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Why do black guys get tattoos?

I don’t really understand why anyone would get a tattoo, but when you put black on black or black on brown, the readability is completely diminished. If you can barely read the tattoos, what’s the point?

This is a huge disadvantage if you happen to have really dark skin and most tatoos are dark colors.

[editor’s note: the poll that was once active in relation to this post was removed due to technical reasons, i.e., it didn’t work after upgrading WordPress.]

{ 44 comments… add one }
  • Jeleyman November 19, 2007, 9:54 am

    As overt as tattoos are, for most of us that have them it is so totally personal that we couldnt give a rat’s ass if anyone could read it or “get” it. So my answer is yes, black guys and gals SHOULD get tattoos.

    I think there self confidense issues that are causing your distress. Obviously it is hard to read a black tattoo on dark skin…but since it is so important to you that you be able to read it, why not just go up to the guy or girl and say “hey, i really would like to see your tattoo a little closer, mind it I look?”

    • diana March 12, 2010, 3:05 pm

      hey guy the only reason why people get tattoos is to show them OFF
      derrrrr

      • Erica April 17, 2010, 12:31 pm

        People do not just get tattoos to show them off. That is just plain childish if they did, yes many kids do that but not everyone. I proudly have 6 tattoos and for my job I have to cover them up and I have no problem with that becasue I got them for memories of lost ones and for my children. Has NOTHING to do with showing them off.
        Also African American can get colored tattoos as well; like green, red, and dark purple not just black so maybe you should look more into it and not assume everything.

        • Mel February 20, 2012, 10:07 pm

          I am a black woman. I have 5 tattoos. And no one would know it unless I showed them. I didn’t get my tattoos to show them off. I got them for self pleasure. I got them for myself. I dont flaunt them or talk about them constantly. I love my tattoos and esch one has meaning. I also have color on my tats and they haven’t faded. My skin is dark. But I have an amazing tattoo artist who knows exactly what colors will pop and stay fresh on my skin. That’s what it comes down to. So I say if you want it get it. No matter what your skin color is. Just go to a phenomenal artist when you do

          • laura February 28, 2013, 9:11 am

            Bottom line is no matter what color they get, it’s illegible.

  • El Gammy November 19, 2007, 10:14 am

    Hmm… this is the total opposite to the principles of marketing teeth-whitening products with black people. There is absolutely no contrast, so you’d figure any and all tattoos on black people would just be a moot point.

    With that said, I’m gonna have to agree with the Jeleyman about tattoos being extremely personal – or at least they should be. Anyone who gets a tattoo for anything other than a deeply personal reason is a complete toolbox or a total douchebag – a “douchebox” if you will.

    I’ve yet to get a tattoo because I haven’t earned it yet. You see, a long time ago when I decided I would get inked up, I told myself my body would have to be at a certain level of bad-assness in order for me to justify getting said tattoo. As I work up to it, that challenge I made to myself constantly pushes me to strive harder. Plus, I’ve got all sorts of issues with freedom and marriage, so I’ve got a couple more deeply disturbing personal reasons why I’m gonna permanently scar my body.

    So you see… tattoos don’t have to make sense to anyone except for the person getting it, regardless of skin color (I fought against all my racists urges before I managed to type out that last sentence… phew).

  • El Gammy November 19, 2007, 10:15 am

    Also, all I see are the poll results but I don’t have an option to vote… WTF?

  • holySmith! November 19, 2007, 10:15 am

    You make a good point, Jeley. I suppose that this here blog of mine is kind of like my personal tattoo in the sense that I don’t much care what people think of it, but if they happen to be entertained by it in some way, terriffic!

    This is purely the advertiser in me talking. For example, it kills me when kids doing car wash posters for their schools use yellow highlighter on white posterboard to advertise the fact that they are having a car wash – it’s all about the simple readability factor here. I would never do a website with black text on a black background. It just doesn’t make sense!

    When it all comes down to it, what the hell does Chewbacca have to do with any of this?

  • Ms. Jeley November 19, 2007, 11:29 am

    HMMMM. Being a wearer of my own tattoos, I agree that they are very personal. However, if I got one that no one could really see . . . even myself . . . what’s the point? At that point, you just spent a lot of cash on a permanent mark that should mean something to you but YOU CAN’T EVEN SEE WHAT IT IS. I think it’s all about what’s going to show up on the canvas.

  • Cocoa February 29, 2008, 9:13 am

    All of my tattoos are about me, not for anyone else. I had a terrible scare a couple of years ago, I was bitten by a brown recluse spider and contracted a potentially fatal bacterial infection. I had always wanted a tatt and after that expererience, I opted to get a couple of butterfly tattoos. Butterflies signify a new beginning and I felt that I most definitely was given a second chance at life. Life is too short not to do some of the things that pleases you. I’m a dark skinned girl but my tattoo artist knows how to get colors to show.

  • simba May 21, 2008, 11:58 pm

    That is not very smart whoever posted that considering that tatoos origibnated from countries of dark skinned people. I typed in simply the history of tattos. and the first credible website stated ” Tattooing was widespread among Polynesian peoples and among certain tribal groups in the Philippines, Borneo, Mentawai Islands, Africa, North America, South America, Mesoamerica, Europe, Japan, Cambodia, New Zealand and China. Despite some taboos surrounding tattooing, the art continues to be popular in many parts of the world.” there you have it. Its not even a white culture in the first place. so shouldnt the question be why do white people put them?

    • Chris May 30, 2011, 12:23 am

      Asians aren’t dark skinned. Some happen to be lighter than a lot of Europeans, except the Irish of course.

  • holySmith! May 22, 2008, 9:07 am

    Congrats simba! A holySmith! first! This is the first time in holySmith! history that someone posted something serious. Admittedly, it feels kind of funny. Thanks, I guess.

  • Chris May 28, 2008, 1:49 pm

    The majority of NBA players who are black have tattoos and you can see them just fine. So for someone to say that black people should not get tattoos is completely ignorant.

    Look at Lebron, 50 cent, Tupac all known for having tattoos and not once have I said to myself oh my god I can barely see there tattoos cause they are black.

    If you take the literal meaning of the word black…then of course why put black on black.

    But most black people walking around are not pitch black.

  • none of ya business May 31, 2008, 5:48 pm

    personally,i think the person that posted this ignorant! y does it bother u what other people do? especially black people and what they do to there bodies.Dont u have a life of your own to worry about? instead of posting this question about black people on the internet, how about u make this your very own life long mission to ask one in person and see the response u get? u might change your mind about minding other people’s business!

  • holySmith! June 2, 2008, 9:46 am

    Hi there “none of ya business” – the name of the blog is holySmith!. That’s me. It’s my blog. I ask the thought-provoking questions around here because I have the administrative privileges to do so.

    And personally, I don’t give a shit what color or religion or race you might be. If you are a human, then I feel like you are fair game for commentary. . .I am not here to spew hatred or provoke race riots. I’m not that ignorant.

    But just like I use my blog to communicate, entertain, provoke, etc., people use tattoos to do the same. As personal as tattoos CAN be for some who have them, MOST tattoos are out there for all of us to see. These tattoos communicate, entertain, provoke, etc. Some are pretty cool. Some are more readable than others (point of my blog question), and some are the quintessential marks of the douchebag.

    Unfortunately, people who have tattoos usually don’t have a “comments” section below their tattoos where people can come in and anonymously post their comments about said tattoos. If there was an option for comments, I am sure I would sneak in and give myself a clever call sign like “none of ya business” and have at it.

  • none of ya business June 2, 2008, 6:11 pm

    you say your not here to “spew hatred or provoke race riots” then why are you only asking the question regarding black people.that does not make much sense,if your thinking before you write or if your thinking at all.there are other races beside blace people that get tattoes and that are actually darker than “black people”.

    Any person with common sense knows that people with tattoos dont have a “comments” section below it,thats y i gave a suggestion to go up to a black person the next time you see a tattoo that is to dark for your vision.

    and as i signed before its NONE OF YA BUSINESS! you mentioned this is anonymous OH by the way,thanx for your compliment of calling me clever.

  • holySmith! June 3, 2008, 12:33 am

    Thanks again for stopping by, none of ya business! Despite your butchering of our dearly beloved English language (which I will assume is attributable to the fact that your mobile device is sans a full QWERTY keyboard), I appreciate your continued comments.

    And I am just dying to know: Have you ever read Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal”?

  • Cpt. Awesome June 3, 2008, 6:38 pm

    A lot of black people choose not to get their tattoos done in black ink for the reason that it doesnt show up properly. On this, you are correct. Just something I learned recently: Black people prefer to get their tattoos done in purple ink so that it shows up better on their skin. Yes, purple is still dark but for some reason it shows up better and leaves a better impression. I cant explain it but it is a simple fact of life.

    Knowledge is power. XD You’ve just become a bit more powerful.

    I understand your topic question and my only intention in this response is to inform, not to upset. I admire you for asking the question and if you dont mind I would like to remind everyone of one thing:

    You can not blame someone for asking a question. You can not blame someone for not knowing something. All you can really do is answer the question and hope that your answer can teach them something. If a question arrouses your hate, than I fear your ignorance is far greater than that of the person who asked the question in the first place.

    Peace Love Happiness

  • audrey August 27, 2008, 11:36 am

    african americans have diffrent shades of skin so i wouldn’t say why do black people get tattoos! and i have a question why do PALE ASS white people want to add bright colors or any thing to there skin if u ask me they need a TAN thats the only color they need.

    • U NO HOO November 21, 2010, 7:00 pm

      Yeah that too, why does anyone get a tattoo?

      Creeping peer pressure me tooism.

      Oh, wait, to be different.

  • holySmith! August 27, 2008, 12:24 pm

    Wow. . .here we go again. Not only is it clear that rhetorical humor is a lost art (or maybe just lost on some people), but it is also is becoming painfully clear that punctuation is a dying practice.

    C’mon people.

    Do you seriously think that holySmith! cares if black people get tattoos? Seriously? Do I REALLY care what people do in general when it comes to tattoos? Not in the slightest.

    Just like anything else, if you put it out there for all to see, you should expect comments. Just like a blog.

    Is there an echo in here?

  • star October 19, 2008, 2:32 am

    hey….i understand ur question….but y not…u’kno (srry for me grammar butchery). I think its better u get it in blk.blue.or purple dan n orange or something…but I tottally undertsand where your comming from…alot of people take ur question as a chance to tyrant and argue but I think if u don’t understand someones tattoo it would be a cool to go up to them and start a conversation..u’kno…great way to make new friends…lol…nice question…hope u liked my answer.

    P.S. I have a tattoo but its purple n pink and is seen well…especially in the sun or bright lights….makes it glow…lol..laterzz…

  • sankofa777 January 2, 2009, 11:08 am

    whats funny is black people and people of color from island nations were the original people with tattoos, white people{europeans didnt begin to get tattoos until they visited these nations… starting with pirates… so for a black person to get a marking on his or her body dates back to ancient time.. the first recorded instance of a human with a tattoo is a egyptian brown skinned woman. it is very natural for people of color to mark they’re skin usually had deep spiritual or sexual meanings…i say mark your skin if that calls you, dont let your race deter you, and know your history.
    peace

  • Ggurl March 29, 2009, 12:16 pm

    The real point is, as I sit here watching March Madness (and Louisville), these very handsome young men have butchered their appearance with shoulder to elbow crap that just looks hideous…and will only look more so as they age. Imagine being a 50 year old dad–who never made the NBA (Iverson), so celebrity won’t explain it away–just a regular old man with f-d up arms with meaningless messages that no one else gives a rat’s ass about, and you look just down right stupid, as well as ugly. What the hell goes through anyone’s mind (white or black) when you tattoo your entire arm…or neck…or back….?? UGH! Absolutely a total turnoff, male or female once you are about 25. Think before you tat!

  • adam August 17, 2009, 1:42 pm

    hello all i am a black male i actually have 2 sleeves black ink and color ink both show up pretty good and im not the lightest guy ever i’d say im moderately dark.. what it really comes down to is the artist and the type of ink used.. yes there are certain people that are realy really dark that tattoos barely show up but to each his own right.

  • lorie October 10, 2009, 8:40 pm

    But some black people are flavor flav dar’ and u can’t see the tat, THAT is pointless.

  • naco December 11, 2009, 11:50 pm

    ive read a modest proposal..ha. highly interesting. but on the actual subject at hand. im "black" and i have tattoos, mine are quite clear because i actually did the research and talked to several tattoo artists to find out what colors would show up on darker skin..and i made sure to look at the artists work to make sure that the detail wasnt piss poor..which is most likely the main reason that "black" people tattoos are not clear because unfortunately alot of "black" people who get tattoo's go the cheap way or get their friends to do the tattoo which comes out blurry or unreadable due to a lack of technique (at least around this area)…i have five tatt's two of which are red&black…red will actually show up on semi-dark skin rather well…as long as the artist isnt a toddler with a crayon

  • skaterp May 14, 2010, 10:45 pm

    1st comment your comment is stupid look into it more ppl love to have meaning full tats scared on them for life that was there way of art form
    an it was back in the day befor now ppl juss trying to get any tatto to look cool ,they got it cause it ment somthing

  • skaterp May 14, 2010, 10:47 pm

    an i have 12 tattos an they stand sooo out i swear ppl today

  • squiggly lines June 1, 2011, 12:09 am

    First off, as far as the history of tattooing goes Polynesia is not in Africa, nor would Polynesians be considered “Black” skin tone. Modern day tattooing in America and Europe is pretty particular in style, and has its own history. Let’s be wary of giving legitimacy to the sucking of tattoos on black skin just due to a cultural or historical tradition. I’d argue it seems pretty obvious that tattoos should be readable or viewable no matter what – if your skin is too dark to see the tattoo the shit looks ridiculous. If you went to a tattoo party to get your tattoo chances are the shit looks ridiculous. If you have stars on your face or neck then please stop watching lil wayne videos and stop getting tattooed.

    Whether its egotistical or a form of deep self reflection you should still have the consideration as a intelligent person (that is if you are an intelligent person) to have the tattoo done right, and be something that will be recognizable as well as something you are cool with. Like anything else if you do your homework you should never get a tattoo your unhappy with. Unless your an idiot which a lot of tattooed people are…You shouldn’t get tattooed on your hands, neck or face until your at least in your late 20’s and have had a job for a few years that won’t care.

    Anyway, for those of us who have some type of thought behind our choices I’d say it takes a certain type of mindset to be able to know that one day your tattoos are gonna look like shit. With that in mind, I never really understood how the same people who argue this as being the main reason they don’t get tattooed simultaneously see tattoos as being something that self absorbed people do. It would seem that people who are really self conscious about how they would look in the future with tattoos have a hang up about the aging process, and a completely repressed and antiquated approach to the world. Those with tattoos who know that their tattoos won’t look like they do today in 40 years may be stepped in a “brevity” mindset but perhaps they have realized that by the time they are 70 their memories will be worth more to them then how they look in the mirror…Just sayin
    Oh and btw tattoos on black people are 9/10 times terrible because tattoos and color just comes out better on lighter brown or white skin.

  • Justin June 28, 2011, 10:56 am

    Some Asians are actually pretty dark. Race doesn’t have much to do with color when you’re talking about Asians & Africans. Anyway, as a black man with tattoos, I can assure you that I have absolutely no problem seeing mine. Though I dont have any color yet, I know that its a viable option. Then again, I’m a pretty light skinned guy lol. But really, its ink, its under your skin, and its visible on anyone. Western tattoo techniques dont work as well for people of color because they were developed for white people. Japanese tattoos, for instance, tend to be much more vibrant than American and European tattoos.

  • Steole August 30, 2011, 7:27 am

    Ignorant chris…racial profiler…racist…fachist….and stupid…SIMBA nailed u! All u have to say is.. asians bla bla…shut up and learn …wish SIMBA is black so I can say …shut up and learn from the dark skins asshole

  • Steole August 30, 2011, 7:47 am

    And squiggy line is as dumb as his dear fachist friend chris…u really believe there are people that are as black as black ink???? You two are worthless…why do u even care if u can’t read tattoos on anybodys body? Why does that bother u?…its like getting mad at someone with tainted windows on his car cuz u can’t see inside…wth..really?..mind ur business and let people do whatever they feel like doing…not to talk about why white even try to dance…but I’m not as stupid as yall to even go there…I mean really?

  • Steole August 30, 2011, 7:51 am

    Anf why do u even call blacks people of color like white is not a color??…this is outrageous…2011 black president…I bet u hate that too…u need help cuz you sick

  • Awan August 30, 2011, 11:40 pm

    I find most of the comments here funny. I also agree with those who say the question shows deep ignorance in the first place(why do black guys get tattoos). have found out the reason any non-black guys get tattoos? I guess not! or you wouldn’t ask.
    You just assume there is only one color for tattooing: black, when there are sorts of colors available. I wonder if anything can be said further other than that people get tattoos for any reason as any other; and that you should really put some thought into your writing because whatever you put here you expected some of the readers to take you seriously; no afterthought you come up with will make any difference.

  • Yes January 1, 2012, 4:15 pm

    Why anyone would mark up God’s Work, is beyond me? I think it looks trashy and I wont hesitate to tell the wearer that as well…It’s an embarrassment to The Creator. I can’t stand when people say they’ll scar up their body for some kind of memory??? Are you Kidding me?? God Provided you with one of those as well, I believe you should learn to use it.

  • Godchosen1 January 3, 2012, 8:00 am

    Its never pointless for any person to get tattoo no matter how dark r lite they maybe…. As long as the person know the significance behind it, that’s all that matter. So Wat if another person can’t see the full definition of the tattoo…. Its not your body nor was it your decision to make about geting the tattoo. Who r we to judge Wat other ppl do?

  • Jim Boz January 8, 2012, 2:23 pm

    I think tribal tattoos look very cool on dark skin…… So here’s the score, black guys look cooler bald then do white guys, tattoos show better on white guys…… you win some you lose some…. 🙂

  • Mel February 20, 2012, 10:31 pm

    Ok I just posted a few mins ago, but after reading over these posts I have to post again. As a black woman with tattoos ( not visible to anyone unless I show them) I find the question of “why do black people get tattoos ?” not to be a racist question. But just a question. I don’t take offense to it. Even though it’s a silly question, it’s still a question. Black people get tattoos for the same reason everyone else does. For, personal reasons, for meaningful reasons, peer pressure , the yearning to seem cool. There’s no one explanation. I have tattoos because I love the way they look. All of my tats have meaning. And are for the eyes of who I choose. I’m am dark skin. I am dark brown. Colors and black ink show up on my skin quite well. I may be called black but my skun color is not “black”. Just as a white person skin is not actually “white”. Black people have many colors of brown. Many ranges of brown. So done tattoos will show better than others. I have a friend who is the same skin color of myself and his tattoos are awful. That’s because hus tattoo artist had no idea what he was doing. If you have an amazing artist you’ll have an amazing tatt. No matter what your skin color is.

  • Jasmina March 14, 2012, 3:02 pm

    What the hell? You can see tatoos on black people very wel there brown not inktcollor! Maybe not as extreem as on white people but you can see them… And why would you make an meaningless article like this? Tatoos ar personal. Its like saying why do blond girls thake blonder highlights? No one gives a shit!
    Black people with tatoos are hot ! <3

  • Noneya June 16, 2012, 8:19 pm

    Because they can!
    Whats it to ya?

  • jayinDetroit June 22, 2012, 2:14 pm

    You have total agreement from me. I just do go for self-mutilation, which includes indelibly marking oneself up, IMO.

    I don’t care WHO does it, be they white, black, yellow, olive or green. IMO it looks trashy. As recently as 30 years ago, tattoos were not well accepted in middle class society. They generally were identified with the sailor who got drunk on shore leave and, 2 generations later, told his sons and nephews never to do such an idiotic thing.

    There is one exception I will make. Makeup tattoos sometimes look outstanding on a woman IF she has good taste. And of course, that is very subjective.

  • Sistah Gurl September 10, 2012, 12:31 am

    Well I have tattoos and I am black. They look awesome. I have green pink and red and all of the colors are seen easily. I have words that you can read perfectly. I think it depends on your artist and skin color.

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