Western sensibilities from the olden days are swiftly brought back to life thanks to modern cowboy tattoos. These gallant throwbacks are paving the way for a gold rush of style!
Male fashion critics everywhere unanimously agree that the only right choice is for you to get a tattoo that shamelessly tells the whole world, “It’s time to giddy-up, partner!”
This fabulously masculine feat can be pulled off with a little guidance. There is ample aesthetic flexibility in this realm, but you must make sure that your connotations match the intentions.
A lot of manly gear falls under the cowboy radar, so you will get to flaunt gruff equipment like revolvers and stallions. No one will be able to hold back your superior gumption, because you will be brandishing a lifelong ally with the right choice of tattoos.
To help make your decision easier, we’ve already organized the finest set of examples on this side of the Wild Wild West!
1. American Traditional Western Tattoos
American traditional is the granddaddy of Western tattooing, and this old school clout along with the bold lines and bright colors that characterize the style make this the perfect approach for cowboy tattoos.
Born out of the rough and tumble world of shore leave and rum shacks, these simplified and stylized designs are perfectly suited to these odes to the American West. Whether in bright color or black and gray, the classic sensibilities that these pieces appeal to make them a great choice for cowboy inspired tattoos.
2. Cowboy Boots and Hat Western Tattoos
In the world of the cowboy there are few things more important than boots and a hat: it’s little surprise that these essential elements of life on the range would feature prominently in cowboy inspired tattoos. Tough leather footwear was a staple of the American West and the wide brimmed hats that ranch hands wore were as rugged as they were.
Numerous approaches can be used in these pieces that commemorate the quintessential elements of cowboy fashion. From simple black and gray designs, to pieces that take a more elaborate and illustrative approach, these tattoos demonstrate just how important boots and hats are to the American cowboy.
3. Black and Gray Photo Realism Western Tattoos
For some people, the best tattoos take a realistic approach and use black and gray ink to achieve this effect. The variety of subject matter that falls under the umbrella of “cowboy” means that any number of different designs can be successfully applied using this photo-realistic approach.
Many people choose to commemorate the heroes and villains of the Wild West by recreating old school black and white photographs on their bodies, while other folks use their skin as a canvas on which to apply sun baked street scenes that could come straight from The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. Whatever the cowboy inspired subject matter, a black and gray photo-realistic approach is a great choice.
4. Neo Traditional Western Tattoos
The neo-traditional tattoo style arose from American traditional and maintains some of the characteristics of this older style while leaving others in the past. The bold lines and bright colors of American traditional are on full display in these modern tattoos, but the strict rules regarding colors and subject matter are kicked to the curb.
The greater artistic freedom provided by a neo-traditional approach means that artists and clients are able to create and apply more wild and exciting designs, and these pieces inspired by the Wild West are perfect examples of the style.
5. Western Skull Tattoos
Skulls are some of the most popular images for tattoos, and have been for decades. There is something inherently fascinating about skulls: people are drawn to them and the visceral way they symbolize man’s mortality and our limited time on this earth. In terms of cowboys, skulls are a great way to blend this morbid sentiment into a tattoo. A ghoulish gunslinger, bandana wrapped around his face with a ten gallon hat and six-shooter is a powerful image, and these tattoos are great examples that demonstrate just how exciting these designs can be.
6. Pop Culture Western Tattoos
Cowboys have been powerful symbols in pop culture for decades. In fact the tradition of using cowboys in dramatic productions dates back to the Wild West itself. Famous soldier, bison hunter and performer “Buffalo Bill” Cody was romanticizing the American West and the rough and tumble cowboy lifestyle way back in 1872.
More recently, the exploits of frontiersman and gunslingers have been immortalized in films like Sergio Leone’s Spaghetti Westerns and the classic account of the shootout at the OK Corral, Tombstone. Adults and children alike remain fascinated with the cowboy and many choose to get these pop culture tomes to the Wild West inked on their bodies.
7. Cowboys on Horeseback Western Tattoos
The cowboy’s relationship with horses is deep and complex. These powerful and beautiful animals were steeds, companions, co-workers and valuable commodities. There may be no single image that more instantly evokes images of the rough and tumble life on the range than a lone cowboy sitting high on his horse.
As these pieces demonstrate, a variety of approaches and styles can be successfully applied to these cowboys in the saddle tattoos, from black and gray photo-realistic designs to the classic look of the American traditional style. These clean tattoos are some great examples of this quintessential representation of the American cowboy.
8. Gunslinger Tattoos
One archetype that has made its way into American culture is the gunslinger. Perpetual solitude, drifting from one sunbaked town to the next with only his pistol and his horse as companions, this trope was best personified by Clint Eastwood in the classic Italian Westerns like A Fistful of Dollar and A Few Dollars More.
Another popular adaptation of this archetype is Stephen King’s Dark Tower Trilogy where a fantastic and desolate landscape is the setting for an epic story. The pervasiveness of this trope and the variety of styles and approaches that can be utilized in the application of gunslinger tattoos ensure that these pieces will remain as compelling twenty years from now as they are today.
9. Black and Gray Full Back Pieces
For some people “go big or go home” are words to live by, and in the world of tattoos it doesn’t get much bigger than full back tattoos. The large canvas that the back provides is perfect for any number of different styles and approaches, although the subdued and classic look of black and gray is an excellent choice when it comes to cowboy inspired designs.
The large size of the back also means that a higher level of detail can be created in these epic odes to the rough and tumble life in the American West. From cattle skulls, ropes and boots to elaborate scenes depicting gunfights and card games, these pieces are great examples of what is possible with this subdued approach and massive canvas.
10. Innovative Black and Gray Western Tattoos
The boundaries of what is possible with tattoos is always being pushed by talented artists and cowboy inspired designs are no different. A variety of styles are on display in these innovative designs; notable examples use a black and gray realistic approach along with clever composition to create the effect of images superimposed over each other as well as a stylized interpretation of portrait work. These innovative pieces show just how far tattoos have come.
11. Traditional Skull Western Tattoos
As we have seen, skulls are powerful symbols that are the perfect addition to any tattoo. We have also examined the American traditional school and seen just how appealing this classic tattoo approach can be. Given their inherent appeal, joining the two together is a no brainer and these pieces show off just how good American traditional cowboy skulls can be. Showing off bold lines and densely packed colors, these stylized skulls, inspired by the American West are great examples of the style that are sure to turn heads.
Did you enjoy these Western tattoos but are hollering for more inspiration? Click on the links below for more cool ink galleries: