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45 Of The Best Tribal Tattoos For Men in 2021

More than any single style, tribal tattoos draw upon traditional tattoo elements from various cultures and Indigenous groups worldwide. M?ori tattoos, Aztec designs, and the swirling lines and patterns that developed in America in the 1980s/90s and are known simply as “tribal” and all fall under the umbrella of tribal tattoos.

The placement of these designs depends a lot on the tradition from which they draw inspiration. The shoulder, thighs, chest, and face are all canvases used in tribal tattooing. It depends on the design and your personal preference when choosing the placement for your tattoo ideas.

Showcasing work from several different traditions and cultures, the tribal tattoos in this collection will give you plenty of ammunition to bring to your favorite artist when it’s time to sit for your next session.

1. Tribal Wolf Tattoo

Wolves have been powerful symbols of strength and loyalty for centuries and hold massive potential in terms of design and composition. For both of these reasons, wolf tattoos are an excellent choice for someone looking to add the ultimate canine to their collection of ink.

@romulomaltztattoo / Instagram

2. Filipino Tribal Tattoo

Among some peoples of the Philippine islands, traditional tattoos are known as burik. Created using layered patterns and motifs drawn from the natural environments of the islands, the Filipino tribal tattoos are potent symbols of the cultural heritage. 

Filipino Tribal Tattoo / Instagram

3. Dragon Tribal Tattoo

With the powerful symbolism associated with these mythic creatures and their complex shapes and anatomy, it isn’t surprising that dragon tattoos are popular designs for the western tribal tattoo style.

Dragon Tribal Tattoo
@annygoth_ink / Instagram

4. Tribal Sun Tattoo

Another design that lends itself to the layered patterns and swirling lines of the western style, tribal sun tattoos, gained popularity in the 90s and continues to this day. Primarily tattooed on the arms and chest, this tattoo is perfect for keeping small, making it easy to hide while you’re at your 9 to 5. 

Tribal Sun Tattoo
@illusiveink / Instagram

5. Tribal Lion Tattoo

The lion, an apex predator, is associated with power, strength, and vitality. It is the perfect way to continue this legacy of meaningful designs, making tribal lion tattoos an excellent choice for anyone looking for a fierce addition to their collection of ink.

Tribal Lion Tattoo
@jeffquintano / Instagram

6. Tribal Turtle Tattoo

The turtle represents perseverance, strength, and patience, making tribal turtle tattoos a visually striking way to embody these traits and pay homage to these vibrant island cultures.

Tribal Turtle Tattoo
@dantzat2 / Instagram

7. Hawaiian Tribal Tattoo

Hawaiian tribal tattoos are powerful symbols of cultural heritage and national pride. The designs are as meaningful as visually striking for someone who wants to demonstrate their respect for the Hawaiian islands and the people who call them home.

Hawaiian Tribal Tattoo
@kealoha_designs / Instagram

8. Aztec Tribal Tattoo

Hosting a plethora of fierce gods and intricate patterns, the art and designs of this Mesoamerican culture are striking and deeply meaningful. For someone looking to dedicate a portion of their skin to this culture and its people, Aztec tattoos are an excellent choice.

Aztec Tribal Tattoo
@fer703 / Instagram

9. Tribal Scorpion Tattoo

The aggressive shape of these predatory arachnids makes them the perfect subject for the swirling lines and sharp edges. Scorpion tattoos also represent the zodiac house, Scorpio, ideal for anyone born between October 23rd and November 21st.

Scorpion Tribal Tattoo
@claudio.benve / Instagram

10. Polynesian Tribal Tattoo

Similar to traditional art from other island cultures, Polynesian tribal tattoos use layered patterns and intricate line work to create art that draw inspiration from the sea, forest, and mountains of these beautiful natural environments.

Polynesian Tribal Tattoo
@nikutatau / Instagram

11. Tribal Shark Tattoo

Sharks are powerful symbols of independence, strength, and the mystery of the sea. When applied in a motif that draws on indigenous cultures of the Pacific, tribal shark tattoos can become unique commemorations of the apex predators.

Tribal Shark Tattoo / Instagram

12. Tribal Phoenix Tattoo

When applied in the bold black and sharp edges of western tribal designs, tribal phoenix tattoos can make for some eye-catching designs, despite a lack of color.

Tribal Phoenix Tattoo
@romanordtattoo / Instagram

13. Samoan Tribal Tattoo

A small group of islands smack dab in the middle of the South Pacific, Samoa is the home of a culture that is equally fierce and family-oriented; and retains the honor and pride of its history. As powerful symbols of the people, Samoan tribal tattoos are essential aspects of the island culture and continue to hold deep meaning to those that wear them.

Samoan Tribal Tattoo
@kealoha_designs / Instagram

14. Tribal Cross Tattoo

The blending of different approaches and motifs in tattoos is a natural development that leads to new styles. Combining Christian imagery with this modern take on tribal designs, tribal cross tattoos are great examples of this synergy.

Tribal Cross Tattoo
@taza_of_ink / Instagram

15. Taino Tribal Tattoo

The Indigenous inhabitants of Puerto Rico and other Caribbean islands, the Taino, continue to use the art and stories of their heritage for permanent body art. Incorporating design elements inspired by the islands’ natural environment, Taino tribal tattoos often use lizards, snakes, and turtles to represent survival, strength, and cultural pride.

Taino Tribal Tattoo
@kiti_ta_tatau / Instagram

16. Viking Tribal Tattoo

Viking tribal tattoos are a popular choice for people with roots in the Norse ethnic tradition. Often featuring scenes and characters from Norse mythology, Odin, Thor and Loki are all popular subjects for these designs.

Viking Tribal Tattoo
@delaestrellatattoo / Instagram

17. Mexican Tribal Tattoo

Given the cultural overlap, Mexican tribal tattoos often feature characters and designs from Aztec art and culture, making for some fierce commemorations to this ancient and vital tradition.

Mexican Tribal Tattoo
@sun.yata / Instagram

18. Tribal Flower Tattoo

Using the sharp lines and bold black ink of western tribal designs may seem like a strange choice for such a vibrant subject, but tribal flower tattoos can be surprisingly appealing in the hands of a talented artist.

Tribal Flower Tattoo
@byzart / Instagram

19. Tribal Rose Tattoo

More than most other flowers, tribal rose tattoos are well suited for this style, thanks to the natural swirls and sharp thorns on these classic blossoms.

Tribal Rose Tattoo
@tejashua / Instagram

20. Tribal Tiger Tattoo

The unmistakable stripes of this Asian predator are ideally suited for tribal designs, making tribal tiger tattoos an excellent choice for anyone looking for a fierce tattoo that doesn’t rely on bright colors to turn heads.

Tribal Tiger Tattoo
@gazzalb1980 / Instagram

21. African Tribal Tattoo

Far from any single culture or design, African tribal tattoos encompass various styles and traditions from the world’s most ethnically diverse continent. Far too many to list here; this style is a great jumping-off point.

African Tribal Tattoo
@bluesirentattoos / Instagram

22. Tribal Owl Tattoo

A symbol of wisdom, intelligence, and mystery, the owl is present in the folklore of cultures around the world. Coupled with the unmistakable visage of this nocturnal raptor, tribal owl tattoos make for some compelling ink.

Tribal Owl Tattoo
@tattoofiesta / Instagram

23. Small Tribal Tattoo

Not every design needs to take up a massive chunk of real estate. Small tribal tattoos can make for surprisingly eye-catching designs on a small canvas.

Small Tribal Tattoo
@meriagnello_tattoo / Instagram

24. Tribal Heart Tattoo

There is no mistaking the symbolism behind a heart, and for anyone looking to commemorate love but looking for something a bit different, tribal heart tattoos could be a perfect choice.

Tribal Heart Tattoo
@blackkatink / Instagram

25. Tribal Fish Tattoo

Whether it’s a western tribal piece full of swirling lines or a design inspired by the native tribes of the Pacific Northwest, tribal fish tattoos can make for some compelling details chocked full of symbolic meaning.

Tribal Fish Tattoo
@zealandtattoo / Instagram

26. Eagle Tribal Tattoo

Another bird of prey with unmistakable symbolism, tribal eagle tattoos can be applied in a few different styles and are a striking way to commemorate these noble and fierce raptors.

Eagle Tribal Tattoo
@vanitytattoo_1996 / Instagram

27. Japanese Tribal Tattoo

Blending traditional irezumi with the more abstract patterns of tribal work can make for unique and dynamic work, taking Japanese tattoos beyond tradition to the next level.

Japanese Tribal Tattoo
@freeztattoo / Instagram

28. Tribal Flame Tattoo

An elemental force, fire, represents the untamed power of the natural world. Along with this, the variety of shapes flames can take makes tribal flame tattoos a great choice for those with artistic flair.  

Tribal Flame Tattoo
@visual.aura / Instagram

29. Tribal Moon Tattoo

Significant to cultures around the world, the moon’s effect on life is witnessed twice a day as the tide rolls in and out. This universal importance makes tribal moon tattoos meaningful pieces that can be applied anywhere on the body.

Tribal Moon Tattoo
@deep_skin_studio_ink / Instagram

30. Tribal Feather Tattoo

In various Indigenous practices, feathers hold multiple meanings, although strength, protection, and bravery are the most common. The feather tattoo has the ability to adapt to a variety of styles to create the best eye-catching piece for you. 

Tribal Feather Tattoo
@choysp / Instagram

31. Tribal Skull Tattoo

Perhaps the ultimate symbol of mortality, tribal skull tattoos can serve as powerful reminders that our time in this world is limited.

Tribal Skull Tattoo
@calli_redwoods_tattoopage / Instagram

32. Tribal Bull Tattoo

With sharp horns and a fierce gaze, bulls are an excellent choice for the bold black and clean lines of tribal work. Tribal bull tattoos are a strong statement of the wearer’s style and attitude, representing strength and power. 

Tribal Bull Tattoo
@badbullyink / Instagram

33. Irish Tribal Tattoo

The complex knotwork that typifies Irish and Celtic designs holds deep significance and is visually striking. Whether it’s a cross or the Claddagh ring, Irish tribal tattoos are a great way to show pride in your Celtic heritage.

Irish Tribal Tattoo
@raffaella_olomhe_ricci / Instagram

34. Celtic Tribal Wolf Tattoo

Representing the fearless warrior in the Celtic tradition, Celtic tribal wolf tattoos let the wearer show off their heritage and warrior spirit, all wrapped up in one eye-catching design. 

Celtic Tribal Wolf Tattoo
@painted_lady_az / Instagram

35. Tribal Snake Tattoo

Symbols of vitality, fertility, and rebirth, tribal snake tattoos can be applied in several exciting different styles while retaining this powerful symbolic meaning.

Tribal Snake Tattoo
@tatuaggidaclaudio / Instagram

36. Indian Tribal Tattoo

While not as well known as Polynesian designs, tattoos have been present in Indian culture for ages. Across various ethnic groups on the subcontinent, Indian tribal tattoos are as diverse as the people who wear them.

Indian Tribal Tattoo
@mantratattooatelier / Instagram

Best Men’s Tribal Tattoo Placements

37. Tribal Tattoo Sleeve

No matter the tradition that inspires your ink, tribal tattoo sleeves are sure to turn heads thanks to the size of the design and the potential for unique and creative composition. Due to the design of the tattoos, these markings are great at bringing out the natural build in men’s arms and legs. 

Tribal Tattoo Sleeve
@sagetattoostudio / Instagram

38. Tribal Shoulder Tattoo

From Samoan half sleeves to Aztec-inspired ink, the canvas where the arm meets the body provides plenty of room for a big, bold design tribal shoulder tattoo.

Tribal Shoulder Tattoo
@juma_tattooyou / Instagram

39. Tribal Armband Tattoo

Armbands take advantage of the body’s lines to create compelling designs. While the layered patterns of the Polynesian islands are the most common style, tribal armband tattoos are inspired by a wide variety of cultural traditions. 

Tribal Armband Tattoo
@magda.ink_book / Instagram

40. Tribal Leg Tattoo

The leg is a large canvas full of natural anatomical lines. With the layered and complex patterns that characterize the style, tribal leg tattoos are the perfect addition to your ink collection.

Tribal Leg Tattoo
@goodlucktattoos / Instagram

41. Tribal Neck Tattoo

Whether part of a larger piece that starts on the arm and extends above the collar or a standalone piece centered on the throat, the bold statement that tribal neck tattoos make is the ultimate sign of dedication to your ink.

Tribal Neck Tattoo
@sophiespoonertattoo / Instagram

42. Tribal Wrist Tattoo

The wrist is a popular placement for various styles and designs – for a good reason. Tribal wrist tattoos, in a variety of styles, can make for eye-catching designs that peek out from under the cuff and are sure to turn heads.

Tribal Wrist Tattoo
@jessicadoestattoos / Instagram

43. Tribal Arm Tattoo

One of the most versatile canvases on the body, the arm remains a popular choice for tattoo enthusiasts, whether a simple design in the crook of the arm or a Polynesian-inspired half sleeve, tribal arm tattoos make for some visually striking and meaningful designs.

Tribal Arm Tattoo
@sebio_tattoo / Instagram

44. Forearm Tribal Tattoo

The forearm is a popular location for ink: it lets the wearer show off their ink at their discretion with the ability to quickly cover it with a long sleeve shirt. Forearm tattoos make a great choice for weekend warriors at the office 9-5.

Forearm Tribal Tattoo
@thejuca / Instagram

45. Tribal Thigh Tattoo

A big, broad canvas, tribal thigh tattoos give the artist plenty of room to work and can be applied in any number of styles, although Polynesian and Samoan work is known for large thigh pieces. 

Tribal Thigh Tattoo
@chrishigginstattoo / Instagram

Men’s Tattoo FAQ 

What is a tribal tattoo?

Tribal tattoos refer to designs from a wide variety of different cultures and traditions. The style also evolved from tattooing in the 90s; this has less of a cultural implication, ideally focusing more on aesthetics.

What does a tribal tattoo mean?

The meaning behind a tribal tattoo is as varied as the different cultures they are drawn from. Ethnic history, family heritage, and symbolism from the natural can all be represented in tribal tattoos.

Is it disrespectful to get a tribal tattoo?

There are undoubtedly tribal tattoos that hold deep meaning to the cultures where they originated, often representing a rite of passage or status. While wearing these designs with respect is essential, consulting with a cultural heritage center from the group you are interested in is the best way to determine if getting that specific tribal tattoo is appropriate.

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