2014 and the start of 2015 have seen lots of cool new tattoo trends, some coming from popular culture, some traveling to previously uncharted regions of the body, and others simply testing the limits of skin art. In general, younger people are getting more and more tattoos. A recent Pew study of millennials (folks born between 1980 and 2000) found that nearly 38% have at least one tattoo, compared to 15% of their parents’ generation. Here’s our list of the top 10 tattoo trends of 2014-2015.
Walter White portraits
The hit television show Breaking Bad aired until September 2013. It told the story of Walter White, played by Bryan Cranston, a New Mexico high school chemistry teacher who decides to become a crystal meth dealer after he is shockingly diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. The award-winning show is still inspiring tattoos that immortalize the beloved character of Mr. White. This year even saw many acclaimed tattoo artists doing their own versions.
Temporal lobe tattoos
For the first time in history, the temporal part of the cranium has become the stage for many kinds of tattoos, most popular among them being radial shapes that hug the ear, especially mandalas. Of course, both the blessing and the curse of this location is that it requires constant hair maintenance to be visible, making it easy to hide as well.
Foot bed tattoos
Adding to the list of new regions explored by tattoo art, you can cite Miley Cyrus as the biggest inspiration for 2014’s popular foot bed tattoos. She showed hers off in Rolling Stone magazine’s October 2014 issue. Later on in the year, model-of-the-moment Cara Delvigne publicized an image of her own foot tattoo: the word “bacon.” This newly-explored placement makes almost any image or word pretty novel and original. Much like cranial tattoos, however, the soft skin on the bottom of the foot makes for a painful tattoo experience.
In 2014, the LEGO Group released its first feature film, The LEGO Movie, which not only proved to be a critical success, but earned more than $468 dollars. Since then, several LEGO films and television products have been released and planned, including a LEGO animated Star Wars series to be released in 2015. The toy block culture has become so popular that tattoos were almost inevitable. Skin art artist Max Pniewski is the self-titled inventor of “Legolism,” (a portmanteau of “LEGO” and “realism”) – realistic tattoos featuring LEGO characters.
The human eye has been a symbol since ancient times, acquiring various meaning. In ancient Egypt, the Eye of Horus was a symbol of protection. The “evil eye” symbol proliferated throughout modern Arab culture, and even made it onto the American one dollar bill, in the form of the “eye of providence.” There is a consensus among tattoo artists that eyes are some of the hardest images to master. Artist Cris Gherman, however, specializes in eye tattoos, like the one above.
Optical illusion tattoos
Trompe l’oeil was an artistic method which used realistic painting to create 3D optical illusions on two-dimensional surfaces. One can view the technique in art and on the walls and ceilings of palaces and churches around the world. The technique is the next big thing in skin art; optical illusion tattoos are one of the biggest trends of 2014-2015. More complex, time-intensive optical illusion tattoos challenge the eye and take the art form to the next level.
Once again, you can thank current supermodel Cara Delvigne and her tattoo artist of choice, Bang Bang – who also counts Rihanna, Justin Bieber and Katy Perry among his clients – for popularizing this tattoo in 2014. The artist recounted to magazine Elle, “She wanted to write the word ‘lion’ onto her finger for her first tattoo…and I just didn’t feel like that was right for her,” says Bang Bang. “I wanted her tattoo to feel like a piece of jewelry. And that tattoo has been on the cover of magazines; people have replicated the idea and the style so much. I mean, it picks up the way that fashion trends pick up. It’s cool.”
Street Fighter arms tattoos
The common theme of this new trend of tattoos is to incorporate one’s own arm into that of a favorite character from Street Fighter, the world-famous Capcom video game that has been growing and changing ever since 1987.
Tribal arm bands
Tattooing started as a tribal custom. Even the word “tattoo” comes from the language of the tribal people of the island of Samoa and was first brought to Europe by explorer James Cook in 1771, after returning from Tahiti and New Zealand. Many modern “tribal”-style tattoos mimic the designs and placements of Samoan tattoo art, which were traditionally a sign of male maturity and bravery. We can view this trend as part of a general societal affinity for vintage culture and aesthetics.
Skulls, owls, Latin inscriptions, geometric backgrounds – all of these trendy images have their origins in the occult and practice of alchemy. Alchemy was a precursor of modern science, which combined scientific empirical knowledge with magical and spiritual beliefs and famously tried to create gold from base metals and concoct an elixir that could grant eternal life or youth. The occult, of course, is hidden or supernatural knowledge relating to witchcraft and magic. Many contemporary tattoos mimic the drawings and inscriptions in medieval and renaissance literature relating to the occult. Owls traditionally symbolize wisdom, while skulls feature in Western art throughout the ages as a form of “memento mori,” or reminder of the temporary nature of life.