A symbol of honor upheld by law enforcement, The Thin Blue Line originated in the United Kingdom but quickly grew to prominence in the United States and Canada.
The Thin Blue Line commemorates the fallen and shows support for the living law enforcement officers, acting as a symbol of the relationship between officers and the community they serve and protect.
Each stripe on The Thin Blue Line emblem represents a specific figure or element: the blue center line signifies law enforcement, the top black stripe represents the public or community, and the bottom black stripe represents the criminal forces that hold the peace in a perpetually precarious balance.
The Thin Blue Line is a symbol of law enforcement being all that stands between the criminal and the victim, a reminder of the responsibility and higher code of ethics each officer owes his or her community. To wear The Thin Blue Line is to uphold a similar stance in life, whether or not you’re a member of law enforcement.
It is a promise to protect the innocent and hold abusers to their rightful judgement, to never forget the line you yourself must walk between right and wrong, and the choice made daily to choose good over evil.
1. The Thin Blue Line and American Flag Tattoos
It’s no surprise to see the stars and stripes dominating thin blue line tattoo choices. After all you don’t take an oath to protect and serve if you don’t love your country. The American Flag stands for everything that makes American great. Liberty, equality, justice. And all great democratic values that enable society to function are held up by (you guessed it) The Thin Blue Line. American flag thin blue line tattoos intertwine perfectly. They both represent a willingness to sacrifice anything for something bigger. The willingness to die for a cause.
On a practical level these pieces work really well as the thin blue line simply replaces one of the 13 alternating red and white stripes. Not that all renditions need to be so faithful. There are plenty of examples where the artist has rendered the flag more symbolically than realistically. Because the stars and stripes are so recognisable they don’t need to be overdone to work effectively.
2. Thin Black Line Skull Tattoos
An extremely popular take on the thin blue line is in combination with a skull. Skull artwork of all manner of style has been one of the mainstays of American tattoo culture. One of the original icons of Sailor Jerry’s American Traditional style, the skull as a symbol is much, much older than that. Skulls have been depicted throughout human history and often have a very powerful meaning. Think death, rebirth and change.
But that’s not what thin blue line skull tattoos are going for. This is all about pirates, bad boys, rebels and the struggle between life and death, right and wrong, good and evil, lawman and criminal. These pieces are badass, tough, masculine and symbolise the duality of the battle fought by the thin blue line.
The thin blue line and skulls work spectacularly in the American Traditional style when combined with roses and the US flag to create a powerfully symbolic piece.
3. Black and Gray Thin Blue Line Tattoos
The most prominent part of a thin blue line piece should be the line. This is best achieved through black and gray. Nothing draws the eye to a design more than the bold use of a single colour. That said, the majority of the rest of the artwork will be in black and gray, so it’s important to consider the balance and tone for the rest of the piece.
Black and grey tattoos are a great investment because of how well they last. Since the contrast is achieved through shading, these tattoos continue to pop off the canvas for many years. Black and gray can also be utilised to great effect in combination with minimalism, single line tattoos, and geometric tattoos, which are all superb choices for a thin blue line.
4. Medieval Thin Blue Line Tattoos
When we think of the police we think modern; blue uniform, black and white car, and donuts (rightly or wrongly). When we think of soldiers we also think modern; cammo gear, body armour, advanced weaponry. But we’re forgetting that in a time before modern law and order it was up to noble and honourable men on horseback, armed to the teeth, to protect and serve.
King Arthur’s Knights of the Round table were as much the thin blue (silver?) line of their time as our modern police force are today. What better way to commemorate upholding such an old and important tradition than by combining the thin blue line with medieval imagery. This provides you with the option of a variety of styles as well.
5. Thin Blue Line Script Tattoos
Those who make it through putting their life on the line for a cause will always have lost brothers and sisters to commemorate. Those who embody the principles of duty and sacrifice. Those who weren’t so lucky. Commemorating these brothers in arms through a thin blue line tattoo with script is a very fitting way to honour them.
Using script for sombre quotes on life and death, courage under fire and the power of sacrifice is another popular choice. It lines up perfectly with the symbolism of the thin blue line.
6. Small Thin Blue Line Tattoos
Small tattoos are a great idea for any serviceman who want a enduring dedication to their badge. This can be a badge as a general symbol of law enforcement, a department, a locality or anything else. It’s doubling down on the strong police imagery that goes with the badge. It shows a serious commitment to the force and to the higher ideals that it stands for.
Small can be practical for any tattoo enthusiasts who wants to keep a clean cut image on the outside. The thin blue line doesn’t require size to make a statement. It’s a simple design with a powerful meaning. Wearing a small tattoo in a concealed area is a way of carrying that symbol with you without advertising. Pretty badass if you ask me.
Thin Blue Line Tattoo FAQs
What is the thin blue line?
The thin blue line is a term used to describe the position of the police force in society. It casts police as the dividing barrier between law and order and chaos. More broadly this phrase conjures images of pride, protecting the weak and the innocent, justice and order.
What does a thin blue line tattoo represent?
Every policeman or woman around the world can proudly wear the symbol of the thin blue line in homage to the work they do. The Thin Blue Line as a tattoo represents a lifelong commitment to the principles it stands for.