Although there are many types of chain tattoos — each with its own particular meaning — in general, they are a symbol of either freedom (if broken) or being bound up (if unbroken). Chain tattoos are usually worn by those who have come from a situation where they felt confined, but have since managed to free themselves.
Many chain tattoos are used for armbands. These often show thick, solid links bound together around the arms. Although these chains are usually unbroken, some may prefer to show one link that has torn loose, while the two connecting sides sag down a bit. Daisy chain tattoos are also quite common for this style. Daisies themselves are considered a symbol of innocence and purity, and may indicate a commitment to maintaining those same characteristics in the wearer’s own life. One unique idea for the armband style would be to create something similar in appearance to jewelry. The chain itself can have small links in gold, silver, or even copper colors that wrap around the upper arm, and have a single strand of chain dangling down the length of the arm. You could also add a small gem, teardrop, or heart to the end of the dangling chain. Another idea would be to stick to the flower theme by wrapping the chains around an arm, with small rose buds bursting through the links.
It is not unusual to see chain tattoos that feature other items, and varying types of chains. For instance, you may see a heart chained and padlocked; a pair of hands bound together on the wearer’s back; a sea creature fighting free from a heavy chain, or a cross wrapped with it. Although heavily linked chains are the most commonly used, some people like to make intricate, swirling patterns with items like bicycle, or motorcycle chains. These often have a look similar to the steampunk style, and feature one of more chains bound into tight circles.
You may see chain tattoos that are transformed into something else altogether. For instance, for a dark, science fiction theme, you may see a human-like alien with a spine made of chain — in fact, this particular item may make up most of the alien’s bodily structure. Broken links can be re-shaped into the image of a heart; melded together with clock parts to create a set of steampunk eyes; or turned into a head of long locks for a pin up-style robot.
Although to many, chain tattoos may be a symbol for an enslaved spirit, to others, it is an emblem for the difficulties they have had to overcome in their lives.