When most people think of shoulder tattoos, they think of the small, rounded area just above the arm; however, it is important to note that, technically speaking, this location is considered the upper arm, while the shoulder extends into the upper portion of the back. There are many reasons why people decide on this exact spot; however, some people feel that this particular area of the body is quite sensual, and that an attractive piece of body art serves to accentuate it. Others prefer this location because it allows for larger work, while still maintaining discretion.
Although the blade, or scapula, is the most common location for shoulder tattoos, it may serve as something of a starting point for many pieces. Some people like to expand beyond the shoulder blade onto the upper arm, or down to the lower back; they may also spread between both shoulders, all the way down the arm, or across the chest. One of the most popular shoulder pieces is in the tribal style. These works are generally made up long, black or red slashes that begin at the scapula and spread to either the upper arm, or down along the spine. More intricate tribal patterns may also be seen, and they may take on the shape of flames, hearts or dragon heads.
Wing-like shoulder tattoos are also quite popular. This particular style generally encompasses the whole upper back, and may include angel and bird, or demon and dragon wings. Because shoulder pieces tend to be unisex, it is not uncommon to see styles that are considered either distinctly feminine, or distinctly masculine. Feminine works commonly include sprays of flowers, or vines that wrap around the shoulder blade; small angels, butterflies or cats lounging atop the shoulder – perhaps with a wing or tail wrapping around the back of the neck; or trails of stars or hearts that spread out onto an upper arm. The more masculine varieties generally take on darker or more sexual themes, like skulls capped over the scapula; pin up models dangling their feet over the curve of the shoulder; or dragons spewing fire across the upper back. Other styles are gender neutral, and may display religious themes, such as crosses or pentagrams; they may include nautical stars, or star sign symbols; or they may simply be made up of intricate patterns.
Because shoulder tattoos are so easily hidden, they make for a great choice for those who want to get a little creative with their pieces, while still working and living in a more conservative atmosphere.