Getting a neck tattoo is a big commitment. One that more than often comes with potential future regret and stigma.
It requires confronting society and acceptance of being judged negatively on daily basis by your peers. Not to mention, it’s a “job stopper” too. Neck tattoos are traditionally reserved for those who are already covered in tattoos when they walk in the door, but are rapidly rising in popularity to the point they’re part of the 50+ best tattoo ideas list.
If you are thinking about getting a neck tattoo consider the negative connotations. They might look cool or have significant meaning, but they can also come loaded with stigma from other sectors of society.
No matter if you want a small or heavily inked piece around your head, you can still find inspiration from these top 39 best neck tattoos. Perhaps they will give you new ideas and designs to explore, or a better perception of just how visible they are.
1. American Traditional Neck Tattoos
This is a great tattoo that takes the classic “screaming eagle” design that has been a popular military design and uses an expert application to complete this standard of American traditional tattooing.
In this piece, the artist takes a more illustrative approach to the black and gray figure while the incorporation of vivid blue roses is an interesting choice that increases the appeal of this clean neck tattoo.
Here, the artist uses vivid colors and a relatively busy composition to perfectly create this “sugar skull” from Dia de Los Muertos, while the scroll work and clean application of script complete this ode to “mi vida loca”, or “my crazy life”.
The American traditional school is the granddaddy of Western tattooing. The rough and tumble sensibilities and nautical themes that defined it are still apparent in this popular style. Characterized by bold lines and a limited, but vibrant color palette American traditional tattoos used to be governed by a strict set of rules about both methods of application and acceptable subject matter.
These attitudes have relaxed as time has passed, and now American traditional tattoos can incorporate more elements and concepts than ever before. Their striking appearance and classic appeal make them the perfect choice for tattoos, and these neck pieces are great examples of the style.
2. Traditional Black and Gray Neck Tattoos
This is an excellent neck tattoo that uses black and gray ink and a meticulous application of dots to complete the design.
While American traditional is more commonly associated with vibrant colors, the bold lines and compelling subject matter means that this approach can be equally successful in black and gray. While not an application for everyone, the contrast between the stylized images of swallows, snakes and skulls and the subtle elegance and smooth shading of black and gray ink make for captivating tattoos. When placed on such a prominent and visible spot like the neck, the significance of these tattoos is taken to the next level.
3. Nape of the Neck Tattoos
When we hear “neck tattoo” most people instantly think of designs slapped across the side of the neck or on the throat, however this is not the limit of what qualifies as a neck tattoo. Many people are choosing to get tattoos placed on the nape of the neck.
There are a number of reasons that this location has gained popularity in recent times, one of which is the fact that it is slightly less visible than other neck tattoos. While this placement is still extremely prominent, long hair or a hooded sweatshirt can easily obscure the piece from prying eyes. Another reason that people are choosing to ink the nape of their neck is the opportunity it provides to incorporate the design into large back pieces the peak out above the collar.
4. Animal Neck Tattoos
Animals have been common design elements in tattoos for centuries: Polynesian tribal designs often incorporate sea turtles into patterns, while some of the first Western tattoos featured swallows, pigs and roosters. Given the deep relationships that people form with their pets, as well as the different personality traits and human characteristics that we associate with different animals, it is no wonder that we continue to permanently mark our bodies with their images.
Many people choose to get different animals tattooed as a way of reflecting their attributes, while others are more interested in the aesthetic elements of different animals. Whatever the motivation, there are few tattoos more striking than a hawk or wolf on your neck.
5. Neo Traditional Neck Tattoos
Arising from the American traditional tattoo school, the neo-traditional style continues to grow in popularity for a few reasons. This tattoo approach keeps the elements from American traditional tattoos like bold lines and the regular use of bright colors, eschewing the rules and regulations that govern this older tradition.
Neo-traditional work is less constrained by the opinions of other people, which allow a client and artist a higher level of creative freedom when considering the subject matter and approach of a potential tattoo. While this style is perfectly suited for tattoos on any part of the body, the effect created when these designs are placed on the neck is even more impressive.
6. Innovative Black and Gray Tattoos
While some people may think that black and gray work is old fashioned, or passé, this couldn’t be farther from the truth. The reality is that around the world there are thousands and thousands of artists, tirelessly working to broaden their skill set, improve their craft, and push the entire discipline of tattoos to the next level. Black and gray work is no exception. For some people, vibrant colors simply don’t align with their sensibilities, however this doesn’t mean they are doomed to boring black line tattoos. These stunning pieces demonstrate what is possible with black and gray ink, and just how exciting these designs can be when applied to the neck.
7. Simple Neck Tattoos
The beauty of tattoos is the opportunities they provide for self-expression and creativity; the sky is the limit when it comes to this permanent body art. Just like how some people prefer chocolate and some like vanilla, some people prefer simpler designs over more elaborate and complex tattoos, and for good reason. These uncomplicated designs have an elegance about them, an unassuming appeal that is perfectly in line with many people’s attitudes and personal style. These simple tattoos are also sure to inspire curiosity in anyone who sees them slightly poking out from beneath a shirt collar.
8. Rose Neck Tattoos
Roses are one of the most tattooed designs ever: the rose rides the razor’s edge, straddling the line between classic and cliché, although it always lands firmly on the side of classic. There is no surprise why people have continued to get flowers—and specifically roses—tattooed on their bodies given the powerful significance that these plants hold in cultures around the world. Roses—being the eternal symbol of romantic love that they are—are the perfect choice for any hopeless romantic out there, and there are few places to get a rose tattoo that more clearly display their importance than on the neck.
Neck Tattoo FAQs
Why are neck tattoos called jobstoppers?
The term jobstopper has been tossed around in the tattoo world for decades, and even though attitudes continue to change regarding the social acceptability of tattoos, jobstoppers are still worth investigating.
As the name would imply, jobstoppers refer to tattoos that are difficult, if not impossible, to hide on places like the face, hands and neck. In the past, tattoos—especially highly visible ones—carried strong associations with criminality that can still be felt today in different parts of the world.
Because of these ties to criminal elements, in the past employers were unlikely to hire someone with visible tattoos: hence, jobstoppers.
Though it is true that attitudes are changing and tattoos aren’t as likely to elicit the gasps that they once were, careful consideration should be given to these permanent decorations. While you may be able to get a job bartending in Portland, a neck tattoo very well may still disqualify you from more professional settings like offices and board rooms.
Looking for more neck tattoo inspiration? Click on the links below for more killer ink galleries:
- Tribal Neck Tattoo Designs
- Top 37 Neck Tattoo Ideas
- Traditional Neck Tattoo Designs
- Lion Neck Tattoo Ideas