Ah the armband. While the once popular tattoo style has fallen out the spotlight in the past, lately it’s been making quite the comeback on the arms of gentlemen across the globe.
Ages ago, traditional tribal armband tattoos weren’t the only way to distinguish a man’s role or rank among a group of people. The truth is, their purpose was often associated with a variety of different meanings not to mention, materials too.
In historical times, like the Bronze Age, armbands were actually make of bronze and jet, a minor gemstone formed from putrefying wood under tremendous pressure. Of course, back then the metal band took on a slightly different name of “arm ring”.
However, even with the passage of time you’ll still find arm rings in use by Kandyan drummers of Sri Lanka who celebrate an age old tradition. And if you look back in Sri Lankan history you’ll find stories of brides wearing armlets to keep bad luck at bay.
In medieval times during jousts, knights wore scarves or kerchiefs around the arm to show an emotional affiliation or conviction for his lady. If you’ve ever wondered where the phrase “wear your heart on your sleeve” comes from, there’s your answer.
Traditions aside, armbands can be found all on the arms of men from all walks of life including the military (a brassard), press, sporting teams and more. Interestingly enough, the modern meaning of distinguishing what group, team, rank or role someone belongs to, has literally the same connection to the past.
With that said, there are a lot of different reasons to get an armband tattoo. Sure, historical times rarely warranted tattoos and instead opted for cloth and metal, however, if something is important to you, why not get it inked permanently? After all, that is the point of tattoos to begin with.
Take a moment to explore these top 70 best armband tattoo designs for men below. I’m sure you’ll find plenty of ideas to wear upon your sleeve ranging from classic to cool, modern and more.
Armband Tattoo Ideas
This unique matching set of hatches is a cool armband design. The days are marked off in a variety of different styled groupings to form a nice piece, simple dot work creates a border at slightly different points of both artworks.
A simple play on geometric design can form effective armband tattoos. This artwork is only six narrow yet solid bands tattooed around the inner forearm. It’s a crisp, fresh grouping of bands done neatly and spaced efficiently.
The key to this minimalist armband is the use of different line work – plus the colored and hollow dots – to effectively highlight the major, thicker armband running through the image. It immediately conjures a latitude/longitude vibe when you look at it.
This decorative armband tattoo uses a stencil format to create a thick, clean black tattoo. It’s similar in design to borders on frames, plant pots, and even household ceramics.
This Aztec inspired ink brickwork is cool. The major element of this piece is the shading, done with a dot work focus rather than traditional black gray. The line work in this art captures the artist’s focus on attention to detail.
Tribal armband tattoos were hugely popular in the early parts of the century as ink became a more accepted part of mainstream culture. This piece is reminiscent of that style – thick black barbs etched in a tight circle around the forearm just below the elbow.
Well executed minimalist armband tattoos are very funky, and this body art is a tremendous example. It mixes a simple, single line band around the arm with a group of flat black birds to create an arresting image.
The effective geometric shapes created with singular lines of black makes this patterned armband quite unique. It’s a simple but useful technique to create a series of interesting shapes.
This is a wider style of armband tattoos for men. It looks much like a gladiator’s bracer or armguard. The tattoo uses a good mix of black line work to create clear, well defined shapes within the image, supported by effortless gray and negative space shading.
The piece in this image uses a nice gradient of color steps from vivid red through to black. Parts look almost looks like dipped litmus paper. The way the color has been applied by the artist makes the brighter red parts of the tattoo reflect a permanently raw wound.
There are a lot of elements to this spectacular armband tattoo. It utilizes classic black work throughout, but also mixes a smart array of different needle patterns to create different styles of shadow and line work in the skin. The way the sky is inked has an almost fish scale quality to the shade work.
NYC baby. This stylishly rendered armband is great. The obvious shout outs to Gotham – the Empire State Building and Brooklyn Bridge in particular – give the mix of black linework with dot work extra personality and verve. Home is where the ink is.
This tribal piece is a work of real technical skill. A single needle has been used here, giving it the crispness of lines and pattern inside the band needed to flaunt the artist’s skill, while zero space is also effective in shaping the design.
This is an expertly executed piece of tattoo art that would have taken double the amount of time it’s size would have you think. Using such two divergent ideas – blackwork and dot work – come together to make a beautiful geometric theme. Every part of this tattoo screams quality.
The dotwork shading in this 3-levele armband tattoo is fantastic. The top image on its own is interesting, using angles exceptionally well to create depth and style within the confined space. The other two bands are showing off in the best way. Here, time consuming dot work is employed stylishly to create very different shapes on the subject’s forearm.
This tattoo uses an interesting pattern, but the most impressive part of the piece is how clean and fresh the line work looks. If you put it against the older tattoo below the contrast in quality is like night and day.
Great use of soft color in the fox to make the mountain band a nice piece of art. The soft hue helps the fox blend into the rest of the image and suggest a mountain stream, especially with the way it’s been shaded to create a cascading effect in the fur. The line work at all stages of this artwork is precise.
Using zero space effectively is a skill that separates competent artists from the very best at tattooing. The quality of this seemingly simple black tattoo is found in the artist’s use of non-tattooed areas to make flawless patterns and shapes on the interior of the armband.
This is a high-flying armband tattoo. It’s a showpiece because it uses difficult techniques to pull off the mosaic tile effect. The line work is precise, crisp, and well-drawn. The dot work is painstaking, and the seemingly effortless creation of clearly defined geometric patterns is a testament to the artist’s keen skill level.
Armband Tattoo FAQs
What does a solid armband tattoo mean?
Solid armband tattoos traditionally pay tribute to a lost loved one, in the same vein that black armbands are worn by athletes memorializing the death of a club great or important figure.
The black tattooed armband allows the person to remember their loss through acknowledging the body art representing their memory.
Remembrance is not the sole reason individuals choose to get black armband tattoos. In some quarters they represent strength and courage or be part of a wider geometric pattern.
At other times a black armband tattoo can be most effective in covering up old or poorly drawn previous tattoo pieces, such as barbed wire or Celtic armbands.
How much does an armband tattoo cost?
Small armband tattoo prices can range from $150 for the barest designs – think minimalist line work done with single needle – to as much $1000+ for more intricate, complex work such as dot work armbands or bio-mechanical theming.
Average pricing sits between $150 – $200 per hour. Highly skilled, in demand artists can charge up to $500 per hour, while apprentices and less skilled artists are as little as $75.00 per hour.
Remember a 15% tip is the average, but 20% for quality work is highly recommended, and always make sure you clarify pricing with your artist before sitting down to get inked.