Punk Tattoos and Tattoo Designs


The History, Movement and Meaning that Inspires Punk Tattoos

Posters published across NYC by the fledgling magazine Punk

Nothing goes better with a green Mohawk, vintage clothing, Doc Martens and your favorite Sex Pistols or Green Day album than punk tattoo designs. They’re like peas and carrots; ketchup and fries - and why not? The punk culture is all about defining the boundaries of socially accepted norms and gleefully breaking through them while giving the rest of the world the finger. And while getting and having tattoos is not nearly as taboo as it was even a decade or two ago, the act is still closely tied in with the ever present punk movement.

skull, ankle, bone, bones

star, skull, bottle, poison

sexy, boob, breast, hottie

The History

The punk culture can be traced back most definitely from the late 60’s to the early 1970’s in the United Kingdom. By the 80’s it had exploded across the United States. And while it didn’t sum up the whole of punk popularity, a new shocking, braver music was something that all of the “punks” shared in common. A few of the better known bands and stars of the punk movement included:

  • The Fugs
  • The Velvet Underground
  • The Sex Pistols
  • The Ramones
  • The Stooges and Iggy Pop
  • The Dolls
  • Bad Religion
  • The Dead Kennedy’s, and
  • Rancid

The word “punk” itself didn’t appear as the official moniker until the year 1970, and was coined by a man named Nick Tosches in a magazine called Fusion. It appeared in the astonishingly long title: “The Punk Muse: The True Story of Protopathic Spiff Including the Lowdown on the Trouble-Making Five-Percent of American Youth.” Later, the word would inspire a magazine named Punk, created and designed by and for people who would proudly wear the label – even as far as to brand themselves with permanent tattoos that testified to their devotion to their bands, music and ideals.

The punk culture, with its punk hair, punk lyrics, punk beats, punk clothing, punk bands, hair dye and rebellious glares was the world’s youth’s answer to boredom – a break away from the cookie cutter life.

The punk movement provided youth across America, England and the rest of the world with music with a message, albeit a somewhat subversive, rebellious, politically incorrect anarchistic one. To keep the young minds moving and captivated by more that the lyrics of sex, drugs, and f*** off, early punk rockers even provided their fans with added entertainment like light shows, slideshows, and bizarre dramatic interaction between stage, toys and band members. The sheer weirdness of it all was enough to captivate the attention and adulation of many.

monster, scary, demon, gothic

face, scary, symmetrical, arm

teeth, monster, scary, powerful

The Punk Movement

But the essence of punk was much more than simply music, bizarre behavior and a blatant disrespect for authority and “the Establishment”. Beneath all of the exterior things that made it easy to identify punks, there ran an undertone of political and social activism. Punks were quick to ask “Why?” instead of simply swallowing the old line, “Because we said so!”

And while much of the punk movement was tied in with being outside of socially accepted norms, it was often because punks wholeheartedly disagreed with the commercialism, injustice and hypocrisy of the times. Across time, punks have been dedicated to making a difference, a change, whether they do it peacefully or violently is aside from the point. Punks and their music address real problems and issues like suicide, depression, addiction, and lower class oppression.

The punk culture is an all encompassing one, which isn’t simply limited to the young white male. There are punk girls, punk blacks, punk Jews – if you can eat and breath and sleep, you can be a punk. And while they may be facing maturity with a Peter Pan attitude, even “grown-ups” can still be punks. As a famous punk once said, “…if you just amass the courage that is necessary, you can completely invent yourself.” And maybe that, more than anything else, has been the greatest fuel to the punk fire.

Today, there is hardly a set standard for “punk”, an ambiguity that greatly perturbs some of the movement’s followers. Modern punk has evolved quite a bit from its earlier roots, and has become enmeshed with other musical styles and social activism. Punk has influenced (or been influenced by, depending) ska, rock, Goth, and even hip-hop. There are punks of every flavor, like hardcore punks, skater punks, “straight edge” and the Pacific Northwest’s addition, grunge and alternative (or pop-punk).

Much to the dismay of the modern hard core punks, the image of punk has become tarnished, due to a tendency to make being a punk cool, or the norm. Sadly to many, punk has begun to more or less conform to societies norms and has become highly commercialized. But all hope is not lost. To quote a disgruntled fan at a Bad Religion concert (he was disgruntled because they failed to return for an encore): “Punk’s not dead…it’s just taking a nap.”

blood, kid, boy, punk

monster, scary, horror, demon

teeth, monster, scary, powerful

Popular Punk Tattoos and Placement

Because being a punk means different things to different punks, there are a wide variety of punk tattoo designs available. You can chose from a multitude of flash tattoos, or incorporate one or more prefabricated designs into your own custom gallery. Some of the more popular punk influenced tattoo designs include:

  • Band tattoos
  • Anarchy symbol(s)
  • Marijuana leaves
  • Skulls
  • The word “punk”
  • Plaid, and
  • The British flag.

And when it comes to placement, it appears that there are, in true punk fashion, no boundaries that you can’t cross. Punk tattoos appear on faces, hands, arms, forearms, backs, chests, rear ends, calves, thighs, hips, lower backs and tailbones. There gleam at you from shaved and polished heads, and inked into necks, wrists, fingers and feet! Punk tattoos even appear in some odd places, like on the inside of lips and more delicate, unmentionable locales.

If you’re having trouble coming up with or finding a punk tattoo design, just think of an image the evokes rebellion, anarchy, social disgust or horror and blow it up big enough that the world will see and recognize it. Then, put it somewhere NO ONE can miss it. Who cares what they think? You’re a punk!

kitty, pink, monster, scary

nature, teeth, monster, scary

angel, sexy, wings, gothic

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