Tattoo Culture >> Quotes About Tattoos
FAMOUS QUOTES ABOUT TATTOOS
HISTORICAL | CULTURAL | LITERARY | CELEBRITY QUOTES | TATTOO ARTISTS
HISTORICAL QUOTES ABOUT TATTOOS
Show me a man with a tattoo and I'll show you a man with an
interesting past. - Jack London, 1883
"As for the primitive, I hark back to it because we are still
very primitive. How many thousands of years of culture, think you,
have rubbed and polished at our raw edges? One probably; at the
best, no more than two. And that takes us back to screaming
savagery, when, gross of body and deed, we drank blood from the
skulls of our enemies, and hailed as highest paradise the orgies and
carnage of Valhalla." - Jack London
"The universality of tattooing is a curious subject for
speculation" - Captain James Cook - 1779
"With the Haidas, however, every mark has its meaning …"
- James Swan, Tattoo Marks of the Haida, 1878.
"Not one great country can be named, from the polar regions in the north to New Zealand in the south, in which the aborigines do not tattoo themselves."
- Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man, 1871
"There is no perfect beauty that hath not strangeness in the
proportion." - Sir Francis Bacon, London, 1639
In Tahiti, not all Europeans responded with the enthusiasm that
had been exhibited by the British Admiralty's Captain James Cook,
his Science Officer and Botanist, Sir Joseph Banks - who received a
traditional Polynesian tattoo - and dozens of the ordinary sailors
and seamen aboard Cook's ships. Missionaries who arrived in Tahiti
at the end of the 18th century, turned tattooing from a standard
practice into an embarrassing and punishable act of Paganism.
King Pomare II was converted to
Christianity in 1812 and he immediately put force behind a severe,
regulated code that had been laid out by the missionaries. The death
certificate for traditional tattoos was essentially signed in 1823
with the passage in the code that stated: "No one shall be tattooed
and this practice should be completely abolished. This is an old and
bad habit. Men or women who get tattooed will be judged and
punished... The punishment for men will be work on ten measures of
road for the first tattoo and 20 measures for the second tattoo...
The punishment for women will be to make two big coats; one for the
king and the other for the governor."
Anthropometamorphosis, Man Transformed or, the Artificial
Changeling, Historically Presented, a Puritan diatribe published in
1653, railed against disfigurement of the body in pursuit of
"ridiculous beauty," "filthy fineness" and "loathsome loveliness."
- John Bulwer
The Greek philosopher Bion of Borysthenes (circa 300 B.C.)
described the brutally tattooed face of his father, a former slave,
as "a narrative of his master's harshness."
"We are all tattooed in our cradles with the beliefs of our
tribe; the record may seem superficial, but it is indelible." - Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. (1841-1935)
In 19th Century England, tattooing flourished as nowhere else in
Europe, largely thanks to traveling seamen who would come back with
permanent souvenirs of their travels on their arms. In 1862, it
gained Royal sanction and members of the Royal family, from the
Prince of Wales to King Edward VII, acquired tattoos. By 1890 the
fad had spread to the US and tattoos were seen on members of the
exclusive New York Racquet Club. - It is certainly the most vulgar
and barbarous habit the eccentric mind of fashion ever invented. It
may do for an illiterate seaman, but hardly for an aristocrat.
Society men in England were the victims of circumstance when the
Prince of Wales had his body tattooed. Like a flock of sheep driven
by their master they had to follow suit. (Socialite of the day Ward
McAllister who complained to the press about the fad) - Strange how
this attitude has endured to the 21st century...
In the 19th century, Field Marshal Earl Roberts said that
"every officer in the British army should be tattooed with his
regimental crest. Not only does this encourage esprit de corps but
also assists in the identification of casualties."
What is the origin of this usage? Religion, which has so much power over peoples and which proves so obstinate in preserving ancient customs, has certainly contributed to maintain it among the more barbarous part of our populations; we see a quasi-official proof of it at Lorette. Those who cultivate a devotion for a saint believe that by engraving his image on their flesh they will give him a proof, a clear testimony of their love. Cesare Lombroso, The Savage Origin of Tattooing, Popular Science Monthly, 1896
CULTURAL QUOTES ABOUT TATTOOS
"The human body is always treated as an image of society." Anthropologist Mary Douglas
Vaturemba, a chief in the Tholo Hills, chuckled wickedly when questioned, and declared that physically there was the greatest difference between mating with a tattooed or an untattooed woman. The idea of marriage with an untattooed woman filled him with disgust, and he intimated that tattooing was considered as a stimulus to the sexual passion in the woman herself. - W. D. Hambly, The History of Tattooing, 1925
"A man without tattoos is invisible to the Gods." - Iban Proverb
- Mingatt Anak Casa (Akai Basai), Iban Headman on the
Sekerang River, Sarawak, Borneo - from The Vanishing Tattoo
"The woman must bear children and the man must be tattooed." -
You may lose your most valuable property through misfortune in
various ways. You may lose your house, your wife and other
treasures. But of your moko, you cannot be deprived except by death.
It will be your ornament and companion until your last day. - Netana Whakaari of Te
Waimana-Kākū, Tuhoe, 1921
"An everlasting gem that you will take into your grave."
Line from a traditional Polynesian song about tattooing
LITERARY QUOTES ABOUT TATTOOS
"In all ages, far back into prehistory, we find human beings have
painted and adorned themselves."
"I'll tell you this, lad: A tattoo says more of a fellow looking
at it than it can do of the man who's got it on his back." - Sarah Hall -- The Electric
"It's only his outside; a man can be honest in any sort of skin."
- Herman Melville, Moby-Dick
Everybody wants to see the pictures, and yet nobody wants to see
them. Ray Bradbury, The Illustrated Man
"But to become a freak one needs a strong character and unusual
George Burchett - Memoirs of a
"The employment of body marks to denote class, totems, and families illustrates stages in the evolution of group consciousness and a sense of corporate existance." - W. D. Hambly, The History of Tattooing, 1925
"One out of every ten persons in the United States is, or has been, tattooed. The figures break down into one out of every five men, and one out of every fifteen women." - Needlework: Tattoo Art Traced From Egyptian Tombs to American Social Security, The Literary Digest, 1937
Traditionally, body art has served to attract the opposite sex,
boost self-esteem, ward off or invoke spirits, indicate social
position or marital status, identify with a particular age or gender
group or mark a rite of passage, such as puberty or marriage. It's
this sort of strictly prescribed, highly ritualistic decoration that
Carol Beckwith and Angela Fisher depict in their book, African
Ceremonies. "We've tried to show how body art is relevant to every
stage of development, from birth to death," says
"Primitive tribes were certainly convinced that the spirit, having
escaped from the body at death, retained a replica of its earthly
tenement. They therefore used tattoo marks as a means of
identification in the next world and a passport to future happiness."
- Ronald Scutt, Art, Sex and
Symbol, 1974, p. 63
There's something really the matter with most people who wear
tattoos, he says. I know from experience there's something terribly
flawed about people who are tattooed above the little something
Johnny had done in the Navy, even though that's also a bad sign.
(Truman Capote, author of In Cold Blood, interviewed more than one
hundred killers over a period of ten years and says eighty percent
of them have one thing in common: Tattoos)
Richard Leakey - A quote from "Origins Reconsidered - In
Search of What Makes Us Human".
"Each society weaves its own culture, a complex fabric of many
elements, each element giving special meaning to the others. It is
often difficult for someone from outside a particular culture to
understand the fabric as an entity. Differences in language, in
values, and in mythology create barriers to understanding. Pluck a
single thread from the fabric, and the foreigner is even less likely
to comprehend its significance. The painted, engraved, and carved
images of prehistory are threads from past cultures, and we are the
foreigners trying to interpret their meaning. Perhaps more than
anything else, art can be fully understood only in the context of
the culture that produced it."
In Galatians 6:17, Saint Paul says, "From this time onward
let no one trouble me; for, as for me, I bear, branded on my body,
the scars of Jesus as my Master."
A quote is just a tattoo on the tongue. Poet William F. DeVault
CELEBRITY QUOTES ABOUT TATTOOS
"I wanted some decoration. See, the one on my wrist is for everybody; the one on my tit is for me and my friends. Just a little treat for the boys, like icing on the cake." - Janis Joplin
"If the body is a temple, then tattoos are its stained glass windows." - Vince
Hemingson, Nov. 10, 2010
"There was one I rushed into. I got a lion on my back because I’m a Leo, and I also just love lions. But I wish I’d researched the artwork a little more. My little sister saw it and said, 'Why do you have the Lion King on your back?'" - Actor Stephan Dorff on regretable tattoos...
"Tattoos to me are are like the Walmart of rebellion. I think I was looking for some kind of outward display of anguish that I was a serious person." - Actor Ryan Reynolds
"Death could come at any time", Angelina Jolie says. The tattoo is
a strong reminder to live fully in the moment and never have
regrets. (About her first tattoo of the Japanese Kanji for Death) "I
didn't get the tattoo for the dark reason everyone thinks."
"Usually all my tattoos came at good times. A tattoo is something
permanent when you've made a self-discovery, or something you've
come to a conclusion about." - Angelina Jolie
Jolie says her tiger tattoo
is a favorite of her kids. "They talk to it all the time. They
like to say hi to it and paint it with fingerpaints. It's like a
little friend." - Angelina Jolie
"I dropped my pants in a tattoo parlor in Amsterdam. I woke up in
a waterbed with this funky-looking dragon with a blue tongue on my
hip. I realized I made a mistake, so a few months later I got a
cross to cover it. When my pants hang low, it looks like I'm wearing
a dagger!" - Angelina Jolie
"It's Aslan, the lion from The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe.
It's a symbol of my hellish childhood. I struggled through my
oppressive teenage years and when I turned 18 I escaped. Like Aslan
I was finally free." - Christina Ricci
"Sometimes I bust out and do things so permanent. Like tattoos and
marriage." - Drew Barrymore
"Every time I get a tattoo, my parents say they'll disown me. I
have to get them airbrushed for Charmed. Witches don't have tattoos,
I guess." - Alyssa Milano
"It's kind of a show-biz lizard [in a top hat]. Tattoos to me are
the outward symbol of the inward change within my soul." -
"I chose a sunflower because when darkness descends they close up
to regenerate. But I really wish I'd never had the tattoo in the
first place. Clean, clear skin is always better."
- Halle Berry
"My skin is my canvas. The artwork on it represents something that is very powerful and meaningful in my life. I look at my skin as something of a living diary because all my tattoos represent a time in my life. And I never wish to shut the door on the past, so I carry it all with me." -
"I felt bad about myself because certain people were relentlessly
attacking me and my reputation. My mom kept saying 'Let it go,
Lauren, It doesn't matter' … [I] realized I had to stop worrying
about what other people think. The next day I got a tattoo on my
lower back that says 'sticks and stones', because they may break my
bones, but words will never hurt me."
- Lauren Conrad
"I'm planning my most ambitious tattoo yet. You can never have
enough tats." -
"Giving birth was easier than having a tattoo." -
"Quirky is sexy, like scars or chipped teeth. I also like tattoos
- they're rebellious." - Jennifer Aniston
"Tattoos are like stories - they're symbolic of the important
moments in your life. Sitting down, talking about where you got each
tattoo and what it symbolizes, is really beautiful." -
"My body is a journal in a way. It's like what sailors used to do,
where every tattoo meant something, a specific time in your life
when you make a mark on yourself, whether you do it yourself with a
knife or with a professional tattoo artist." -
"Every time I get a tattoo, it's a little fuck-you to anyone who tells me not to. It's weird to be part of Hollywood, which tries to control every aspect of people, from what they say to the color of their hair. And I like the way getting a tattoo feels. If I'm depressed, it's nice to get one and deal with the pain. I have one all the way down to my ribs. It hurt, but it felt good-like twisting a loose tooth. I'm not kidding when I say that if I ever lose a role because of my tattoos, I'll quit Hollywood and go to work at Costco."- Megan Fox
"I think I have enough tattoos for now. If I get any others, I'll
probably do my kids initials." - Niki Taylor
Britney Spears in 2000 said
this about her supposedly "fake" lower back tattoo, "if I was to get
a fairy on my back, that would be like she's watching my back."
"I did what I could to move the muscles in my back so the tattoo
could sort of stretch out. I always wished I had more muscles that
could crinkle up." -
Ralph Fiennes for the film, Red
Dragon (2002) as Francis Dolarhyde
"I have this huge lion tattoo embossed on my arm. I was a little
worried as to how we would cover it up. But my makeup man covered
the tattoo with makeup. It took close to two hours." -
"I got my first tattoo, a Playboy Bunny, because I was young, dumb
and drunk..." - Anna Nicole Smith
"I don't know why I like tattoos so much. I know it's crazy. I can't defend them. I've had some of my tattoos for twenty years. I love getting them." - Cher
"For someone who likes tattoos, the most precious thing is bare
skin." - Cher
"People have asked me, what about your tattoos when you're ninety?
Why would it bother me then? I would still want to get tattooed even
when I'm a grandmother." - Nicole Miller, noted fashion designer
"Everybody gets the tattoo they deserve." (actor David Duchovny, who has
a tattoo of a compass on his ankle, [with N, S, E, West, his
daughter's name] as Fox Mulder on the X-Files, a show Thomas
Lockhart worked on in the famous Tattoo episode)
"I always look for a woman who has a tattoo. I see a woman with a
tattoo, and I'm thinking, okay, here's a gal who's capable of making
a decision she'll regret in the future." - Comedian
Vince Vaughn in the film
The Wedding Crashers - "Tattoo on the lower back. Might as well be a
"I wouldn't care if they tattoo Festus all over. He's been good to
Ken Curtis - American singer and actor best known for his role as "Festus Haggen" on CBS' long-running western drama, Gunsmoke, which he portrayed from 1964 to 1975.
"Beauty is skin deep. A tattoo goes all the way to the bone." - Vince Hemingson
"A great tattoo is a statement, not a style. And getting it is a
journey, not a destination." - Vince
Former Chicago Bull Jud Buechler said Michael Jordan
wanted "me and [teammate] Steve Kerr to get tattoos" after the Bulls
won their first championship. "I thought about it but didn't do it
because I knew my mom, wife, and mother-in-law would kill me."
"White folks are not going to come to see a bunch of guys with
tattoos, with cornrows. I'm sorry, but anyone who thinks different,
they're stupid." - Charles Barkley
"Sonny and another Hells Angel who was at the meeting thought they
were beyond a little patch so they headed down to a local tattoo
shop in Oakland and were the first to get the famous One Percent
Chuck Zito - a member of the New York chapter of the Hells Angels, amateur boxer, martial artist, celebrity bodyguard, stuntman and actor.
TATTOO QUOTES FROM TATTOO ARTISTS
"Tattoos aren't meant for everybody and they're too goddamn good for some people." - Lyle Tuttle, tattoo artist, author, and lecturer.
"There are good tattoos and bad tattoos. Some people don't give a shit what their tattoo looks like. I always felt that my whole career was going to be judged by each tattoo I did." - Lyle Tuttle
"I'm an artist. There are a lot of people in the business who aren't. It's like they've got a shoe repair shop." - Lyle Tuttle, 1977
"I'm the man who ruined everything." (Lyle Tuttle on the popularity
of modern tattooing)
"You put a tattoo on yourself with the knowledge that this body
is yours to have and enjoy while you're here. You have fun with it,
and nobody else can control (supposedly) what you do with it. That's
why tattooing is such a big thing in prison: it's an expression of
freedom—one of the only expressions of freedom there. They can lock
you down, control everything, but 'I've got my mind, and I can
tattoo my body—alter it my way as an act of personal will.'"
"It's a good thing they (tattoos) hurt, otherwise every pussy in the world would have one." - Jack Rudy
"I think of myself as a craftsman who is trying to be an artist." - Cliff
Raven, Tattoo Artist
"The perfect tattoo... the one I believe we are all struggling
toward... is the one that turned the jackass into a zebra." -
"Stewed, Screwed and Tattooed", a colourful synopsis of shore
leave for many sailors after having spent many months at sea! A good
port of call for men who worked at sea often earned it's reputation
by the qualities - or lack thereof - of it's drinking
establishments, women and tattoo artists.
Love lasts forever, but a tattoo lasts six months longer. (Anon)
Think before you Ink! (Sign often seen in tattoo shops)
Good tattoos aren't cheap and cheap tattoos aren't good. (A sign
seen in many tattoo shops)
The only difference between a tattooed person and a person who
isn't tattooed is that a tattooed person doesn't care if you're
tattooed or not.
(Sign often seen in tattoo shops)
The world is divided into two kinds of people: those who have
tattoos, and those who are afraid of people with tattoos. -- Author
some great 8 letter quotes!
Tattoo Culture >> Quotes About Tattoos