50+ Best Gangster Tattoos - Designs & Meanings 2019 (2024)


12.06.2018no comments

50+ Best Gangster Tattoos - Designs & Meanings 2019 (1)

For many decades, people have associated tattoos with gangsters. While there are tattoos associated with gangs, criminal rituals, and the likes, as a matter of fact, most of the thinking is stereotyping of the tattooed people.


  • Meaning of Gang Tattoos
  • Placement of Gang Tattoos
  • Types of gang tattoos
  • Symbols used in gang tattoos

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Going back to the English history, tattooing was synonymous with the people of higher classes in societies. For a very long time, tattoos have been a body art representing loyalty to religious devotion gangs and love pledges.

Meaning of Gang Tattoos

Most criminals get tattoos as a way of expressing their membership to a particular gang or to record their personal history like personal skills, accomplishments, specialties and convictions. Criminals also use them to express their personal feelings.

Some tattoo designs also carry coded meanings. Code systems are often too complicated and due to the nature of the coded meaning, people rarely recognize them.

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Placement of Gang Tattoos

It’s uncommon to get a gang tattoo especially if you are not associated with the gang. Almost all criminal gangs have a way of placing their gang’s tattoos.

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Types of gang tattoos

  • British gang tattoo designs

ACAB is an acronym integrated in prison tattoo designs in United Kingdom. Mostly, you will find it rendered with one letter between the first joint of every finger and the knuckle. At times you will get it as small dots with or without any accompanying letters.

Individuals also associate words on knuckles and homemade tattoos done with Indian ink, needle and cotton with the UK prisons system which is often incorrect. Youth in the UK have adopted most of the jail tattoos.

They use them to identify themselves as mean, tough or as a way of expressing their willingness to get into jail for their gang or crew.

ACAB simply stands for “All Coppers Are Bastards, or Always Carry a Bible,” even though most likely All Coppers are Bastards depending on the individual asking and depending on whether the bearer intends to form a good impression.

  • Japanese gang tattoos

Body suits or extensive body tattoos are common among the Yakuza members. People in Japan refer to the tattoos as “Irezumi.” Their elaborate nature and size depicts the person’s affiliation and his capability to endure pain.

Since the Kofun period – around 300-600 AD – tattoos started assuming very negative connotations. People started placing them on criminals as a way of punishment rather than using them for status or ritual purposes.

The form of punishment was highly witnessed in Ancient Rome where slaves were inked with words like “I am a slave who has run from his master.”

At the start of Meiji period – around 1868-1912AD – Japanese government outlawed tattoos with an intension of making a good impression and protecting its image on the west. And Irezumi connoted criminality.

However, fascinated foreigners continued to seek the skills of the Japanese tattooist and the traditional body art continued underground.

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In 1941, the occupation forces legalized tattooing even though it retained the image of criminality. For several decades, people have associated the traditional tattoos with Yakuza and many businesses ban customers with tattoos.

  • Middle East gang tattoo designs

A tattoo design featuring a raised arm which holds a gun alongside an Arabic writing underneath is often associated with Hezbollah, even though Islam which is the predominant Hezbollah religion outlaws tattoos.

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This raises lots of controversy concerning the true representation or allegiance of Islamic religion.

  • North America gang tattoos

A tattoo made of three dots inside a triangle and placed on the skin in between the forefinger and the thumb symbolizes “mi vida loca” which means “my crazy life.” The words alongside a pachuco cross are a very common generic tattoo amongst Hispanic teenagers.

Vietnamese teenagers have also adopted the design along with a similar interpretation of “khong can gi ca” which means “I need nothing.”

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Teardrop tattoos symbolize that a person once killed or a friend was killed in a prison and it is mostly worn around the eye. Individuals also associate shamrock with white supremacist prison gang which was founded in California and known as Aryan Brotherhood.

The group also uses 12 to identify themselves. In the tattoo 1 represents “A” while the 2 represents B. Aryan Circle which is another white supremacy gang uses 13 as identification.

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The Asian and Aco town boys’ gang mostly adopted a tattoo design featuring an ace of spades. However, youth in California and Asians have used the design for a very long time. Often, during the placement, a tattooist places an “A” in between the spades.

The “A” symbolizes Asian while the spades symbolizes thievery.

Number “13” tattoo indicates Mara Salvatrucha 13 also called MS13 membership. Mexican Mafia uses a black hand or MM and is mostly affiliated with the California based street gangs called the Surenos.

A tattoo design with number “14” is associated with Nuestra Familia, which is a prison criminal gang and also affiliated with California based street gangs known as the Nortenos. A tattoo featuring a “3-1/2” represents 12 jurors, 1 judge plus a chance.

The tattoo is very common among California gangs of different ethnic and racial backgrounds. They also get the telephone area codes as tattoos even though in California telephone codes are always changing and the tattoos become outdated after a short period of time.

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  • Russian gang tattoos

Russian gang tattoos have complex symbols systems which can provide detailed information about the person wearing it. In addition to what the tattoo symbolize, the area on which the individual gets the tattoo inked also represents something.

A newly initiated member into a gang often gets a tattoo on the chest and the tattoo may also include a rose. The Russian Mafia also uses a rose on the chest.

Tattoo designs inked in Russian prisons have distinct bluish color and mostly appear as blurred due to lack of proper instruments necessary in drawing fine lines. And in addition to the voluntary tattooing, there are tattoos used to punish and stigmatize people within a criminal society.

A person who fails to pay debts in a card game gets blatant sexual images as tattoos.

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Symbols used in gang tattoos

  • Spades: thieves mostly wear spades upside down.
  • Clubs: this is another gang suit
  • Diamonds: the suit is mostly forcibly applied on members of a gang.
  • Hearts: this is a sexual symbol and marks the wearers out as passive hom*osexuals within a prison.

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  • Cross: a cross on the chest represents the prince of thieves
  • Skulls: worn by gang members of higher rank
  • Barbed wire across the forehead indicates lifetime imprisonment
  • Switica: is inked on the forehead and marks someone for death
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50+ Best Gangster Tattoos - Designs & Meanings 2019 (2024)
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