Gang tattoos are generally known as identifying tags, showing a deep loyalty to a certain group. They also represent a chosen lifestyle, and are even occasionally worn as badges of honor. It is not uncommon, however, for people to unwittingly get gang tattoos. These styles may seem unique, tough and sometimes even beautiful; given these aspects, it is understandable why someone would mistake them for a simple design, and not even realize the far reaching implications.
Gang tattoos are ever changing, but there are a few symbols and styles that remain relatively consistent such as a teardrop (which tends to be a symbol of death), spiderwebs, or graffiti style art which can show a number of things, but are generally used for names and dates. Many gang members use tattoos to indicate significant activities and utilize things such as dots between the fingers — most commonly between the forefinger and thumb –which are meant to indicate time spent in incarceration.
A lot of gang tattoos feature either the name of a particular gang (usually done in a surprisingly stylish script), numbers, or more indirect ways of identifying their affiliations. An example of this would be to use the area code of a gang’s home town or a numbered street name. Many gangs also like to use numbers that are associated specifically with them; this style may use the simple number in a variety of fonts, it may use roman numerals, words or even foreign translations.
Many gang tattoos are heavily detailed, as these pieces of art are not only meant to represent their gang affiliations, but who they are as individuals. These pieces are generally a large amalgamation of gang names, small symbols that represent accomplishments within their group, and more personal items such as memorials to loved ones; religious and cultural ties, and sometimes the names of their children. Other symbols that express something powerful may also be seen in these gang tattoos such as clock faces, tombstones and surprisingly, even the comedy and tragedy masks.
Gang tattoos are meant to represent the reality of a member’s every day life. Although it may seem tough to get this variety of tattoo, there is a distinct possibility that sporting one of these pieces may get you into some trouble. Not to mention that most of these designs are seen as something that are not simply cool or even fashionable, but hard earned emblems of an often difficult existence.