Almost any image, word or symbol can be transformed into a tattoo design. Different styles of tattoos include tribal, traditional Polynesian or Maori, religious, old-school, cultural and gang.
Tribal tattoos are stylized pictures done with heavy lines all in black. According to Free Tattoo Designs, they were very popular in the 1990s. They are similar in look to Polynesian and Maori tattoos. Both cultures have ancient traditions of tattooing as a rite of passage into adulthood. Some people get their life story inscribed in the form of traditional tattooing.
Religious tattoos are any kind of marking related to a person's spiritual belief. Many people get tattoos in the form of crosses, crucifixes or rosary beads. Virgin Mary tattoos are sometimes associated with Hispanic gangs, though they can also simply indicate Christianity. A Star of David tattoo symbolizes the Jewish faith, though Judaism forbids altering the body in that way. Hindu tattoos featuring gods such as Krishna or Ganesh are very popular.
Old-school tattoos have made a resurgence. These tattoos are related to the style of tattoos sailors and bikers received in the early to mid-20th century. Anchors, boats, swallows and pin-up girls are common designs for old-school tattoos.
Many gangs use tattoos to signify membership. The Russian mafia is especially well-known for the symbolism associated with its tattoos, such as the spires on an Orthodox cathedral indicating the number of prison terms served by the wearer. A teardrop tattoo under one eye indicates that the wearer either lost a fellow gang member or killed a rival.