“Mercury” otherwise known as Hermes, could been seen sporting wings in Greek and Roman mythology. Though, you might be surprised to know he also had wings on his ankles, which were said to make him travel faster.
In religion the symbolism of wings takes on a whole new meaning with the idea of protection and guidance. Of course, this style can be purely religious in purpose too.
However, for most men, this design associates itself with the notion that everyone has a guardian angel watching over them. It also serves as a reminder that we can provide ourselves with a positive guiding influence too.
Consider that as we ascend upwards into the sky, you could in a sense say we are reaching a higher, more positive mindset. If we truly desire to be a good person, we must literally overcome and rise above our bad ethics and behavior dragging us down.
In other words, it’s a higher evolution of the soul, where a man strives to ascend to the higher realms of existence. If you want a tattoo that represents your true freedom and independence, regardless of the past of future, this design will serve you well.
With that said, I’d like to share with you a collection of the top 100 best wing tattoos for men. From realistic full back artwork to incredibly detailed sleeves and more. I’ve also included single and double winged designs to help give you more masculine inspiration in this guide.
1. Arm, Sleeve & Partial Sleeve Wing Tattoos
If humans were birds, our arms would be our wings. Using this comparison, it’s easy to see why wing tattoos on the arms are so popular. Whether you choose a partial sleeve or go full-bore, this is an excellent placement choice and can connote many things depending on the thought behind the design and the technique and colors used.
One of the best things about a sleeve is that it can be shown off anyplace you can wear a tank top. Going shirtless is, of course, an option, but you might have trouble getting seated at restaurants. Because of their very visible nature, wing ink on the arms needs to be treated with the utmost care and attention to detail.
Size is another factor. A large tattoo such as a sleeve is bound to garner lots of attention – and that means lots of people checking out your ink on a regular basis. Fine detail including linework and tricky feathers can make or break one of these tattoos, so be sure to choose an artist with lots of feathery skill and experience! The size of the feathers themselves is also important. Large feathers create a very distinctive look, while a huge tattoo comprised of many tiny feathers creates what looks – from a distance, at least – almost saturated. Both can be rendered stunningly, but make sure to sketch out several possibilities and use a mirror to determine how you want your finished wing to look.
2. Shoulder Wing Tattoos
Carrying the human-to-winged-creature analogy a bit further, another logical placement for wing tattoos is the shoulder. As you can see, there are innumerable variations on a very simple theme. You can choose color or full blackwork, large or small. As long as your vision and your tattoo artist’s skill are high-quality, it’s hard to go wrong.
Due to their placement, shoulder wing tattoos offer a unique way to represent flying away from something. A wing tattoo at the shoulder could easily become the topper for a sleeve or bicep tattoo depicting the situation from which you – literally or metaphorically – fled. A skilled artist will be able to work with you in designing this. Remember that your flight is the important part. Other details should be secondary to your own accomplishments.
It should be mentioned that while all tattoos come with some degree of pain, tattoos over skin which is close to the bone often hurt more than others. If you’re on the thinner side, this might mean that a shoulder tattoo could have some gnarly stretches. Discuss your pain tolerance with your artist, and use their expertise combined with your own knowledge of yourself to make a reasonable decision. Along the same lines, the shoulders and upper arms are popular places to “bulk up” during workouts. If significant muscle gains in these areas are your ultimate goal, talk about how these chances may affect your artwork.
3. Wing Tattoos on the Back
Wing tattoos on the back are gorgeous to behold, sure attention-grabbers which make a real statement. They’re also the wing tattoos which most closely resemble an angel’s wings, at least in popular culture. Sometimes these tattoos make a religious statement, refer to spiritual aspirations or connote a feeling of being “fallen.” On the other hand, sometimes they just look really dang cool! Whatever the reason behind your back wings tattoo, start making a list of shirtless-friendly restaurants and bars – or just plan to hit the beach a lot – to show off your ink!
Wing tattoos on the back can be interpreted in many ways. Black wings typically bring to mind a fallen angel. Whether that means remorse over past sins or a willful rejection of God is entirely up to you. Some fun variations on fallen angel wings include the wings themselves being partially ripped out, sewn back on or, for a humorous take, stuck on with glue or duct tape.
If you want to connote a sense of the battle between good and evil, you might consider shading half of your wings much more darkly than the other half. Designing your wings as reptilian in nature is an even deeper dive into your own personal dark side. It’s also important to remember that not all wings have feathers. Winged mammals like bats have wings of translucent skin stretched over bone. Dragons are commonly depicted with similar wings, only much larger and stronger.
4. Angel Wing Tattoos
All wing tattoos can connote angels, but if you really want to drive the point home, we can’t think of a better way than by incorporating angelic or other religious symbology into your wings.
One of your first choices is what type of angel you want. The chubby, stubby-winged cherubs popular in Victorian greetings are one choice. You might choose an almost cartoonish design for this type of angel. You can also go old-school and depict your angel as a stone figure. These garden and castle ornaments have been immensely popular for hundreds of years, quietly keeping watch while retaining their childlike innocence.
Warrior angels are another option, with intimidating, massive wings and all the power of a heavenly messenger. You might even choose to depict a loved one as a guardian angel, gone but forever watching over you. Warrior angels can carry objects to identify them more readily to curious onlookers. St. Michael the Archangel, for example, is often depicted in art brandishing a mighty sword as he steps on the head of the devil. St. Gabriel is often shown holding both a sword and a cross. Dive deep into the fascinating world of angels to see which one you feel the strongest connection with!
5. Small Wing Tattoos
While large tattoos certainly catch the eye, smaller ones are every bit as beautiful. For reasons unknown, wing tattoos actually tend to be larger. For this very reason, smaller wing tattoos stand out all on their own. This also means that when it comes to wing tattoos, “small” is a relative term. Many of the above pieces are not traditionally small but are still smaller than the majority of wing tattoos out there.
Choosing a small wing tattoo is a matter of personal preference. Perhaps you are honoring a loved one with a memorial tattoo. Perhaps you simply like the look more! The reasons don’t matter to anybody except yourself. As with any piece of skin art, run your design by a trusted tattoo artist to get their perspective. Some sizes and shapes work better on certain body parts and areas than others, and your artist will have the necessary experience to determine if your design will look amazing. If not, they’ll have loads of helpful suggestions to ensure that your tattoo placement complements its design.
One popular small wing tattoo is the Hermes wing. Read more about Hermes in our FAQ section. These tattoos are often inked on the legs and feet, making small size a sensible choice.
6. Color Wing Tattoos
While blackwork – and all the techniques it encompasses – is hugely popular, color will never go out of style when it comes to tattoos. When it comes to wing tattoos in particular, color can completely change the image. A tattoo of the same design, shape and size can look radically different if done in color instead of blackwork.
If you have a favorite bird, this is a great way to commemorate it. The wings of a colorful bird like a blue jay, peacock or scarlet macaw make a massive visual impact when immortalized in ink, leaving no doubt of your avian affections!
Color can also be used to beautifully accent a wing which is darker or done in shades of black and gray. This color might show up on only a few feathers or it might back-light the wing. The only limits are those of your imagination!
7. Wing Tattoos on the Chest or Torso
Unlike some of the wing tattoos we’ve already discussed, wing tattoos on the chest can be somewhat difficult to interpret. We don’t necessarily expect to see them there, and so they tend to draw questions. For many people, this is a good thing! There are few things some of us like more than talking about or explaining our tattoos. If you tend to keep the meaning behind your tattoos closer to the vest, however, a chest tattoo is still a great idea. Unlike leg or shoulder ink, it’s more commonly hidden under clothing.
A chest wing tattoo can have a multitude of meanings. Perhaps your heart literally soars! Deeper meanings can be expressed by the types of wings you choose. A bald eagle, for many, is a symbol of freedom. A Phoenix is a mythical winged creature which, instead of dying, continually bursts into flame, burns and emerges renewed. A dove represents peace, and is a very popular choice for religious tattoos. An owl has various connotations going all the way back to Roman mythology, but is most commonly chosen by people who value wisdom – that may be intellectual or spiritual.
Lastly, a wing chest tattoo is a popular choice for memorials. Most often incorporating doves but often seen with an unidentifiable wing, this type of tattoo often includes a name, dates, photo or other image which honors the dearly departed.
Wing Tattoo FAQs
What Do Wing Tattoos Symbolize?
In tattoos as in any type of art, wings have many meanings. They are commonly associated with both birds and angels. Tattoo depictions of these often look very much alike, with a specific portion of the tattoo differentiating it as one or the other. Dark angels can be referenced by dark or black wings, as can birds such as crows and ravens.
One very specific type of wing belonged to Hermes, a figure in ancient Greece. Both a deity and a mythological figure, Hermes effectively ushers souls into the afterlife, among many other roles. In legend, he is able to move quickly between our world and the world of the divine, aided by his winged sandals. Wing tattoos depicting Hermes are either full-on sandals or a pair of wings tattooed at or near the foot or ankle.
Wings can also represent a desire or a past accomplishment of “flying” away from something. This might connote a dysfunctional childhood, a dead-end hometown or simply an old version of yourself which you’ve left behind.
Did you enjoy these fantastic examples of wing tattoos? Click on the links below for more awesome ink example galleries: