on his arm. The Margot Robbie movie one.
Famous people. I get it that you really are a fan of said famous person but to permanently ink their face onto yourself is borderline crazy imo.
I got Pokemon tattoos… So I’m not judging anyone.
Edit: here’s some pics. https://imgur.com/a/YXbZR01