Respect is earned and honesty is appreciated. Trust is gained and loyalty is returned. From Al Capone to John Dillinger and others, take a trip into the underworld of organized crime ink.
I’ll make you an offer on some ink inspiration you can’t refuse.
Discover design ideas taken from movies like the “The Godfather” and historical eras including Prohibition.
When it comes to gangster tattoos, men choose to incorporate everything from the iconic Tommy gun to vintage Ford Model 18, and of course, styles that represent an artistic spirit for the art of bootlegging. Most notably, portraits of the most notorious mobster and gangsters from around the world, are among the most popular pieces for guys today.
Though, another popular theme includes silhouettes with black, grey and white ink to highlight the nefarious activities of the night. You’ll find the getaway rides like the Lincoln Continental, 1928 Cadillac Town Sedan, and 1940 Lincoln coupe, among others too. More modern ideas feature ultra-realistic shattered glasses with 3D body art.
Regardless of what route you choose to go with, I’m sure you’ll enjoy a trip back into the past. Just take a moment to explore the top X best gangster tattoos for men below.
1. Gangster Noir Tattoos
Noir most commonly refers to the Hollywood movies of the 1940’s and 1950’s that revolved around a stylized criminal underworld and were characterized by stark contrast and risqué themes. These tattoos perfectly capture this aesthetic through the use of fully saturated black ink and gray wash to recreate the villains with their tommy guns and the beautiful women that were often by their side.
2. Smoking Gangsters Wearing Hats Tattoos
The quintessential gangsters were products of their environment, and in the 1920s and 1920 of urban America men wore fedoras and they smoked. The dramatic visages of these hard as nails enforcers and slippery rum-runners were made even more interesting by the broad brimmed hats and plumes of smoke that obscured their faces; these tattoos perfectly capture this illicit aesthetic.
3. Gangster Gun Tattoos
The war between police and criminals in this Golden Age of organized crime was defined by the weaponry that was used. From revolvers and Colt .45’s, to long rifles and finally the Thompson Sub-Machine gun, these weapons remain powerful tools, in combat and in art. These tattoos perfectly capture the fierce nature and utilitarian lines of these weapons that helped shape a generation in America.
4. Absurdist Gangster Tattoos
Absurdity became a prominent tenet in post-modern art and this sentiment it is perfectly captured in these incredible black and gray tattoos. One of the most interesting aspects of absurdist art is that it does not necessarily mean abstract, it just works to point out the irrational and illogical nature of life. These tattoos, with their realistic interpretation of animal gangsters, perfectly capture this aesthetic and philosophy.
5. Gangster Tattoo Portraiture
Some of the most compelling works of art use the human face as their focal point. The human brain is hardwired to interpret the tiniest details in the expression of peoples’ faces, so I guess it is no surprise that we are naturally drawn to portrait work. These black and gray tattoos use excellent gradation of tones to create these stunning tattoos dedicated to the most notorious “mugs” in organized crime.
6. Modern Gangster Tattoos
Gangs and gangsters didn’t disappear at the end of Prohibition. In fact, thanks to TV and film, the concept of “the gangster” is stronger now than it ever was when Al Capone and “Lucky” Luciano were around. Some of these tattoos incorporate classic gangsters with more modern tattoo styles, while others use a more modern interpretation of a gangster to create interesting pieces.
7. Prohibition Era Gangster Tattoos
In the 1900’s a strong movement was started to ban alcohol in the United States. Proponents believed banning alcohol would lead to a more moral society without the burdens of alcoholism and its associated problems. Instead the criminal underworld instantly filled the government’s shoes and the first of the Italian Mafia families came to power. These excellent tattoos perfectly capture the speakeasy’s, Tommy Guns and newspaper headlines that epitomized the era.
8. Gangster Vehicle Tattoos
Besides the guns and money, the most defining artifacts of the Prohibition era gangster were the cars. Many of these Tommy Gun wielding villains preferred the 1928 Cadillac thanks to the wide running boards that let gangsters hang off the side and spray bullets at “coppers” while they drove away. Another famous gangster ride is John Dillinger’s 1932 Studebaker Commander that he famously used to rob banks in 1933. The black and gray ink and elegant approach in these tattoos is a perfect choice to capture the elegant lines of these beautiful vehicles.
9. Gangster Skull Tattoos
Gangsters are outlaws who live a life of crime that, realistically, can only end two ways: prison or death. The “here today; gone tomorrow” attitude that defines the gangster’s existence means that death is always around the corner. What better element to incorporate into these tattoos than skulls?
The ultimate symbol of mortality, skulls can be applied using a number of different styles and methods making them a versatile addition to any gangster tattoo. These black and gray pieces are great examples of how skulls can be successfully incorporated into these villainous designs.
10. Pop Culture Gangster Tattoos
While the impact that gangsters like Al Capone and “Lucky” Luciano had on the American landscape were undeniable, the real extent of their impact is only visible some eighty years down the line. The way that these murderers and thieves were romanticized in Hollywood will have a more lasting impression on American culture than the banks they robbed or the liquor they sold ever could.
One only has to look to the deification of Tony Montana in the world of Hip Hop to see the impact pop culture has had on popularizing the gangster ethos. These tattoos are black and gray odes to the most famous gangsters, real and fabricated.
Did you enjoy these tattoo tributes to the gangsters of the past? Click on the links below for more cool ink designs and ideas: